Illustration by Simona Toader
Whether you’re designing a new product or improving an existing product, you need to understand the people who use it. Why do they use it? What do they use it for? Where are the interaction touchpoints, and where is there unnecessary friction?
Simply put, you need to see the product from the user’s perspective. And the easiest way to achieve this goal is to collect information directly from those people.
User feedback is an essential part of the product design process and an integral part of user research as a whole. Without that direct feedback, it’s difficult to know what works for your users and what does not. In this article, we will review the 10 best practices for collecting relevant and useful user feedback and share some excellent user feedback tools you can try.
1: Define your objectives
Feedback alone doesn’t mean much to your design process; it needs to be relevant to your overall business goals. So, before you collect any feedback at all, think about your objectives.
Here are two things that will help you with this and keep you and your team focused:
- Consider business goals. What do you want to achieve with this product? What features are essential to this? What kind of feedback do you need to achieve your goals? What problems can you potentially solve with the right feedback?
- Consider user goals. What will users try to achieve with your product? What motivates them to use your product? What features will truly deliver value to the users? What kind of feedback do you need to learn about your users and what they need?
2: Frame your questions and metrics
Once you’ve defined the goals you’d like to achieve, think of the specific questions you’ll ask your users. Consider using a mix of open-ended questions (“What do you think about this feature?”), closed-ended questions (“Do you spend more than an hour interacting with this product every day?”), and numeric questions (“How do you rate the experience of this product?”). Your questions may also range from very broad (evaluating the overall experience) to very specific (rating specific aspects or features).
Here are a few general recommendations for selecting questions:
- Don’t overwhelm users with too many questions. Too many questions might leave your users frustrated. Instead, focus only on the questions that will help you make impactful decisions.
- Evaluate every question. Ensure the questions you’re asking are clear and to the point.
- Avoid leading questions. These are questions that suggest a particular answer, such as “Why do you like our product?”
And here are some common metrics to consider as you’re gathering user feedback:
- Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS divides your users into promoters (those who would recommend your product), neutrals, and detractors (those who wouldn’t recommend your product). It consists of a simple question: Please rate how likely you are to recommend our product to someone else on a scale from 0 to 10. The goal of NPS is to help you understand whether your users will actually promote your product—and if not, what’s holding them back.
- Customer Effort Score (CES). CES measures how much effort it takes for a user to complete a task on a scale of 1 to 5. This metric will tell you how easy (or hard) your product is to use from the user’s perspective. If your product receives a low CES score, you might want to look into our user experience best practices and tweak your UX design.
- Customer Satisfaction Survey (CSAT). As the name implies, this metric will help you understand overall customer satisfaction and discover what areas of your product need improvement. This metric will show you the barriers and roadblocks that users face while using your product.
3: Find the right people
Your user feedback questions are important, but so is the person you’re collecting feedback from. Targeting the right users will give you more accurate feedback. If you’re not sure who to collect feedback from, start by defining a target profile of your user (user persona). The people you choose to provide feedback should fit this profile.
Here a few practical tips to go along with this:
- Practice user-centered design. All too often, designers create products that they think are optimal for their users without actually considering (or asking) the users themselves. “You are not your user” is a fundamental rule that every designer should remember when working on a product.
- Segment your users into meaningful groups. Keep the basic HCI design principles in mind. Different user groups have different wants and needs. For example, if your product allows free and paid users, target them as two different groups because the services you offer to the users are likely to be different.
- Use special user feedback tools for recruiting participants. UserTesting and UserZoom are two great services for finding participants that fit your target profile.
4: Ask for feedback at every stage
We recommend collecting feedback both during the prototyping stage and after you’ve released your product. But the approaches for the two scenarios will be different.
Feedback during the prototyping stage
Interaction design, by definition, is all about how things work. But how do you ensure that your product will work for your users when it is still in the prototyping stage? Fortunately, it’s not that hard. All you need to do is invite people who represent your target audience to interact with a prototype of your product and collect their feedback.
If you have an alpha or beta version of your product, you can incorporate a feedback mechanism right into your app. User feedback tools like Instabug make it easier for testers to share feedback.
Feedback during regular usage
Timing is everything when it comes to asking users to provide feedback in an existing app. Feedback requests shouldn’t be unexpected for users or block them from achieving their goals. Instead, find a natural point in the user journey to pause and ask questions in a way that won’t introduce any friction.
For example, you could trigger a request after a specific action, such as when a user reaches a milestone while using the product (a positive experience) or when the user wants to downgrade or cancel their account (a negative experience).
5: Consider your communication channels
The channels that product teams can use to communicate with their users and collect feedback has greatly expanded in recent years. But keep in mind that different channels serve very different purposes.
