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How to Review Design Comps and Request Changes

by: | February 22, 2012

You’ve found the right designerreviewed the proposal, and started the project. Now what? What should your expectations be and what are their expectations for you, the client? How can you ensure the project will move smoothly?

You, the client, are important in keeping the project on schedule and on budget. So to start, the first phase of the design process involves design comps. It’s important for your business to learn what to look for when you’re reviewing them and how to request changes in a way that will be effective.

First Things First: What Are Design Comps? 

Design comps are flat, non-working layouts of how the design will look. Think of it as more of a screenshot than a working model of your business site. Designers work first in flat design images so they can more quickly manipulate the layouts without actually building out the site, in anticipation of your aesthetic edits. From your perspective, the point of comps is so you can see the style of the page and how all the elements look and work together.

Keep in mind, these are non-working “pictures” of your site, so you will most likely see placeholder text and images.

The copy will probably be in Latin and look something like “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.” Designers use this seemingly nonsensical text so clients don’t get distracted by what the copy says, allowing them to instead focus on the design and style.

You will probably see images that have the letters FPO on them. They stand for “For Positioning Only.” Similar to the Latin text, the FPOs are not necessarily suggested final pictures but rather pictures that either need to be approved by you or are put there to fill a space where a picture will go.

Five Things to Look For in a Design Comp

Reviewing a design comp is more than just simply seeing if you like it. There are specific things you should be looking for in order to make sure that you not only like the design but also that it’s one that will be effective for your business.

Here are some things to look for in your design comps.

  • Colors – Do the colors make sense? Are they the colors of your company and brand?
  • Typography – Are the headers and copy a comfortable size? Do the fonts make sense in the design, and do they work together?
  • Design Elements – Are the design elements you need, like social media or logins, included in the design? Do they match the rest of the design?
  • Navigation - Put yourself in your visitor’s shoes. Will the site be easy to navigate? Is the menu clearly apparent?
  • Branding - Is your logo easy to see? (It doesn’t need to be huge, just simply noticeable.) Are the icons relevant to your brand and match your company’s style?

How to Request Changes to Your Design

Let me start by saying this: it’s OK for the first round to be perfect. Don’t think you have to request changes in order for it to be right. If the designer nailed it, let them know. That being said, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want or need.

What you should be asking for depends on what phase of the design process you’re in. In the first round, it’s OK to talk about positioning, structure, and layout. If on the other hand, you’re at the end of the design process, you shouldn’t be suddenly shifting the entire structure around. In other words, you don’t want to have a designer go down one path only to change it up significantly right at the end.

This doesn’t mean you can’t ask for drastic changes down the line, but don’t be surprised if it incurs extra charges. Asking for designers to start again towards the end of the phase is like asking the architect to move the bathroom after the foundation’s been poured. Changes to certain elements might mean other elements on the page need to be changed for it to still all work well together, and more changes can lead to higher costs.

This next part is essential: talk to your designer about what changes you’re thinking are needed and then listen to their advice. You hired them for their experience, so take heed to what they’re suggesting.

By following this guide, the design phase of your project should stay on schedule and on budget. Don’t forget to read parts 1, 2, and 3 to get a full scope on what to expect when working with designers. Do you have any other advice for people working with designers? Let me know in the comments!Marketing Zeus

Posted in: B2B, Branding, Campaign Development, Content, Engage!, Professional Services, Usability

About the Writer:

Born in England and raised in the U.S., Charles Forster is the marketing director and partner at Vine & Grain, a company that creates management technologies for bars and restaurants. Prior to that position, he ran a graphic design company, Call Me Chaz, in Philadelphia, PA and Orlando, FL. He focused on branding, websites, print, video and marketing for small business clients up and down the east coast. He's a self-prescribed car nut and foodie. He's also the curator for This Is Visceral, a site devoted to poster art.

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