The Importance of User Feedback

User feedback is a way for you to improve an existing product by listening to your users’ opinions. Getting useful user feedback can be tricky, so you will have to think outside the box and study your users’ actions well!

Everyone could improve their site by simply listening to the users’ feedback. As a web designer or a web developer you sometimes get blinded by your own work. This opens up for errors and flaws in your design, that at the time you are designing might not be as obvious to you as it is to your users.

User experience is a key concept of interaction design that tells us how people feel about a product when they are using it. While user experience is very important to a website, it is important to notice that you cannot “design a user experience” — only design for a user experience.

Designing For a Good User Experience

In order to design for a good user experience you obviously have to listen to your users. You have to figure out how the users interact with your product and what cognitive processes are involved. In websites and web applications some of the cognitive processes used by people are;

  • Memory — What parts of the GUI was easy to remember how to use since last visit? May functionality work similarly as another website I have visited?
  • Attention — Some message pops up in the right-hand corner, how do I react? Did the user notice that each time he clicks this button, something executes?
  • Learning — How easy is this functionality to understand? Will the user be afraid of trying things out, or will he understand that there is a undo functionality involved?

When studying you users you have to think beyond the obvious and drill down each of the users’ actions into smaller parts. Take an online forum as example. You are about to study the process of creating a new forum post. This action can be drilled down in several actions:

  1. User registration — Is a registration required to write a post? If so, does the user understand how to register? Will the forum allow me to write my post and then register?
  2. Logging in — After registration, will the user be logged in or not? Is the log in functionality easy to understand? Does it reflect other types of functionality similar to other sites?
  3. Finding a appropriate forum — How will each forum section be presented? Are pictures or icons more worth than words? Will the forum section be selected while writing the post?
  4. Writing the post — Does it reflect similar functionality as a standard word processor? Does the user understand what functionality he can use to improve the formatting of his post?

By getting feedback on just a small part of an action you will be able to fine tune the entire process. Designing for a good user experience is an iterative process. You design, you publish, you get feedback, you design, you publish, and you get feedback…

Why User Feedback Should Be Encouraged

User feedback helps you solve frustrations among your users and it will improve your product in general. Moreover, user feedback will…

  • Involve users in your projects — Thus, giving each user a feeling of participation.
  • Give birth to new ideas — User feedback can give you plenty of ideas on how to improve existing projects and maybe even fresh ideas for upcoming projects.
  • Develop you as a designer — By understanding what the users want, you will develop unique skills that can make you a better designer.
  • Connect with people — User feedback is a great way to broaden your network.

A User Is Always a User

Regardless of whether you are designing a mobile application or a corporate website, a user will always be a user. Some optimization techniques you used in one project may or may in fact not apply in another project. Finding your project’s target group is important in order to understand how they will use your application. Your first iteration of the design should always be intended to this group of people. If you later on realize that another group of people join in, you might have to consider them as well in the next iteration.

Opinions among users may vary a-lot. Depending on your preferences and values, you will have to decide who to listen to and who to ignore. If you have a large sample of users, the simplest thing to do is to listen to the average voice. In smaller samples, you may have to discuss the sample, studies and results with colleges to find a good balance.

There is no secret recipe that applies to all project and all users. Experimentation is key and you must always remember who you are designing for.

Conclusions

Just by listening to your users you have the chance to improve not only your website, but also your own skills. As a modern web developer you have to keep an open mind and agree on things the majority likes. By using an iterative approach, you will be able to fine-tune each part of your website till you find the ultimate solution.

Your users’ voices should not be ignored — they should lead the designing and development process of your website.

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PixelTango Original © 2010-09-30 | Usage

About the Author

Mickel is a web creative that is constantly looking for new challenges and ventures.

He is the founder of PixelTango, as well as a interactive web design agency. He also likes to DJ and produce music under the name Allic.

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