Coming from a designer, you may think that getting on a call to walk clients through a design comp would be an added step that only slows down the day’s production. If only all our clients could better read design comps…right? (Wrong.) A good designer should want to discuss a design, content idea, wireframe or any other aspect of a project. The following blog post explains my belief—as one of Daylight’s interactive designers—that design reviews are important and beneficial for both designers and customers paying for the design work. I hope my opinion is shared with other designers and my suggestions help customers take full advantage of the review process.
The Hidden Design Process
Good design involves research, planning and rigorous thought before any computer aided visuals are created. Did you know that at many agencies, the designer is the person in charge of creating logic for the project solution? All design decisions have reasoning behind them, and good design decisions have lots of reasoning, research and industry knowledge backing their inclusion in the project.
Many of the visual tasks generally recognized as core design tasks—like creating a color scheme—don’t take as long to accomplish as the lead up work. The “creative” design tasks often can’t be started until the ground work is laid by research, which creates hidden design time the client may not be anticipating. A good designer will want to review their work in order to communicate their ideas and findings during an early project phase that often goes overlooked.
In a website build or redesign project, the designer first begins by researching the project details, such as the goals for the site and target audience. He or she starts to create a content structure for the layout of the website while learning about the project. As I see it, the structure is based on three pillars:
Industry standards: allow a designer to make smart decisions efficiently
Content needs: these have the most power in dictating the layout
Artistic point of view: the smallest but most exciting pillar as it offers unique opportunities for artistic injections
When the design is taking shape on screen, the designer quickly attempts multiple unique treatments of the content. These tests must move quickly and for this reason, the treatments are rapidly tested and discarded. Only a few of the best solutions get the time it takes to be tuned up and brought into a polished state for review. The designer’s job is to determine what ideas are worth investing time into finalizing for review and what’s not strong enough. A good designer will want to review their work in order to assure the client that they did their due diligence by testing multiple design solutions before presenting the refined selection.
Finally Ready for a Formal Review
Research notes > Content outline > Sitemap > Wireframes > Site design
The ground work has been laid and presented in small pieces up to this point. All the content needs have been discovered, and even cataloged in the form of a content outline if one was needed. A sitemap has been reviewed and approved. A wireframe has been created, reviewed and approved. Finally, the site styling options are awaiting review.
Does this sound like a lot of little pieces so far? Well, it is and that’s the point. There is a lot of discovery work that goes into a good website design and you better believe that the people who did that work want to talk about their findings. The hope is that the client has been present and providing feedback to inform all these design phases up to this point. A good designer will want to review their work, and by now a meeting process has already been established in earlier project phases and will run smoothly. All parties should feel more confident and comfortable with their ability to provide feedback.
Being an Active Customer of Design
I’ve made my case for the designer reviewing their work with you. As the customer, the reviews are equally as much in your benefit. So how do you participate? I have created a list of suggestions below, but there is one underlying theme: be active and provide your thoughts during each review or shortly after. The goal of the review process is to educate you, the customer, so you can make informed decisions. Your feedback should guide the product to a specific result that benefits your business or vision.
Review Advice for The Client
- Provide as much input or feedback as you can. If you don’t see your input used in the next round, you can question why. I bet there is a good reason that can be explained.
- Design reviews are a two way street, a time for learning on both sides of the table.
- Don’t feel compelled to get all your feedback in during a short call or meeting. The review is a time for educating, so ask questions. Your feedback can come after.
- If you are on a call, allow for silent air. The designer needs time to note all your feedback.
- Ask as many questions as you can think of. Remember that there is a reason for all design elements, so there is learning to be done.
- Wireframe review is the best time to change face and adjust elements of the site that are not to everyone’s liking. Sometimes it takes a full-color design comp to see a problem and that’s fine too. But please get your feedback in before the design goes into development.
- Provide guidance early on. You will not hold the creativity of the end product back by providing your ideas. The designer needs boundaries.
- Be very clear on your expectations. If you want 10 design ideas to choose from, establish that desire early on.
- If you aren’t satisfied with the deliverables, let the designer know what’s missing.
The design has been presented and your feedback has been gathered. You will now be delivered a much better product that is based upon your input. I hope you will be accepting and encourage the review process in the future. Daylight thanks you and any future agency will value your request for a formal review or meeting.