Dealing with User Feedback: The Good and The Bad

By / Jun 19, 2012 / Tips
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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!

featured image - emotions and smiley faces

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.

e-mail and contact forms - letter envelope

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.

Los Angeles California freeway at night

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.

A/B split testing for science!

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:

  1. the original design
  2. 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.

London, UK web design meeting space

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.

Conclusion

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.

About the Author

Jake Rocheleau is a creative writer and UI designer. You can follow him on twitter @jakerocheleau or visit his personal website at JakeRocheleau.com.

9 Comments

  1. Jesica
    June 19, 2012

    Jake, This is a good post… I believe that the contact forms works very well and therefor one should make sure that the link to the contact form should be placed at such a position on your pages that its easily accessible. Making a easy filling contact form are better than a form with lot of fields to be filled up by the users.

    Reply
  2. aledesign.it – Creative Graphic
    June 19, 2012

    Good post. Perfect words about Quality over Quantity and Stay Confident with Yourself. Two points most important for me and for my work. Every day we need to fight against some criticism, in special way if are some of these critiques may be plain wrong. Insist and stay updated.

    Reply
  3. Chris
    June 19, 2012

    Thanks for sharing from the Netherlands! Great advise to avoid feeling personally hurt by somebody’s statement. Focus on constructive criticism and don’t keep on analysing to mucht the things that hurt you personally.

    Reply
  4. Julia Agnes
    June 19, 2012

    Great tips! thank you for sharing :)

    Reply
  5. Maneet Puri
    June 19, 2012

    Very well written post! I agree with you that one should take feedback very positively and try to evolve based on them. For doing so, one has to work without instigating any human emotions in the project itself. Instead of taking the feedback in a negative manner, you should try to understand the right message which the critique is trying to impart. In the end it is up to you to decide whether the feedback is justified for your job or not!

    Reply
  6. Jasmine
    June 19, 2012

    Great article. A/B testing is invaluable, there is nothing like validating your designs and iterating on it based on actual data. Throws away all the ambiguity in the decision. You need to however be disruptive and experiment beyond the two directions. I use a tool with my clients called http://www.marqueed.com, it lets me make more informed decisions faster. Check it out http://www.marqueed.com. Its free and works great.

    Reply
  7. Design Turnpike
    June 19, 2012

    Trust me, there is no site that more than 2 out of 3 people like! So take negativity with a grain of salt.

    Reply
  8. KEITH Mcmahon
    June 20, 2012

    Whether good or bad, feedback is great. You guys hold check out http://www.Formvote.com , it’s a new social made for this. Literally lol.

    Reply
  9. Webdesign – NL
    June 21, 2012

    Most user feedback at our company is in the statistics from analytics. Click rates going up, bounces going down and conversion and sales changing for the better (or worse) Luckily we don’t end up reading to much negative feedback but when we do it is something to take seriously and use it to improve.

    Reply

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