Design feels highly subjective and can get emotional. How do you get a website project team to agree around matters of taste? Learn how to build consensus.

Diary of a Redesign Part 10

Diary of a Redesign: How to Get Everyone to Agree on a Website Design

Wed Aug 13, 2014

Your website design project is finally getting to the good part. You’ve completed your web content audit, have done the planning to help keep your project on track. At last, your design firm or web designer is ready to deliver some visuals for your team to review and approve. It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for, laden with anticipation, floating on a cloud of your best website hopes and wishes.

It’s time for the big reveal. Your team is sitting around a conference table. The projector is on. The proposed design is up on the screen, and you scan your teammates’ faces for their reactions.

Glorious!

Awful!

Meh.

The full spectrum of human emotion is present at the table and you already know: this won’t be easy.

Whose Decision Is It Anyway?

Approving a design by committee opens the door to a multiple of perceptions and opinions. When everyone at the table wants to feel a sense of ownership and confidence in the outcome, it’s difficult to step away from the process and let someone else make decisions. How could you hand over that power to someone who doesn’t see what you see?

When your proposed website design leads to disagreements and colleagues digging their heels in. Some will try to invoke design experience in an effort to give their opinion more weight. You might find yourself tactfully responding to the HiPPO (highest paid person’s opinion) in the room and struggling to build consensus.

Before you sit down for final approval, select whose word is final in the discussion. It doesn’t have to be your company president or CEO. The CMO or marketing director is often the best equipped person to make the final call, not because of being a “creative type,” but specifically because of experience targeting messaging and design to the customer rather than internal stakeholders.

Going from Subjective to Productive: A Step by Step Process

When you sense that there are some strong conflicting opinions in the room, it’s time to pause the discussion and rely on a process to keep the dialogue constructive, focused, and productive instead of devolving into a conversation about personal preferences.

If you know you can’t reach agreement quickly, you’ll need to:

  1. Thank the design firm for the work they’ve presented and agree to provide them with consolidated feedback—this is where they exit the discussion

  2. Acknowledge more discussion is needed internally before that feedback is supplied

  3. Review your original website goals and try to identify whether any of them are at risk of not being met with the new design

  1. Shrink your project team to keep the discussion more focused

  2. Identify points of agreement and articulate them in as much detail as possible in writing so you can send it to the design firm

  3. Identify points of contention and drill down to why some elements or design choices are generating negative reactions

  4. Ban the word “like” from the discussion and speak directly to customer behavior, usability, readability and other specific features and benefits of the design or desired outcome

  5. Expect to reach consensus and drive relentlessly towards agreement and solving the problem, repeat for each point of contention as needed

  6. If all else fails, shrink the team again and ask someone to step away while affirming the ultimate decision-maker’s commitment to putting the website goals first

Everyone’s Entitled to Their Opinion

How you see the world affects how you interact with it—it’s a critical part of your success and survival. It’s no surprise that when someone challenges how we process visual information, it’s easy so easy to take personally. Your taste is part of your world view, and you’ve made it this far, right? How can the way you see something be wrong?

Remember that a website design, while requiring a creative and visual approach, is still a business endeavor with expected business outcomes. A successful website is one that drives the desired customer response and that is the most important metric. A successful website will also instill confidence in your team and how your brand is presented, but remember that pleasing your internal audience is secondary.

This post is the part of our weekly Diary of a Redesign series, which covers every stage of the website redesign process, from planning, to design, to implementation, to launch. New posts published every Wednesday. 

Karo Kilfeather, content marketing manager at Percussion Software
Karo Kilfeather
Content Marketing Manager | Percussion Software

Karo was born in Poland, and learned to speak English by watching "Saved by the Bell" reruns during her first summer in the U.S., which has left her unable to go through life without occasionally breaking the fourth wall. As Percussion's content marketing manager, she oversees and creates content that drives website traffic, engages followers, and helps fill the marketing and sales funnel. She writes about content management, content marketing, SEO, social media and web design, and how to make it all less complicated.