How To Evaluate a Web Design: 3 Tips for Non-Designers

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Mary Fran Wiley
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There’s a knowledge gap between designers and clients. Designers explain the hows and whys, but if a client does not have a design background, they may be at disadvantage when communicating their feedback.

Here are three easy things you can do to improve communication with your designer and effectively evaluate your designs:

  • Know your goals
  • Be specific
  • Ask why

Read on to find out how.

Tip #1: Know Your Goals

When you start with your sitemap, thinking about what you want a visitor to get out of each page will give you a foundation for evaluating the designs and wireframes. Having goals that you can refer back to will serve as a guide for on-going website management.

know-your-goal

So what are your goals? Obviously you want your conversion rates optimized:

  • Get more clicks
  • Increase shares
  • More sales and traffic

But you need to go deeper than that. You need to align your design goals with your business goals. Are you trying to streamline an ordering process? Focused on building an email list and a loyal following? Create an immersive exploration?

Here’s How

As you are looking at the design, think about how the elements are working towards (or against) those goals. If you want to increase newsletter sign-ups, can you find the input quickly? If you are trying to increase donations for your nonprofit, is the donate button easy to find?

Go back to that original goal: what is that one thing you want the user to do on that page. Is it obvious. If yes, then success! If not, ask your designer to design around that goal.

Tip #2: Be Specific

If your designer doesn’t have clear direction, you might lose each other in the fog. Here’s feedback that is not effective:

  • The colors aren’t working for me
  • Make it pop
  • I want something clean and modern
  • Lots of white space
  • This design is confusing

fireworks

The reason why this feedback is not effective is because there are many ways to interpret the meaning. When talking about style, terms like “clean and modern” can be applied to a wide range of projects. For example, look at Hoerr-Schaudt and Midtown Athletic Clubs. Both designs could be described as “clean and modern”, but have very different aesthetics/style.

Here’s How

The crux of the issue goes back to the knowledge gap between the client and the designer. But there’s a way to bridge that cap. Narrow down what it is about that element that needs to change. Instead of saying that the colors aren’t working for you, say why it doesn’t work for you.

Is it because you feel the text is hard to read? Or maybe the background colors are brighter than you were expecting? Or is it a color that the leader in your industry has trademarked?

Don’t feel tongue-tied if you don’t know the design terms. Use basic language to describe your feedback.

Tip #3: Ask Why

Your designer doesn’t expect you to know the ins-and outs of web usability and best practices (that’s their job). But it is the basis of the design, so it helps if clients understand the designer’s approach. Here’s things you might not have considered:

  • Button styles can attract or distract users
  • Average finger size affects button size on touch screen devices (like phones and tablets)
  • How photos and other assets can impact page load time, which in turn affects SEO

designers

So you’re not a web expert, but the design process can become a rewarding learning experience.

Here’s How

If you’re unsure about a color choice, ask why it was made. If the typography feels “wrong”, ask the designer what the reasoning behind their choice was. If a section is seems particularly successful, ask what makes those elements special.

By joining the conversation (rather than sitting and listening to a presentation) and learning about the reasoning process the designer went through, you’ll be better equipped to talk about the designs and your reactions to them.

If you don’t ask questions, you might not be able to give specific feedback because you don’t fully understand what the design is showing.

web-users

Bonus Tip: Understand that users are different than customers

This one is pretty much limited to B2B web design clients, however it is a key point. Just because businesses, rather than consumers, purchase your goods or service, doesn’t mean that human interaction with the site disappears. This is one of the hardest parts of evaluating a web design, but it is important to think about how the humans use the site and anticipate their questions.

Just remember, your customer might be another business, but the visitor to your site is no doubt a real person, just like you.

Make it pop! Your design experience, that is.

The best part of hiring a web design company is that you hire a team of experts with years of combined experience, and most of us will meet you at your design comfort level. However, just focusing on these few things when working with your designer or design team will help you both understand what you are looking at as well as how to evaluate and give feedback that will lead to the best possible outcome, a killer website that converts in all the right places.

Do you have any tips for giving website design feedback? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.

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Comments (1)
  • This article is very accurate when it comes to the pains of interactions between clients and designers. I currently am a tester/designer and it is very important that our clients are specific and not afraid to ask questions. We attempt to create an environment where clients aren’t afraid to just strike up conversation and ask why certain actions were taking. Our clients range from businessman who only have design files, to other designers, and in any case it is important to take these action steps. Even between designers and developers these steps are very important. Many companies are switching to scrum environments for this very reason. Understanding and communication are so important, along with collaboration. There have been many times in my job that I have encountered changes and questions that were not specific just as mentioned in this article. It is so hard to know what the direction or purpose is behind a vague statement such as, “make it pop,” and it is frustrating for everyone because this only draws out the timeline of a project.

    Great advice, and great read. Thank you team Mary Wiley.

 
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