Previously on this blog, we've talked about using analytics and finding your audience's language but you can get all of that in one place - a feedback mechanism on your site.
So this week, I asked Albert Massa to give us his wisdom. Albert has worked in a number of large, well-known companies going through large volumes of user feedback.
When you are asking for feedback on a site, what's better: structured questions or free text?
"In general, I'd say the best answer is 'both'.
Your users may surprise you
"If your product is pretty well developed and has been continuously refined, you'll probably get to the point where you want to make very specific minor adjustments, so a highly-structured set of questions is probably what you need. But if you do this, be particularly careful you don't inadvertently influence the user to adopt esoteric internal terminology or viewpoint.
Respect your user's time
Only ask what you need to
If you only have one choice
"Finally, if you ask for information from anyone, it's important to make sure that you're willing and able to act on it. If you can't commit to that, it's probably better not to ask at all. It's well-known that employee surveys that are supposed to generate more positive feeling about the workplace often generate the opposite effect if the feedback given isn't acted upon quickly. I think that applies in general to asking for user feedback as well."
- don't ask unless you are prepared to do something with it
- only ask what you really need to
- don't interrupt the user journey
- you could use free text and then refine the questions afterwards
- use structured answers for specific refinements, but don't narrow it so you are influence the answers
The one thing I really took away from what Albert is saying is that, like everything else on the web, you can iterate and improve the way you talk to your users too. The more you change on your site and the more you learn, the more the way you gather feedback should evolve too.