From a single blog to a full-blown website, any new digital marketing project goes through several iterations before launch. Each stage of the project presents an opportunity to discuss the plan, make changes, and get buy-in from the entire team. When clients skip this opportunity or fail to understand its importance, bad things happen.

Bad things like delays, extra costs, eleventh hour changes from a voice in the shadows. Yeah, bad.

Illustration magnifying glass inspects a document

How do we avoid this? Let’s get proactive about feedback. What to say, when to say it, and what it means if you don’t.

First, how do you give creative feedback?

As your digital marketing agency, we’re working hard to make you look good. We want to nail every line, knock every design out of the park, and win you more business. That’s our goal. But, we can’t do that without input from you. Giving quality feedback helps everyone move forward together. If you’re uncomfortable giving feedback, here are a few tips for providing clear, constructive criticism.

Make it specific. “Make this pop!” sounds fun, but it doesn’t really tell your team what you
expect.

Refrain from personal opinions. “I hate the color yellow” is fine when choosing your living room paint, but not when designing a website. “Please stick to our brand palette” is a better way to get rid of a color choice.

Give the why. Offering the “why” lets us know if this is a one-time change or if this feedback should become part of our understanding of your brand. It can also help you win over members of your committee who may disagree with your feedback.

Feedback starts before the project begins.

The first thing you can do to ensure you’re giving the best possible feedback is to identify your
stakeholders before the project kickoff.

Board members, C-suite, vocal members of the team … whoever your stakeholders are, make sure you bring them into the project early. Review the project details together and prepare your feedback for your agency. Planning and strategy are the time to ask big picture and nitty-gritty detail questions.

First, look at the logistics. Does the budget and timeline meet your needs? Are both clearly outlined?

Discuss the big picture. Do the campaigns target your customers? Are they addressing your business goals?

Get into the weedy details. Now comes the part that many clients skip. If it’s a campaign, read through every planned tactic and make a list of questions. If it’s a digital experience or website,
keep a tab on new pages and special functionality your stakeholders expect to see.

Here’s what not to do:

  • Leave stakeholders in the dark.
  • Skim over your project details.
  • Reserve your questions and “wait and see.”

A sitemap is the road map of your project.

Sitemaps are a navigational tool detailing where all the pages of your shiny new website are going to live. They’re super-useful, but a bit boring to look at. The sitemap helps you organize your content into buckets. What are you looking for when you look at your sitemap?

Are all our “buckets” represented? Think about your website’s content. The site map is the outline of where that content will fit. Make sure there’s a bucket for each of your different content
themes.

Is the top navigation focused on your user? Google searches aside, users don’t like having
to search for things on your website. Make sure the top navigation clearly directs them where they need to go.

Don’t forget the header and footer. What links do users need in the footer? If you have a login for members or a partner portal, now is the time to decide if that should be in the header, footer, or top navigation.

Copy docs are for reviewing copy.

This sounds like a no-brainer, right? And yet, so many folks don’t sit down to read the words on the page until they’re live on the page.

I get it. Everyone in business has a lot to read. At some point, your brain just glazes over. And that moment tends to be when you’re reading a copy doc for a project that won’t launch for weeks or even months. It doesn’t “feel” real, yet.

Do yourself—and your agency—a favor and read your copy doc closely. After all, this is the voice of your brand. What you say, and how you say it, matter.

Is it clear? Whatever the goal of the project, make sure the copy clearly expresses it. Is it conversational? Does it need to be? Not every piece of marketing material needs to be punchy and fun. (Though I wish they were.) Also, if your brand is built on authority and experience, maybe the puns are better left unsaid. Note: Puns are always better left unsaid.

Is it consistent? Wherever your brand voice falls on the “fun” scale, it should be consistent. It’s
important to remember that while the tone of your voice may change, the voice itself shouldn’t.

Get persnickety. Put on your editor’s hat and get out your red pencil. Root out typos, pick a
side of the Oxford Comma battle, and mark up that document until it sings in your voice.

Wireframes are blueprints.

Wireframes are just that—the frame of your project. Consider them as blueprints, the architectural skeleton of your new digital experience.

Some agencies deliver wireframes early, before the copy is prepared, in order to get buy-in on the project. Others deliver wireframes with copy so clients can get a better sense of how their words will look on the page.

If you’d like to know more about wireframes and their role in a project, our creative director
Adriana wrote a fabulous blog just for you.

Does the layout support your user’s journey? In any agency worth its salt, this will be a confident Yes. Due your due diligence anyway, just to make sure.

Will these designs work for every page? If you have a page that doesn’t conform to your
usual templates, make sure your design team knows.

What features am I not seeing here? Wireframes are usually static and stripped down to the essentials of a site. If you discussed certain functionality be built into specific pages, now is the time to ask about them.

Bring it all together in design and build.

Your committee has approved the concept, you’ve reviewed the sitemap and wireframes, and
copyedited your copy. All of the feedback you’ve already provided is reflected.

In a perfect scenario, the final design should not be a surprise to anyone and there should be minimal feedback. But, it’s possible you have a few last-minute changes.

Fine-tooth comb this bad boy. Look for everything. Make a list of everything. Your committee should come together to discuss what needs to change, and what is personal preference.

Check for functionality. Does it work the way it’s supposed to? If not, what isn’t working? What
should it be doing?

Does it make you look good? This is subjective, but it’s an important part. Think about your
brand, your customers, and your goals for the project. Is it a home run? Did it all come together? We hope so!

Communication is everything.

Constructive, specific feedback is important to keep a project on track, on time, and on budget.
At the end of the day, even poorly delivered feedback is better than none. At Big Sea, we’re a
conversational bunch. We love to talk to our clients, and their feedback informs and inspires us. If you have feedback about this blog, I hope you’ll comment!