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Chapter 1. Planning a Web Project > Receiving feedback

Receiving feedback

If you're looking for a particular type of feedback, make sure you ask specific questions that prompt users to comment on the elements or issues you want to focus on. In general, it's not very productive to just send out a link with a note that says, “What do you think?” You'll get responses like, “Looks good” — which is great for a final okay before launching a project but is not so good when you're midproject and looking for something more solid. In some cases, you might even want to direct their attention to a particular piece of functionality, such as the subnavigation or a new Flash presentation, and ask them to comment specifically about just that piece. Here are some tips that can help you get the information you need:

  • Don't ask for general feedback unless that's what you really want. The best way to get a group of random comments and personal opinions like, “I like it” is to just send a link without any explanation, or with a vague explanation like, “Check this out.”

  • Make sure you ask for specific feedback from individuals based on their expertise. Any Web project involves many details and many different disciplines working together. Make sure you have experts to help keep you on track. In other words, it's best to ask writers to help you proofread your content; designers can make sure your colors are working for you. Rely on experts you trust for detailed feedback on details specific to what they know.

  • Never assume that a person has nothing useful to contribute. While the finer details should be picked over by an expert, a fresh set of eyes is very helpful when looking at the project as a whole. Remember, your actual visitors don't have inside knowledge or expertise and will also be looking at your site from a fresh perspective. For example, I've even gotten great feedback from an 8‐year‐old child about some icons that weren't working — you never know who will have a useful tip.

  • Include a list of what is new since the last time you sent out a link for review. It's not polite or productive to expect people to play compare and contrast to figure out what you've been up to. Keep in mind that most of your usability testers and sources of feedback are trying to look at your project and comment on it between working on their own projects. They won't take the time to help you if you don't take the time to direct their attention to the important issues.

  • Make sure you don't ask for feedback if you're unable to use it. If you know that you're locked into a particular piece of functionality or presentation, don't ask people to comment on whether it should be there. It wastes their time, and they might not want to help you the next time. Let people know up front about situations that are beyond your control. For instance, if you must display a particular logo in a specific place, include that information in your note requesting feedback.

  • Ask open‐ended questions. Try to come up with questions that will make people interact with your site and really think about what they are experiencing. You need to get honest input from people even if it's not a bunch of compliments. If you collect useful information and act on it, you will get plenty of compliments when you launch a great Web site.

  • Thank them for their input. Make sure you thank them for their time — you'll need to call on them again as your project progresses. Keep them interested in helping you. It's easy to forget this little detail when you're wrapped up in your project, but people want to know that their time was well spent. Make sure you send out a follow‐up after you've collected feedback, including a summary of the feedback and what you intend to do as a result of the comments given.


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