4 Great Hacks for Providing Feedback

Here at Spilled Milkshake, our goal is to provide you with more than you think you’ll get, for less than you think you’ll have to pay. Of course, both of those things leave a lot of room for interpretation! For one thing, getting “more” can be irrelevant if you’re only getting more stuff you don’t need. And let’s face it: there are people out there who only want to take your money and give you nothing in return. That’s not us: we work closely with our clients, to ensure you’re getting the most for your money.

Getting feedback from you on your project is vital to its success. We openly solicit constructive feedback on our work, but we’re always a little surprised at the number of clients who really don’t know how to respond. So how can you, as the client, be sure that the feedback you give is helpful?

It’s How You Say It

One of the cliched bits of information on providing feedback is to say two good things for every complaint. This is not entirely bad, but if you’re obviously grasping at straws to find a couple nice things just so you can lambaste everything else, it comes across like a sandwich cookie stuffed with sauerkraut: the niceties can’t make up for the filling.

Most people don’t have trouble expressing when they like something. Negative feedback, however, can be hard to give … and hard to get. In fact, it’s so difficult that when we get negative feedback, our brains can perceive it as a threat to our safety and security. Criticism can make us feel like our talents and experience are under attack. And knowing this, people try to sugar-coat (sometimes insincerely) what they really feel.

So how should you frame your feedback?

It can be largely a matter of focus–so for starters, focus on what it is that you want to give feedback on. Quite often, people are generally pleased with a project but get stuck on one element. Try to articulate what it is that you feel could be improved. At the same time, however, understand that in most cases, there is a reason we did what we did.

That’s not to say it’s the best reason, but a lot of thought goes into our designs. So try framing your feedback to focus on that: “Is there a specific reason you put this here?” You’ll gain more context and clarity to what the designer was thinking, enabling you to offer better feedback.

Be Specific (but Don’t Micromanage)

“It’s missing something.”

We get this kind of feedback a lot, but it isn’t helpful because it’s simply too vague.

At the same time, in some ways the comment is like telling us “Add something!”–which may or may not be what the design needs. Designers and others in the creative field can be especially guilty of this, as most of us look at a design and immediately think about how WE would have done it.

I know it can sometimes be difficult, but the more specific you can be about the issue, the more likely we’ll be able to fix it. Do you feel the colors are too drab or too bright? Is the typeface too formal or too carefree? Thing about each element, and don’t forget to factor in your personal tastes: are you unhappy with colors because the project legitimately calls for the material to be more lively? Or is it simply because you personally prefer brighter colors?

Bottom line, you may disagree on how to best achieve the desired effect. But as we mentioned earlier, there is most likely a reason for doing what we did. We understand you are an expert in your field, and you may have reasons and rationales we aren’t privy to. We’re experts too, though; that’s why you hired us. Only by working together can we accomplish your goals for your design.

Direction First, Details Later

While giving specific feedback is vital, it’s also good to understand that we have to get a feel for the project and an overall direction first. Getting too caught up in details on the front-end of a project can hamper the overall success, the same as being too lackadaisical when it’s time to review the work.

Getting it right upfront is what will make the details come together as the project progresses. In the beginning, feedback should focus on what’s working, what you love, and what you want to see more of. Think big picture, and remember: feedback doesn’t always have to be critical.

Closer to the end of a project is a more appropriate phase for detailed feedback, like pointing out typos or commenting on specific visual design elements.

Honesty Is All

This one is really the key. Saying you like something you don’t like, you’re comfortable with something that bugs you, or you’re happy with something that isn’t all you dreamed … that isn’t going to help anyone. If it’s not what you want, tell us. Please. Your input is the most crucial factor in achieving your satisfaction.

Giving and getting feedback can be tough, but it doesn’t need to be unpleasant. At the end of the day, this is YOUR design, so the more feedback we get, the happier you’ll be with the final result.