Back in the day, getting design feedback was a drawn-out process. It was tedious and frankly full of holes. You, as a service provider, probably sent over a huge PDF via email with all of the current designs. If you were lucky and your client was tech-savvy, they’d leave what they thought was relevant feedback directly inside the PDF and email it back to you. This process typically went on for a while while the feedback was refined.
Meanwhile, your design team were left twiddling their digital thumbs while things moved forward at a snail's pace. If you were lucky enough that these periods of downtime coincided with other projects' uptime, then everything was OK. But if more than one project happened to be in the, “We’re waiting” mode, you were burning money.
With advances in online design feedback tools and a deeper understanding of how effective feedback can be given, we’re lucky to have a number of options available to us now.
How do design feedback tools work?
Generally speaking, most design feedback tools work in a similar way. You upload your designs to the service of choice, a URL is generated to share with your client and they can leave feedback directly in the browser.
There are some clear advantages to this over older, slower systems. For example:
Design feedback is stored in one location.
One of the biggest problems we face as design teams is collecting meaningful client feedback. And if you work with internal and external stakeholders, you may risk spending excessive amounts of time collating and ordering this feedback into one central and accessible place. Slack, email and presentation software can be necessary tools, but they typically don’t play well together.
A good design feedback tool will allow you to collect feedback from internal and external stakeholders. This means everyone, including your clients will be on the same page. Feedback will be visible to everyone (if that’s what you choose) and it will automatically be stored in one central platform. Tools like Feature Flux also have the added ability to create snapshots of the design process. This means that once new feedback has been implemented by the design team, you can create a new version and maintain all the previous comments and decisions for future reference. If you need to justify a design decision, you can refer back to a previous version and check why this change was made.
Design feedback can be immediate.
Whether you choose to run your design feedback sessions synchronously or asynchronously, you can simply share a link and see feedback come in, in real-time. This is fantastic for maintaining momentum on a design project.
Sense of collaboration.
This real-time feedback can really help create a greater feeling of collaboration between the design team and client. There’s no better feeling than when a project is full steam ahead! With the great majority of design work now being remote, it’s more important than ever to maintain a high level of collaboration.
You can share with multiple stakeholders, in different departments.
Gone are the days (in most cases) of designing for a single client. Any number of people or departments can be involved in the design feedback process. You may be dealing with the CEO, the sales team, the marketing team or even the end user themselves in some cases. Receiving feedback from multiple stakeholder groups can be a challenge, but significant in the decisions that are made when designing a new product or service.
Should you use design software or a design feedback tool to gather feedback?
There are advantages to both systems but as with most things in life, it depends.
Why you should choose design software to gather design feedback. If your team typically works, shares and gathers feedback internally then using a tool like Figma or Adobe XD could make sense. You won’t have to incorporate another tool into your system and you’ll be using software you’re already familiar with.
Why you shouldn’t choose design software to gather design feedback. The downside(s) to choosing design software over a specific design feedback tool are as follows:
- Non-technical stakeholders can be intimidated by “technical” tools.
- Feedback can still come from multiple sources and need to be collated.
- Most design software works with live design files (Figma for example). This means the designs are liable to change from one feedback session to the next. If you're working asynchronously, certain stakeholders might see a version that has already been updated and this can create confusion.
- Versioning in design software isn't great. Should you need to revert to a previous design for a stakeholder presentation, you may sink significant time into reorganising the relevant files.
How to get relevant design feedback from clients
We mentioned earlier how designers typically gathered design feedback prior to design feedback tools. But one thing that can still be a challenge is getting relevant feedback from clients. No one wants to hear, “Make the logo bigger”, ever. So how do we combat this, especially when collecting feedback asynchronously?
Firstly, know whom you’re collecting feedback from. The sales and marketing teams will invariably have different concerns from those of the CEO or end user. I don’t know if you’ve ever used Figma to gather feedback from the sales team, but typically it doesn’t go too well. Non-technical stakeholders don’t want to be in design tools. So, knowing who will be giving feedback is paramount.
Be specific about the kind of feedback you need. If you present a set of designs using a design feedback tool and simply leave comments “open”, you’ll find yourself getting depressed in record time. On-screen prompts can be invaluable when it comes to asking for relevant and meaningful feedback. If your stakeholders are looking at a design for the login screen and you leave a prompt specifically asking them to give feedback on the OAuth system, it’s far less likely that they will get lost in the weeds. Prompts and asking for specific feedback will make your life a lot easier.
Know how to deal with pushback. It’s easy to become discouraged when faced with pushback, but we should take it as an opportunity to further understand the client and their goals. The best thing you can do when a client pushes back is to try and understand the why. Why are they pushing back? What lies beneath? It can be risky to take seemingly negative feedback at face value. We can end up making changes that jeopardise the project if we don’t understand the why. So remember, keep asking why until you get to the real reason that your client wants the logo to be bigger :)
Why is relevant feedback so important?
A lack of relevant feedback can derail an entire project, and here’s why. We’ll never understand our client's business to the same extent they do. They are our guiding light when it comes to inside knowledge. Should we fail to extract relevant feedback from them, several things can happen.
You fail to meet your client’s expectations. As a design team, this has to be the biggest failure. If you aren’t able to extract relevant design feedback, the chances of successfully completing a project are considerably weakened.
You can only design a world-class product iteratively. For this to happen, the design team needs to consistently receive relevant feedback. No one gets it right on the first draft, and no one expects it. Running regular feedback sessions will greatly increase the team’s chances of success. And that of your client too!
Make it easy for clients to give feedback
As you can see, making it easy to get quick, focused feedback can make or break a project. Design feedback tools such as Feature Flux, MarkUp and Project huddle, to name a few can change the way you present client designs, gather feedback, collaborate with the rest of the design team and iterate on design work.
In short, what are you waiting for?