Posted by Andrew VanderPloeg
Yesterday, I noticed that a friend of mine had a link in his Facebook feed to a poll. The poll was asking users their opinion on which book cover, out of 5 options, was best-suited to the book that he has written.
Given that we do a bunch of print work around here and having being interested in my friend's project, I took part in the poll. After I voted, I was taken to a results page that indicated my first choice was in fact, first in the results as well. Sadly there were no prizes for guessing the leading cover...
In all seriousness though, at that point I recall thinking to myself that although this was a good and valuable process to go through, if this was the only feedback being generated, it could end up being very misleading (opinion based on subjective preference without any qualification doesn't necessarily translate into the design meeting the goals of the project).
Then today, I noticed that he had been posting the individual covers on his Facebook page and people were commenting - which is great to see - now he had a chance to qualify the numbers he was seeing in the poll. But as I read through the comments and left one of my own, I was reminded of something that I see a lot of online. So often, I see people commenting on a blog post, podcast episode or poll like this one with simple comments like: "Awesome!" And I'm sure that the heart behind these kinds of comments is good, and as a result, they are appreciated. But when someone posts something like my friend has with his book cover, what they really need is for people to take the time to explain why they feel the way they feel. That will then help them know whether (and how) your thoughts are applicable to what they are trying to achieve with the project.
If you're heart is truly there to help and encourage the author/blogger/podcaster, then definitely go ahead and tell them that what they've done is awesome. But at the same time, as much as is possible, also be willing to qualify that for them so they can really use your opinion to help them on the way.