Why Criticism From A Client Is A Good Thing

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sketchCreative work is subjective, so if you’re in a creative field, you’ve probably faced your share of criticism. In web design, there are very defined styles and tastes, and your style either jives with the client’s tastes or it doesn’t. Hopefully, this is something that’s determined before you’re hired (another reason why a design portfolio is a must-have). It’s still impossible to make every client happy all the time. And no matter how much experience you have, how versatile your designs are, how many years you’ve been in the business, how good you are at what you do, sometimes you just miss the mark.

It’s a shot to the ego when a client tells you that the design isn’t what she wanted. But if you can look past the initial disappointment, there are a number of benefits from receiving criticism.

The process has started.

Sometimes, I’m worried when a client loves the initial mockups. Of course, this is not always the case, but my fear is that they didn’t really give it a lot of attention or they just want it done so badly, that they’ll live with whatever I design.

When a client comes back with a list of things they didn’t like, the real design process has begun. This is the part where, as designers, our job is to reach into the client’s brain, collect all of the ideas they have for the project that may not be articulated, and produce a site that matches that as closely as possible. Criticism, really, means game on.

You get some direction.

Many times, the client needs a tangible design to get them thinking about what they like and don’t like…what they really want. This initial round can be a great starting point since it’s much easier to look at a design and say, “More of this, less of that,” than it is to explain in an abstract way when the client may not even know what terms to use.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

OK, maybe that is a little dramatic, but the concept is true. Receiving criticism from a client isn’t enjoyable, but it’s a valuable learning experience for two major reasons. First, when you hear what a client likes and doesn’t like, you learn a lot about them. This means you’re positioned for all future work you do for that client. Although their feedback may have been specific to one project, many times they provide general information that will make future projects easier.

Second, this is all part of design! Getting used to this process and being able to rebound quickly and successfully is what makes you good at what you do. And the client will recognize that.

You can make it right.

I don’t know about you, but part of what I find satisfying about design is successfully creating something the client is thrilled to call their website/logo/etc. Without the client being critical of your work, this would be pretty impossible to accomplish. It’s a partnership and each step of the process is necessary to get it right in the end.

Is there ever a time when you don’t readily take feedback from a client and try to incorporate it into the project?

Image credit: Mike Homme