Below are a few popular channels for prompting feedback:
Interviewing is an excellent way to engage directly with your users. While this method can be time-consuming, it will give you a lot of qualitative feedback. This is a great strategy to use as a follow-up for analyzing quantitative data (i.e., when a team knows that users use one product feature more than another, but don’t know why).
In-app or on-site feedback
In-app or on-site feedback refers to asking questions while your user interacts with your app or website. It can be either system-triggered (initiated by the system) or user-triggered (initiated by the user). This can give you incredibly useful feedback because it comes from people who are already engaged with your product. User feedback tools like Qualaroo allow you to easily add feedback forms to your website or app.
Quick tip: If you want to use this method, remember that the design of your feedback forms should not be boring—consider using UX micro-interactions to spark visual interest and create a delightful experience, like in the screenshot below.
Email is another popular channel, typically done by sending users a link to a user feedback survey on Google Forms or Typeform. In comparison with in-app feedback, though, email is usually a less effective channel for extracting exact details.
Human memory is fallible, and when you ask users to recall something specific from the past, they can easily forget important details. However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore this type of feedback. Instead, try to use this channel to get a general or overall impression about your product as opposed to asking about something specific.
Usability tests can help you understand the overall user experience of your product and help you identify friction points. You can conduct usability testing either in-house (by inviting people who represent your target audience to your office and observing them interacting with your product) or online (with tools like Crazy Egg and Qualaroo, you can send tasks to test participants and collect their feedback automatically).
The great thing about usability testing is that this method is flexible, and you can adapt it to your needs. You’ll also be able to directly see the issues that prevent users from completing tasks, so you know exactly what to fix.
Social media feedback
Monitoring social media is another great way to see what people have to say about your product. You can use this information to inform your product design as well as your marketing. In-depth monitoring may even help you find the exact messaging or wording that resonates with your target audience. Netflix users, for example, regularly turn to Facebook to give their opinions about the content that this media provider offers.
6: Solicit on-demand feedback
Requesting feedback is one thing, but you’ll find that some users will reach out to you proactively as well. This might be to complain about a specific feature, ask for a change, or even suggest a new feature.
On-demand feedback is an extremely valuable type of feedback because it is based on the thoughts and feelings that users experience right at that moment. It focuses your attention on the things you need to improve.
Providing a way for users to give you feedback whenever and wherever they want is a great way to do this. Consider integrating user feedback forms into your product, allowing users to reach out at any point during their experience.
7: Back up your findings with data
Even with a solid product roadmap in place, it’s common to find there are more changes you’d like to make than time to complete them. To prioritize more effectively, you can use various tools to gather important data that support the idea.
Here are a few ways you can do it:
- Use analytics tools to analyze user activity. Tools like Google Analytics and Mixpanel will help you with this.
- Record user sessions. Recorded sessions will help you track user journeys better because you can watch them in action.
- Create heatmaps. Heatmaps highlight the most-used content and features. Paired with session recordings, heatmaps can help you see how people actually use your product. You can use user feedback tools like Hotjar and Clicktale to record sessions and create heatmaps.
8: Gather feedback regularly
Getting user feedback should not be a one-time activity. Things change quickly in product design; new trends emerge every day, and feedback that you’ve received in the past can quickly become outdated. We recommend integrating user feedback into the core of your product design process. Stay in touch with your users year-round, and your team will be able to see trends and make improvements based on the ongoing feedback you receive.
9: Analyze and act
Of course, there’s no point asking users to provide feedback if you don’t turn it into action. To do this, you’ll need to start by categorizing and prioritizing the data you’ve gathered.
Remember the Pareto principle: Roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. In the world of product design, this suggests that 80% of your users use 20% of your features. So, it’s important to invest your time and effort into the right changes that will provide maximum value to your users.
You can use this equation to estimate the return of investment for a particular change:
ROI = ($ gained by introducing a change in UX – $ spent on introducing a change in UX) / amount spent * 100
The stronger the score, the more of a priority the task should be.
10: Create feedback loops
To really ensure constant iteration, user feedback should be a two-way process. Feedback loops are when user feedback (output) turns into change requests for the product teams (input). This creates a cause-and-effect form of interaction between users and a product team and ensures you are continuously integrating feedback into the design process.
Here are a few benefits that this process brings to your business:
- Users are more motivated to provide feedback. When users see some improvement in the works, they will be more willing to keep providing feedback. Your users will know that their voices are valuable, establishing a strong relationship.
- You can validate your product design decisions. You will be able to quickly see whether the changes you introduce work for your users or not. This is especially important at the beginning of the product design process. If you integrate a feedback loop in your design process right from the start, the feedback will help guide you in the right direction.
In this customer-centric world, collecting user feedback is no longer optional. The success of your product lies in a commitment to staying close to your users. User feedback can help you identify what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and what areas in your product you need to improve.