Working as a web designer you need to handle constructive criticism frequently. It comes with the territory and the sooner you learn this lesson the easier it'll be to move forward. Nobody is perfect, and even some of these critiques may be plain wrong!
But you must have a level head and understand how to deal with user input. In this guide I want to share some tips on how you can properly deal with feedback. Both good and bad suggestions can help you along the way. It's all about how you react to these ideas and what you do differently that matters.
Understand Face Value
When you are reading through feedback don't try analyzing everything too deeply. There are reasons for everybody's opinion and you have to understand why people say what they do.
Many times you're left feeling personally hurt by somebody's statement. But if you can be objective to the feedback then you may find yourself agreeing with their point. Oftentimes I notice my layout has been cluttered by the addition of a new sidebar, signup box, advertisement, or whatever. This clutter brings out a very poor user experience!
And when you allow users to connect with you they will be vocal. Plan for this type of feedback and don't get discouraged. Each design technique you complete is a new chapter in learning.
Designate Custom Forms
Many of the contact forms I put up on my websites use a simple 3-4 fields at most. But the type of contact form you implement is also directed towards the amount of traffic your website is receiving.
Startups with 100k or 500k monthly pageviews would consider this feedback essential. You want to know how your early adopters are enjoying the product and what they might need fixed. Allow two or three separate contact forms where users can e-mail different departments of the company. Then you can direct messages easier and reply with a more targeted response.
Stay Confident with Yourself
There will be plenty of e-mails and responses with users spouting off against your product. Not a single positive thing to say, just ripping into everything. You have to expect this type of audience because they are out there.
But don't beat yourself up over these comments. Ultimately they do not mean anything - unless you start getting the same complaints from dozens of users. You are the manager and have ultimate say in what gets implemented and what doesn't.
If you personally enjoy a design or module then keep it! Although even if you have some people complaining, don't ignore the feedback. Get in touch and determine what they don't like specifically. Can you tweak the settings and make your design/widget/module more useful? The only way to fix these problems is through head-on direct confrontation.
A/B Split Testing
We have written before on the science behind A/B testing with a lot of mixed results. Unless you have launched your own startup or website or mobile app you can't understand the value of split testing. It's imperative for almost any major feature you launch.
Production is a stressful time because you have developers pushing to churn out software and squash bugs as quickly as possible. What a better way to gauge your success than through user interactions? Whenever you consider changing something always setup an A/B test with the following options:
- the original design
- the newer design
Send 50% of your traffic to #1 and the other 50% to #2. You can record areas on the page users will interact with the most. Alternatively you could post a small link or icon notifying your users that this feature is still in beta testing. You can link to a direct contact form and they can send feedback right from your page!
Quality over Quantity
Every project you need feedback from should be crafted very carefully. When you throw a large net out it's likely you'll bring in sub-par results. But you want to strive for high-quality feedback over a huge amount from various people - at least during the initial stages.
Visitors who do not understand your software or web app will not be able to provide very good feedback. Look into targeting people related to your market - engineers, programmers, economists, whatever can get you suggestions from somebody intelligent in the field.
Once you've gotten some honest brazen feedback from professionals you can begin to reiterate the design. Quality feedback may even include suggestions for what you can change or new features to include. Try these out and track any positive results.
Time will pass and eventually you should open your ideas to all user feedback. Ultimately you are building products for the public to use, and (practically) every opinion is important. But in the early stages you really need good quality advice and this often comes from your most talented, intelligent users.
In order to improve any project you must handle feedback properly. Don't instigate any emotional attachment to your work. Instead use these tips to stand objectively outside the situation and be the judge of your own project. You'll often find there are many solutions to follow towards cleaning up your website or application.
Hopefully these ideas can get you started towards managing positive and negative feedback. Although gathering opinions can be fun, it's what you implement that truly matters. If you have similar ideas or suggestions feel free to share with us in the post discussion area.
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