Reviewing Content with Clients

There’s nothing worse than working on something for a really long time on something only to have it shot down by your client. Whether it’s content, the UX of an installation, interactive gestures, or music, it always feels like you wasted a bunch of time. Having been through this process for years on end, I decided to share a few tools and tricks that have made my process and the experiences better for everyone involved.

Two useful tools

The first things I’ve found most useful in recent years are the new tools available to us. The best one that I’ve used so far is frame.io. Frame.io is fantastic for reviewing videos. You upload whatever you want reviewed, send out the link, and wait as folks mark up the video. Clients or collaborators can leave timestamped comments with threading, draw all over frames of the video, add arrows and call outs, and more. It’s actually a really clean workflow that I was surprised by the first time someone sent me a frame.io link. It’s easier if you see it in action (in some overly compressed gifs!). The first is a look at leaving markers and timestamped comments in a really easy workflow:

And here’s how easy it is to markup frames and leave comments alongside them. There are even great mobile apps that allow clients to leave good feedback without the excuse of “Sorry I wasn’t at my computer and just had to jot these down ;(“

Best part? There’s a free version you can use quite successfully! Now if you don’t want to dive into a new platform or you’re already paying for Dropbox, you may or may not have noticed that Dropbox has also rolled out similar features! Dropbox won’t have all the extra annotations and markups, but it can have pretty clean interface and workflow for timestamped comments right on a video you’ve shared.

Animated screenshot showing Dropbox time-based comments feature

This is a huge bonus for folks who are already bought into Dropbox ecosystem, which from my experiences over the years has the strongest sync infrastructure, especially when it comes to large media files like HAP assets. Whichever you choose, what you’ll notice immediately is that feedback will be better. Why? Barriers of entry. If things are easy to do, people will naturally do a better job at it. They’ll be more likely to care about what they’re doing if they aren’t struggling with how to actually do it. It sounds simple, but having been on both sides of the equation, these simple tools have changed the review game for me.

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Review often

The other big trick that I’ve learned is that reviewing often is a good thing. Sometimes we can feel like we have our backs against the corner trying to constantly turn stuff out for clients. Sometimes we even artificially say “things take a long time” so we can create a bit of space for ourselves between reviews. But let me tell you the big secret they aren’t telling you: the client kind of knows what they want and if you bring them into your process, you’ll find the fastest road to success and build a relationship that will lead to more gigs. Instead of pushing them away and artificially creating distance, see how involved they’d like to be and help them reach that level of involvement in the process. What you’ll quickly find is that clients can get excited about the process itself and get on board to make sure that everything is moving in a successful direction every step of the way. This results in you spending less time redoing work and working in the wrong direction. I’ll be clear and say this doesn’t work with every client, but I truly believe trying to extend the olive branch can help create lasting client relationships and will help you finish projects much faster!

Wrap up

Whether you’re more excited with new tools that upgrade your review process or about changing your whole approach to client reviews, it can’t be understated that reviews are an important part of our process. Looking at your review process as an element of design instead of as a checkmark point where you’re judged can greatly improve your client relationships, get repeat gigs, and take the stress out of reviews.