If you’re not familiar, crowdsourcing is the process of obtaining services, ideas or feedback by soliciting large groups of people, particularly online communities. Before we dive in, I’m not saying that all crowdsourcing is bad. However, in order for it to be done well, and provide you with valuable feedback that’s actually usable, it needs to be done right. More importantly, it needs to be specific.
You’ve probably seen it before, perhaps you’ve even done it yourself. You’re in a Facebook group and someone posts 3 versions of their new logo with a short caption that says, “Just got the logo concepts back from my designer, which one do you like better, Option 1 or 2?”
Or someone posts a couple concepts for their new ebook cover asking which title you prefer. Or someone posts variations of their sales page and wants to know which color looks better. Or, or, or.
How about no.
Crowdsourcing your design feedback in this way is akin to saying you’re hiring, but you have no job description and you’re not really sure what you want your new employee to do. You are not being specific, and without specificity, you could end up with a complete whack-a-doodle who is not a good fit for the job or your team.
The same goes for your business.
Asking which logo concept, book title, layout, or background color, without any additional information on what your business is, does, or who it’s for and how it helps them, is ineffective. This scenario typically plays out with anywhere from 10-30 people responding with answers like, “#1”, or “I like them all but I really love the pink one”.
What you’ve essentially done is asked a bunch of strangers for their personal preferences and tastes. So what if Mary Marketer loves the pink option of your logo. Is Mary your ideal customer or even part of your target audience? Does Mary know anything about your audience or what you provide for them?
Without some specificity, the fact that Mary Marketer loves pink doesn’t mean shit for your business unless Mary Marketer is buying what you’re selling.
If you want valuable insight from crowdsourcing, you need to be specific with what you’re asking for.
Give people some background information and some details on exactly what you need. Rather than asking, “Which option do you like?“, instead try something like, “I’m a personal financial coach for young adults and newly married couples—people making their first large purchases, like a house or car. I want something that is energetic, approachable and youthful but represents the trust and confidence my clients need to have in me when making such an important decision. I’m leaning toward option 1 with the green accents as green is the color of money, but I may be too close to it and would love the opinion of anyone who may be in this customer group. Which option do you think conveys the ideas of trust, stability and wealth more clearly? ”
Want specific feedback? Ask specific questions.
Even if you’re product is a new brand of diaper (the audience is clearly people with diaper-wearing-age kids), you still need some context. Who purchases the diapers—moms or dads? What’s the price point of the diapers—what income bracket of parents are you marketing to? How do these people exercise their purchasing power—is it based on price, quality, material, time saving promises or something else? These are all important factors that need to be considered when designing for your brand as well as when evaluating the design.
I’m not a fan of throwing people under the bus or putting them on display for public ridicule so though I witness this almost daily, visual examples have been omitted. But I will give you an example to illustrate.
Carrie and Susan both make diapers. Carrie’s diapers are made of washable, eco-friendly cotton. The cotton and all packaging materials are American-made and each diaper features a hand-stitched emblem. Since Carrie’s diapers are washable, they require extra time and energy to use. They also carry a rather hefty price tag (not to mention a high tolerance for poop).
Susan’s diapers on the other hand, are made of various synthetic materials, sourced and produced in factories overseas, which are staffed by low-wage workers. They are disposable, but not compostable or biodegradable and thus, not eco-friendly like Carrie’s. Because Susan’s diapers are single-use throwaway style, the time involved to use them is considerably lower than Carrie’s diapers, as is the price.
This example doesn’t make Carrie’s diapers any better than Susan’s, or vice versa. It simply illustrates that even if your broad customer base is the same (parents of diaper-wearing-age kids), your specific customer may be very, very different.
Do you think Carrie and Susan share the same ideal customer or target market? How do they differ and what sort of qualities do each of them have? Do you think Carrie and Susan, with their vastly different products, could successfully have the same brand identity? Imagine how their logos might differ from one another and what they might look like.
Want to be helpful? Ask for specifics.
The same principle applies if you are on the other end of the crowdsourced feedback. If you are in a group and witness someone soliciting feedback as I’ve illustrated above, unless you know details of their business and customer, it doesn’t help to simply provide your personal tastes. The same rule applies on a smaller scale as well. When someone asks you your opinion about their design, ask them who their people are and what they value. Ask for some insight on how they came to this point and what specifically, they’re looking for feedback on.
Get specific. Then, and only then, should you weigh in.
Should you find yourself in a similar position with a wild urge to crowdsource your design feedback—perhaps after attempting to DIY your own brand visuals—here’s how to do it in a way that’s valuable for your brand:
Make sure you have a detailed creative brief.
Outline the goals this project aims to achieve. Describe who it’s for and what/how you need to communicate. THIS is your main focus. If you don’t have a clear brief in place to outline your project, you have nothing by which to measure its success against.
Evaluate it yourself before turning it over to the masses.
Look at it, think about it, and then walk away. Come back to it after a day or so, ask questions and attempt to answer them (based on the creative brief). If you attempt to evaluate it in one sitting, your mind will focus only on one thing and you’ll fail to consider everything that’s going on. Take it in then allow your mind to rest before viewing it again.
Consider who you’re asking.
Rather than using a megaphone (or Facebook group) to broadcast your question, solicit the feedback of your customers directly. Even if it’s a work in progress, people appreciate being brought into the process and being shown what’s behind the curtain.
Find a professional.
Not sure who your customers are just yet? Solicit feedback from a brand designer; someone skilled in the foundational principles of design and familiar with what goes into creating a brand identity. Don’t know any? I’ve got a service perfect for this very thing.
Remember: quality > quantity.
You want better feedback, not just more feedback. In the long run, you’re going to be far better off soliciting feedback from people who actually use your product or know something about design, than you are some rando’s personal opinion.