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Giving feedback

Giving feedback can be trickier than getting it, so follow these pointers that can help you give feedback without stepping on any toes:

  • Take your time. When you're evaluating a project to give feedback, take your time and look at the site. Your feedback isn't helpful if you immediately start reacting without taking a few moments to look at it and consider what you're going to say.

  • Stay polite, and don't get personal in a negative way. It might sound strange, but being polite goes a long way when giving feedback. People often forget that someone has put a lot of time and effort into her work, and no one likes to be criticized. Make sure that when you give feedback, you take that into consideration. Blurting out comments shuts down communications pretty quickly. Ultimately, it's the project that suffers for it.

  • Balance positive and negative comments. Launching into a laundry list of everything that is wrong with the site is a bad idea. Remember, a human being did the work — not a machine. The best way to have your suggestions ignored is to sound like you're launching a nitpicky attack. Try to balance your negative comments with positive ones. For instance, instead of saying, “I don't like where the logo is, it's crunched up in the corner,” try, “I see that you've put a lot of work into this. It's looking good, but I think I'd like to see the logo with a little more space around it. It seems a bit crowded.” The second approach takes a few seconds longer but helps build and maintain a good working relationship. Web projects take a long time and can be difficult and frustrating. To avoid creating problems, take a few moments to consider delivery of comments.

  • If something doesn't look right, ask questions. Web sites go through a lot of changes throughout the process. If you think something looks wrong, ask what is going on. Sometimes, there is a good explanation for why something looks strange. For example, if the logo is missing, don't just say, “The logo is missing.” Instead, try something like, “I noticed the logo is missing, why is that?” It could be an oversight; it could be that a new logo is being developed. Again, delivery of critical comments makes the difference between a healthy collaboration and a confrontation.

  • Keep your feedback mostly objective. Remember that the project is not your personal, artistic statement. If you don't like the color but the colors have already been decided, accept the decision and move on to other issues. It's okay to have some personal reactions to the site and comment on them, but don't be offended if you're overruled. Everyone has something to contribute, but not every idea can be included — or the site will look like a crazy quilt!

  • When giving feedback on an interactive piece — be specific! It's not helpful to look at the functionality of a piece and respond to the developers with, “It's broken.” Designers and developers that are working on interactive pieces need specific information about what went wrong. They need to know what you did (for example, “I clicked the Shop Now button”), what you expected to have happen (“I thought it would take me to the shopping cart page”), and what actually happened (“I got a page that said, '404 error — Page Not Found'”). This tells the developer or designer exactly what to look at. “It's broken” doesn't tell them anything. If you encounter an error message or error code, tell the designer/developer what it is, specifically, and what action you took right before it occurred. The more information you give, the better. If you don't give specific information up front, you can count on playing a game of 50 questions later as designers and developers try to wrestle the details from you.


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