How to Effectively Review Client Ideas

Much of the web design process relies on feedback. We learn about our clients’ needs, then design a website with them and their audience in mind. For their part, clients are pretty good at telling us if we’ve hit the mark (or not). Ideally, this feedback loop will help improve the final product.

However, feedback is a two-way street. Clients also bring ideas to the table. And although it is tempting to simply do as they ask, it will not necessarily give the best result.

As web designers, we have insight and expertise that can be valuable to our clients. That’s why it’s important to share our thoughts on theirs – good or not so much.

The challenge is to do so without hurting feelings or being counter-productive. It’s a sensitive topic, but one we can navigate successfully.

With that, here’s how to effectively criticize a client’s ideas without offending them.

Web Designers Understand Feedback Better Than Most

If you work with clients, you will get a lot of feedback. It ranges from the ultra-picky (“Can you make more ‘pop’?”), to those with little to say (“Looks good!”).

The reviews can be vague and not always productive. Sometimes they seem to be meant exactly. However, they provide us with some valuable lessons.

These are experiences we can look back on when giving our advice and opinions. They give us the basis to speak kindly and effectively. In other words: we know what kind of feedback works. Therefore, we are in a unique position to offer it.

So, the first lesson in criticizing a client’s idea is to think back to your experience. Think about how different approaches made you feel. This will help put your client’s best interests first.

Explain the Advantages and Disadvantages

What clients want most is an honest assessment. That’s why speaking up can be beneficial to a project. After all, even good ideas can have unintended consequences.

Therefore, it is worth taking some time to outline the pros and cons of an application. During a face-to-face or video chat, you may not be able to do this immediately. In that case, it’s okay to do a little research before reporting your findings.

Let’s look at an example. Suppose a client wants to use a modal window on the home page to inform visitors about a new promotion. You could respond with the good, the bad and the ugly of using such features:

  • Modal windows attract user attention;
  • They could also act as an obstacle, especially on mobile devices;
  • Adding this same information to a hero field could produce more conversions;

Of course, you’ll want to have data to back up your posts. But the goal is to encourage clients to think about the full impact of their idea. With that, they can make an informed decision.

This does not mean that you will need to agree for their decision. But at least you helped facilitate a discussion on the subject.

Clients can be helped to understand the implications of their thoughts in order to make decisions.

Use Assertive Language

Each of us has a unique personality. And what offends one person, another may easily laugh at. But feedback is still a sensitive subject. Therefore, it is always a good idea to choose your words carefully.

There are some obvious words and phrases to avoid – we won’t list them here. But it is about more than specific words. Tone and context are also very important.

Any attempt at criticism should be kept positive and positive. That doesn’t mean you have to call a bad idea “good.” It’s more about acknowledging good intentions than pointing out any troubling aspects.

In practice, you could substitute: “I don’t think this is a good idea.”

With: “I can see the benefits. My concern, however, is _____.”

This approach is more likely to help stakeholders put their egos aside and engage in a fruitful conversation. It can also build trust and strengthen your working relationship with clients.

Context words and content when providing feedback.

Feedback welcome

Building a website is not like ordering items from a fast food menu. It is a collaborative process. It works best when clients and designers can exchange ideas openly.

Maybe there are a few clients out there who want to do things and not discuss. But for the most part, expert guidance is great – even if a client doesn’t know how to ask for it.

In general, it pays to be proactive. When a client has an idea (good or otherwise), try to engage in conversation. Use it as an opportunity to explain the pros and cons and provide the information they need.

It’s not about winning an argument, per se. Realistically, it’s a way to help a project achieve the best possible outcome. That’s something everyone can be a part of.

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By LocalBizWebsiteDesign

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