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Today’s flexible content review processes allow learning experiences to ‘breathe’ throughout their development, evolving into more creative and effective solutions with each iteration. Agile… the iterative process… rapid development… successive approximation… they’re all instructional design versions of the brainstorming process! Like any good brainstorming session though, it’s important that all the participants understand the rules of the content review road.

Navigating Content Review

C’mon, let’s hear your thoughts; anything goes! There are no wrong answers!

The best brainstorming experiences allow a free-flowing generation of ideas as a group works toward a goal, typically resulting in a large quantity of good quality results.

But navigating through the iterative design process must begin with an up-front conversation between client and consultant, in order to establish some norms and expectations for what to expect at all stages. After navigating through the iterative process a number of times, I have a few suggestions that will help you and your client to get on the same page:

Before sending out deliverables:

Outline your step-by-step review process in writing. Include dates by which you will submit deliverables and dates by which the client will need to submit feedback. Give each step in your review process a name. I like to use Alpha, Beta and Final Review.

Outline exactly which deliverables will be included at each review stage. Will Alpha review include a wireframe storyboard with a fully built out script? When will you include comp images, and/or receive approval for purchase?

Ask the client to identify the decision makers at each stage of the review process. Who reviews a design iteration at the alpha stage? SMEs? Who should review at beta, when the content is getting more refined? Who needs to be involved at final review? Legal? Project sponsors?

Ask the client to designate a key contact to whom reviewers should send their feedback. Who will compile—and most importantly, reconcile—feedback from all reviewers? Not all reviewers will agree on whether changes should be made. Someone on the client’s end should be the one to make those decisions and submit those decisions to the designer.

Come to an agreement with your client about what ‘sign off’ looks like at each review stage. Should reviewers be required to send a formal response for your records, or does ‘no feedback’ mean acceptance/approval?

When you send out a deliverable:

Include a description of what you’re sending to the client. What are they seeing? Is the script in draft form? What’s missing? What does the storyboard include, and what does it NOT include?

Outline exactly what the client should review at each deliverable stage. What should the client pay attention to at the current review stage? Audio scripting? Content flow? Should they be looking at graphics yet, or are any graphics included simply for context’s sake?

Outline the logistics for the review process. Should reviewers send their feedback to their key contact? By when? In what form?

Give the client a tool to use when submitting feedback. The more you can ‘corral” your reviewers into focusing on the things you want them to focus on, the better. Consider using a review template like this one.

Any working relationship benefits from setting expectations, since knowing what one’s tasks are makes any process easier. When both client and consultant know what’s expected, both have a clear path to success. Your deliverables will improve, your working relationships will thrive, and everyone will feel more confident in YOUR work!


Heather Succio, MSEd | Instructional Designer, Performance Consultant – ECCO International | Heather is a business consultant and change strategist with two decades of experience in educational technology, organizational development, and UX/visual design.