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Constructive Feedback - The Importance of Iterative Design

Wouldn’t we all like to be perfect? Well... Actually, I don’t think I would. A perfect person doesn’t really exist in our reality, but if it could, our lives would end up becoming incredibly mundane. Nothing would ever be a challenge, and no one would make any mistakes to learn from. The chase would be a thing of the past - we would essentially have the same perfect outcome. Sounds boring.

Perfection is something that is completely unobtainable, but this doesn’t mean we should stop striving for it. In web design, it is very rare for any first output to be the best result. Most of the time your first design is something to show to a client what you think is best. Even though the first phase of any design is always a lot of hard work, you can never think ‘JOB DONE’ after the first send-off. There will always be something that needs changing, no matter how slight it might be.

Initial Signoff

If a client signs something off straight away, it’s almost a false victory. There should always be an opportunity for your client to input into your own creative process. You never want a client disengaged from your designs or in a position where they feel they can’t make any suggestions. Neither of these situations will help create a better design.

The design team here at Rawnet research heavily into a business before starting a design, gaining knowledge about their products, processes and people. This gives us a well-rounded understanding as to what a client really needs and allows us to design with purpose. Design isn’t just about beautiful aesthetics, it’s also about understanding the goals of a user or business and creating a solution that pushes people forward to that end goal.

The Iterative Feedback Loop

This is where the power of design iteration really comes into play. Normally your first try doesn’t completely capture every little needed detail. It is only after colleagues and clients have seen the work that improvements are imagined. Your first iteration should always be thought of as a draft copy, just like with writing. The final result is what will eventually go live, after multiple refinements… you never publish your draft copy.

At Rawnet, we are super proud to say that the majority of the time, our clients are very pleased with the designs that they are presented with - but this doesn’t mean our job is finished. Having clients be pleased with initial designs is great, but as a designer I always strive to make sure that the work I create will have a huge impact on a business. Being pleased with something is very different from it genuinely making a difference.

Design with Purpose

It should go without saying that one design solution does not fit every single business. With this in mind, a design that might be created for a production company, probably won't be suitable for an asset management company. Each site will need to be tailored uniquely to a clients needs. This is where the feedback loop can also come into its own. If two similar businesses are asking for similar websites, with similar processes and customers - then how can they differentiate?

Working closely with a client, back and forth can not only give you great feedback, but it also allows you to grasp a company’s personality. Businesses and brands are made up of the people that work within them, and understanding their personality will help you create better work. Every business is different, so why shouldn’t their website be? Templated designs have no place in my creative process.

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There is however, a balance between having a productive amount of changes and then overstepping that line. Remember: ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth”. The happy project medium between client and agency love is something we strive for at Rawnet. Our design process has been refined, even enabling us to produce a few iterations of design before the client gets to lay their eyes upon the work. This gives great constructive feedback by respected colleagues before our first draft goes out of the door. Every project I work on builds my knowledge and shows the benefits of the iterative process.

Don’t get me wrong though, there is always an end point to a design. Websites have go-live dates, and as much as I would like to sit around, constantly striving for absolute perfection, there comes a point where a project is going to shine. Any more than that and it becomes a case of over-optimisation. I never want to get to version 23 of my homepage.psd … but 3, 4 or 5 seems to be a good amount of design iterations to produce a well-constructed result.