When it comes to working in any creative field, like web design, criticism is all part of the territory. Digital marketing teams working with large numbers of clients will inevitably create something that doesn’t sit quite right. When that time comes (because it will), it’s important to know how to handle it and effectively communicate with them on how to move forward.
If you’re someone who has a hard time facing constructive criticism, you’re not alone. It can be downright devastating to hear that a client doesn’t like the hard work you’ve put into their project.
Typically when a client is unsatisfied it is due to lack of proper communication and not asking the right questions more than it is about your skill or ability to design.
But, just because you didn’t get it right the first time around doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to nail it after listening more carefully to their needs. Trust us — we’ve been there before, and we have the tips you need for communicating more effectively with your clients on meeting their design needs.
Effectively Communicating with a Client Who Doesn’t Like Your Design
With years of design and marketing experience, we’ve had our fair share of moments when we haven’t hit the mark for our client’s design projects on the first try.
However, that doesn’t stop us from communicating with them to get it right the second time. Thanks to the following communication tips, we’re always able to head back to the drawing board with confidence — and you can, too.
First, Don’t Take It Personal
This is particularly difficult for some to master, but it’s essential if you want to avoid damaging the client relationship. When you allow personal feelings to get in the way, your entire attitude in the conversation changes (and not for the better).
It’s important to remember that as a digital marketing professional, your job is to make the client successful. At the end of the day, the design you create is not for yourself, it’s for them and their clients.
If they don’t like the design or feel it’s not “on-brand,” it’s not necessarily a personal attack on your design skills: It may just be that you didn’t fully understand the design requirements.
Look at this as your opportunity to get a better grip on what the client wants rather than a blow to your design prowess.
Start by Asking Questions
Once you realize that your design hasn’t gone over quite the way you envisioned, you should begin by asking questions the right questions.
Always start by identifying with the client what you got right and what they actually like. Not only will this help you understand their stylistic preferences, but it will help you both get into a more positive mindset.
Plus, if you know what elements were successful, you might be able to avoid fully starting from scratch, saving time and resources for other aspects of the project.
Listen Closely: Pay Attention to Feedback
Now for the not-so-fun part: Hearing what they don’t like.
It’s critical that when this point in the conversation arises that you don’t tune them out. Designers can be egotistical creatures (it’s just our nature), but it’s important that you reign in your internal dialogue about all the ways in which your client’s taste is flawed so you can avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Pay close attention to what your client is saying. You’ll usually notice an overarching theme in the elements they point out. In some cases, you’ll find that one small piece of the design can affect their entire view of the project.
Be an active listener; keep your ears out for these themes. These themes will be elements fo the design your client keeps referencing.
Keep It High Level
As you communicate with your client, try to keep the discussion high-level. Don’t get too hung up on fine details, such as grammar or copy if the conversation is about design.
While these elements are important, they are often easily correctible and not design related. The client may actually love your design, but is often distracted by elements that are not design related.
If you find that the discussion is getting too granular, try navigating back to things like color scheme, font selection, or overall look-and-feel to get back on track.
Refer to Design Requirements
When in doubt, always refer to the initial design requirements and review them carefully with your client. By going back to the original spec sheet, you’ll be able to more easily identify where you went wrong and if you left key things out that should be in place.
Talk about what the client wanted to get out of the project, and refer to examples of work that they initially gave you to reignite your inspiration when you take another crack at it.
If the client hasn’t provided examples of designs that align with their objectives, now’s a good time to ask for those!
Always Keep It Relative To Goals: Revisit Client Business Objectives
While you’re reviewing the design requirements, you may also want to go over the client’s business objectives that they’re hoping to achieve through the design.
What is the goal of the design? What is it meant to do? It might sound contrived, but sometimes this exercise can help your client see things from your point of view, allowing you to maintain the integrity of your design without making drastic changes.
Get Buy-In: Review Changes & Edits
Before you take another stab at creating your client’s design, always review the requested edits and changes with them. Be as thorough as possible to make sure you understand exactly what’s expected so you can avoid a third design change request.
Ensure that your client agrees to the changes you suggest before making them, and answer any questions they have regarding these changes so they fully understand what actions you’ll be taking.
Compromise is Key to Client Relations
As designers, it can be difficult to separate our art from ourselves — even if it is to sell a box of Cheerios.
But by mastering the arts of communication and compromise, you can keep clients happy, successful, and restore confidence in your design capabilities. Remember: Design is art, and art is subjective.
Rather than making it personal, keep it professional by staying cool, calm, and collected when communicating with your clients.