If you’ve not had to evaluate a website before, it can be tricky to know what to say when someone asks: “What do you think about this website design?”
Throughout website design or redesign projects, I do just that on a fairly regular basis to make sure the website I’m designing for the client continues to meet all their requirements.
The better the feedback, the faster and more successfully the project can move forward. Everyone knows what needs to be achieved and how, there’s no confusion and no unnecessary delays.
If you’re about to embark on a custom website project, here are five recommendations to help you provide timely and constructive feedback to your website designer:
How to give great feedback on your website design
1. Make decisions as a team
It can be overwhelming having to make all the decisions yourself, so I always recommend getting feedback from other key members of your team, as well as key stakeholders and clients, if you can.
However in many cases, the review process typically takes the form of:
- Whoever is leading the project reviews and writes down their feedback then
- Sends email to handful of others around the business (typically within the same team)
- Collects feedback and copy/paste it into one email
- Sends collated feedback to designers
This results in the designer receiving a long list of often conflicting opinions, with no real consensus on what needs to be changed to move the project forward.
Instead, I recommend sharing the designs with a select range of people from across the business (Accounts, Operations as well as your obvious Sales & Marketing types). Give them time to review the feedback and come up with thoughts, then arrange a meeting to discuss views. If you’re not able to reach a consensus on something, the project manager is ultimately responsible for making the decision.
Once you’ve discussed the designs as a team and agreed upon changes, then take this to your designer.
If you’re a one-man-band, it’s still useful to get an outside opinion. If you’ve got a customer you’ve got a strong relationship with, or even a friend who’s good at giving constructive criticism, reach out to them for feedback.
Bad feedback: “I like this section, but Jill from accounts say it looks crap.”
Good feedback: “We’ve agreed that we would like to change the background colour of this section to make it reflect our brand colours.”
2. Be constructive
Sometimes your gut tells you you don’t like something, but you can’t express why.
It’s good (and natural) to have gut reactions to design, but try and evaluate what it is you don’t like about it and what specifically you want your designer to change.
Bad feedback: “The button just doesn’t pop out to me.”
Good feedback: “I think this button gets lost on the page and needs more space around it. Could we also try it in a different colour?”
3. Be specific
Chances are, your designer’s mind-reading skills aren’t up to much. As with tip 2, try to avoid being vague when giving feedback: “The background colour of that box is too bright and it makes the text hard to read” is a lot more helpful than “I find that box a bit annoying, but I can’t explain why”.
On a similar note, try and be clear about what part of the design you’re referring to.
At the start of each web design project, I provide my clients with a guide to different elements of a web page and their purpose, such as headers, footers and sidebars. This means we’re always on the same page when discussing different elements, so rather than me trying to guess what they mean, I know exactly what they’re referring to.
Bad feedback: “Can we change the image in that bit at the top?”
Good feedback: “Can we change the hero image on homepage to something more abstract?”
4. Be positive as well as negative
When reviewing a design, it’s normal for the mind to instinctively react to things that are irritating or jarring. This could be something as small as a colour that clashes or text that’s hard to read.
It’s all too easy to focus on what you don’t like, but in highlighting what you do like – even if it’s something fairly insignificant – your designer will know which areas they can keep and use as the starting point f0r next round of changes.
A useful task to keep feedback balanced is to write out a list of Likes and Dislikes, giving even weighting to both sides.
Bad feedback: “I just don’t like this, that, or any of it, actually.”
Good feedback: “I don’t like the images on this page, however I do like the layout of the content.”
5. Give feedback promptly (but don’t rush it)
It’s all too common for projects that needed to be finished “yesterday” to get held up by a client who still hasn’t found time to review the designs weeks later. Not only does this delay the whole project, but it becomes all too easy to lose focus and lose track of what you wanted to achieve in the first place.
I usually ask my clients for feedback within 10 days to keep the project moving forward and make sure we don’t lose momentum.
Having said that, it’s important not to rush your feedback. Take a first look at the designs and jot down some initial notes, then walk away from it. Take a day or two to mull over it and discuss it with others (see tip 1). You can then come back to it with a fresh perspective and see if your initial response has changed.
What to consider when reviewing a website design
Web design is more than just pretty colours and pictures. When you’ve been presented with the designs for your new website, make sure to consider the following points:
- Imagine you’re a potential customer. Is it easy to find the information you’re looking for? Is it clear what action you’re being guided towards?
- Is it visually appealing? Are the colours harmonious?
- Do the images reflect the content and help the visitor understand what the page is about?
- Does it reflect your brand and it’s values?
- Is the content laid out in a way that makes sense; for example, is the key information near the top of the page, with less important details further down?
- Are design elements consistent across all areas of the website; for example, are buttons the same throughout, or are they square on one page and rounded on another?
- Is there ample space around elements on the page, or are they all squashed together?
- Do calls-to-action stand out, or are they competing for attention with lesser elements?
- Is the text easy to read, or is to small/bunched together/too fancy a font?
- Does the design look good across different devices such as tablets and smartphones?
If you’ve received dynamic mockups or prototypes of your design you will also need to consider how easy it is to navigate around the site, to submit forms and how well it responds to different screen sizes.
Your website designer will be on hand to guide you through the review process, but this guide should help to get your analytical juices flowing!
Final Tip: Remember your website isn’t all about you.
Quite possibly the most important point of all is to remember that – in 99% of cases – your website exists for your customers, not you.
While it does need to represent your brand and reflect your company values, ultimately it’s there to help potential customers to complete a desired action.
Before going into a website design or redesign project, it’s essential that you understand who your customers are and what they want, so you can communicate this to your designer.
Then, when reviewing the designs, keep in mind how your customers will view the site and how easy it is for them to complete their journey.
Lastly, now you know how to properly review and assess your website design, make sure not to overlook this important tip to ensure your new website is a success.