Project Feedback Timelines: Why Shorter Can Be Better

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At DE, we’re always looking for ways to improve our processes to deliver better results. So, when this past year we noticed a trend of two-week web projects turning into three-week projects and twelve-week projects turning into twenty-week projects, we decided to do some digging to see what was going wrong. After cleaning up our internal team processes a bit, we noticed a big contributing factor: seriously slow feedback time. Not only did the lagging client feedback extend launch dates, but it resulted in projects that were overworked and overedited. 

After testing a few projects with deliberately shorter timelines and clear expectations up front (more on that later), we discovered that they had a couple of side benefits. 

Shorter Feedback Timelines Produce Better Content

Have you ever bought a new car that you initially LOVED, but then noticed that it lost its shine over the course of a few weeks? It may still have been 10x better than what you had before, but over time, you found little things that were not 100% to your taste. This happens with websites, marketing materials, and many other projects, too. The trouble is, if our client’s web site hasn’t launched, or their marketing materials aren’t in front of customers, they really haven’t even been test driven yet. 

It’s also easy to lose sight of the greater purpose of the thing you’re building if you look at it for too long! In the grand scheme of things, the most important aspect of any project is that it delivers business results, not that it is 100% to someone’s tastes.

Faster Feedback Means Faster Results

Remember what I said about a project not really being test-driven until it’s launched? A project that’s not launched can’t deliver any results. That means that if a twelve-week project takes twenty weeks, our clients are missing out on eight weeks of potential results. We’ve found that if what our team is working on is already way better than what our client currently has, it’s better to get it launched, test it, and fine-tune as needed. 

So, How Do You Get Faster Feedback? 

You might be thinking, “Getting faster client feedback sounds great for everyone, but how do we get there?” Well, we’re still in the process of figuring this out ourselves. Every person — and every client — is different. But, through some planning and testing, we’ve found a few methods that help us help our clients by getting them to speed up the process. 

Set Expectations Up Front

This is the big one. If we don’t set expectations up front, it will just lead to confusion and frustration for everyone, and we don’t want that. Communicating clear timelines up front and reinforcing them throughout the process helps everyone stay on track. For us, what this means is setting the expected time limit for client feedback when the project kicks off, and then re-communicating those deadlines each time we send a client something for review. 

Communicate the Stakes

Remember earlier when I explained that shorter feedback timelines produce better content and faster results? Well, we have to communicate that. We also have to communicate what could go wrong if the steps aren’t followed. Action requires something to be at stake. The stakes are why we wear seat belts in cars and wear sunscreen at the beach. If we don’t explain clearly what could go wrong if these steps aren’t followed — like drawn-out projects, worse results, etc. — we won’t motivate our clients to act.

Deliver Follow-Ups with Kindness

If we didn’t have human emotions, we could just be clear without having to be kind (though that’s not the kind of world most of us would like to live in!). In the real world, clarity means very little without kindness. What kindness looks like in this context is remembering that our clients are human, and even with the utmost clarity, sometimes unforeseen circumstances will get in the way. Allowing our clients the opportunity to communicate when they can’t meet deadlines (and being gracious when it happens) goes further than any perfectly met deadline. Which leads me to the next point…

Allow for Flexibility When Appropriate

Sometimes life gets in the way. That may look like a key employee in a client’s company suddenly leaving. It may look like a hospital stay. It may look like a death in the family. It may look like a completely unforeseen world crisis (hello, COVID-19!). When these things happen, we know it’s important to allow for flexibility. Ten years from now, our clients may not remember the amazing website we designed for them, but (we hope) they will remember our grace and care in a time of need. 

The Takeaway

What we’ve learned through this process is that, with the right preparation and processes, sometimes faster is better. So, I challenge you to start thinking about what YOU do at work (or at home). What slows you down? Are there ways you can speed things up without sacrificing quality? 

If you’re interested in learning how our team can deliver better, faster results for you, schedule a 15-minute call to talk with us about your goals! After all, that’s what we’re here for. 

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