In the best of times, getting feedback from clients can feel like pulling teeth. At worst, it's too vague to be helpful, forcing everyone back to the drawing board again and again.

Fortunately, there are simple fixes to make gathering feedback easier and more effective for everyone.

5 things to do differently next time you ask for feedback from your clients

Understandably, you want to make your clients happy. After all, they're the customer. In some cases, however, you can actually keep clients happier by letting them know what you need to work faster and smarter.

When it comes to asking for client feedback, there are several ways to refine your process. If you're frustrated by vague or unhelpful client feedback that slows down your work process, here are five ideas to make feedback faster and more actionable.

1. Tell clients how to give you useful feedback

For a lot of designers, developers, and other creatives, client feedback often looks something like this:

"I don't like this."

"This needs to be different."

"It's not working."

"Can we move this?"

Before you know it, you're stuck in an endless feedback loop of comments and edits that eat up time and resources.

To avoid lost productivity and frustration, encourage clients to be specific about comments and changes. Give examples of vague feedback and contrast it with more precise language.  

For example:

"This font doesn't work."

VS

"This font is too small. Make it bigger and change the color to blue."

Don't be shy about giving clients guidance. The idea is to speed up the review process for both you and the client, saving everyone time, money, and frustration.

2. Create a feedback checklist

When you onboard a new client, chances are you give them a design questionnaire or new client intake form. This helps you get an idea of what they're looking for and how you can deliver a product or service that benefits their customers and improves their return on investment (ROI).

These types of questionnaires are great, but they only do half the job.

Why?

When it comes time for the first round of reviews, clients have no guidelines for pointing out errors or making suggestions. You can solve this problem by creating a feedback checklist that tells your clients how to give feedback that's clear and — most importantly — actionable.

When you create your checklist, tailor the questions to your specific needs. In other words, ask questions designed to elicit the kinds of responses you're looking for. Example questions might include:

  • Is the home page missing anything?
  • Does the color scheme fit with your brand and aesthetic?
  • What, if anything, about the layout seems confusing?
  • How do you feel about the images?
  • Which parts of the product/design best help you achieve your goal?

By making a feedback checklist, you give your clients a roadmap for reviewing your work.

3. Request feedback in small chunks

Rather than asking for feedback on everything at once, make the review process more manageable by breaking it into smaller chunks.

For example, instead of asking clients to "look everything over" and let you know what they think, direct their attention to specific parts of the project and ask for feedback on those areas — and only those areas.

If you're designing a website, for instance, you could ask them to look at the color scheme and provide comments. If you're developing an app, use wireframing to gather feedback on the various pages rather than presenting the entire app at once.

Partitioning a project into smaller chunks offers another benefit, too. By giving your clients more focused items to review, you avoid bombarding them.

4. Start early, and get feedback often

If possible, deliver a basic but coherent version of the project early. This helps you avoid straying too far off the rails of your clients' expectations.

Des Traynor of Intercom, a software firm that creates messaging platforms for businesses to connect with customers, calls this "[starting] with a cupcake," and it works by giving clients a smaller, more rudimentary version of the project before scaling up to the final product.

Show them a cupcake instead of a bunch of ingredients

Traynor describes this strategy using a wedding cake analogy. On the one hand, you can start by showing your client all the ingredients you'll use in their cake. But even if they approve what goes into the recipe, they can't visualize the final result.

On the other hand, you can present the project in a series of stages, starting with a cupcake. This gives your clients a glimpse of the end game and allows you to make adjustments early on, before you've invested a lot of time and effort into something you might have to drastically change.

By getting client feedback on the cupcake, you can move to the more complex versions of the project confident that the base is sound.

5. Use a visual feedback tool

Client feedback is invaluable and necessary, but traditional ways of gathering it can be an agonizing process. Some clients dump everything into a word processing document, while others want to walk through changes over the phone.

It doesn't take long for these methods to become confusing — not to mention time-consuming.

Fortunately, there's a better way to log feedback. With Marker.io, clients can make comments and suggest changes in a visual format that allows everyone on the team to see exactly what needs to be fixed, moved, or modified. You can even let clients know when a change or bug is fixed by using feedback status updates.

Start getting better feedback from your clients

Feedback is easier when everyone is on the same page. With a tool like Marker.io, teams can collaborate by marking up changes in a visual format. Try Marker.io for free to see how visual bug reporting can transform the way you gather client feedback.