Web Design is Subjective: Get Feedback

During the design process of a recent web development project that would eventually span a collection of almost 40 websites with differing content, but a consistent layout and overall design, we decided to do an experiment to help ensure we were getting the design ‘right’.  Instead of having our web designer (with a small staff of 7, we only have one) put together the usual set of design mockups, we created an internal contest and had others submit their designs as well.  Our web designer, graphic designer and two web developers (programmers) each submitted designs.

As part of the contest, to get unbiased, external feedback, we sent out the designs to our staff, friends, family and acquaintances to get their rank of preferences and some specific feedback as it related to the designs submitted.  While the feedback definitely provided some direction in overall preferences (i.e. votes), the results certainly provided some interesting surprises as well.

When we sent out the designs submitted (and after evaluating the submissions myself), I expected 2 of the designs to receive all of the top votes, based on my own preferences.  While these 2 designs did receive the highest number of top votes, some of our voters did display preferences for the other 2 designs, and each design submitted received at least one TOP vote – a big surprise to me.  I had a hard time believing that anyone would preference the 2 designs our entire staff had ranked at the bottom… but it was an important lesson to see that they did.

Because design is subjective, features (both visual and functional) that may interest or please one user may not please another.  So the challenge becomes, knowing that you “can’t please everyone”, how to proceed with the design to tailor the design to please the right audiences / demographics for the website being built.  So – another important piece of the experiment was getting external feedback from the demographics that matched more closely the intended audience of our clients’ website… especially since the demographic of our small staff wasn’t a good match.

By seeking external feedback (and having the opportunity to review a number of differing designs / styles), we were able to combine some of the features liked by the people who reviewed the designs and eliminate or change some of the features that evoked constructive feedback.  The external feedback system was extremely useful in our process of coming up with a good design for our client.

In addition to external feedback within your own network / circles, you can also utilize feedback from other critiquing resources available on the web.  A great article from Mashable outlines 10 different online resources that are setup for designers  / developers to get feedback on their work.

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