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5 tips to get the most out of user feedback

A few weeks ago, I created a simple JavaScript game called Which Square is Larger? The objective of the game was simple: to correctly choose the larger of 2 squares. Yet even this simple game benefited from user feedback.

To illustrate, here are 4 problems that were pointed out by users:

Problem #1: Counter-intuitive game controls.

5 tips to get the most out of user feedback

The 3 keyboard buttons used in the game are the left and right arrow keys to select the squares, and the Enter key to confirm the selection. Many users told me that the position of the Enter key made it difficult to reach when their hand was resting over the arrow keys. I swapped the Enter key with the down arrow key.

Problem #2: Hidden game instructions.

5 tips to get the most out of user feedback

Some users complained that the instructions to the game were located too low in the screen, and ended up being cut off because of their browser’s height. To solve this, I pushed the instructions higher up on the screen, and also made it appear at the beginning splash screen.

Problem #3: Correct answers can be spammed.

5 tips to get the most out of user feedback

spam spam spam spam spam

Some users pointed out that the game can be cheated by spamming keys. I fixed this by changing the animation, as well as the key event that the JavaScript listens to to register a correct/incorrect answer.

Problem #4: Unnecessary game controls.

5 tips to get the most out of user feedback

One user in particular told me that the down arrow key is redundant; he’d rather choose the larger square directly by pressing either the left or right arrow key. Removing this unnecessary control would waste less time, and allow players to rake up higher points. I did what he suggested, and tested the improved game with other users.

Interestingly, users told me that the new game mechanic actually made the game worse off: it became too fast for them to register what’s happening, and the cognitive stress made them feel frustrated instead of excited. In the end, I reversed the “improvement” made to the game.

 

As you can see, user feedback is incredibly valuable. But it can be hard getting started, so here are 5 tips to help you get the most out of them:

Tip #1: Know what kind of feedback you want to get.

5 tips to get the most out of user feedback

You don’t want your users to feel like him.

This might sound obvious, but you need to know what kind of feedback you’re looking to get.

If you want general feedback on a simple game/app (like I did), then it’s ok to ask for generic “improvements” to the game/app.

If you wanna get validation (to find out whether there is actual demand) for your product idea, you might need to ask people whether your product solves their problem, as well as their intent to solve that problem, amongst other things.

If you’re concerned about the usability of your app – things like ease of use, understandability, intuitiveness of flows/actions – then ask about usability. You get the idea.

Tip #2: Start off accepting that the users are right.

5 tips to get the most out of user feedback

I’m not saying that they necessarily are, but assuming so is beneficial, because we tend to defend our ideas a little too fiercely.

When a user says that she doesn’t understand how a game works, for instance, it’s tempting to roll your eyes and conclude that she’s an idiot (I do that all the time, in my head). But the thing is, she’ll eventually be the one playing the game, not you. And if she doesn’t understand, she doesn’t understand.

At the beginning, always accept what she says as true. If she finds the game difficult to understand, then it must be true. If she can’t find the “Start” button on your timer app, then it must be true.

Tip #3: Next, find out why they think what they think.

Why didn’t she understand how the game works? Is it because the symbols used in the instructions weren’t easily understood? Or is it because the instructions were too small? Or did they come too late?

The easiest way to find out is to just ask. And you should always ask, until you understand the feedback that your user is giving, as well as the reason why they’re saying it.

If your user tells you that the flow of your app is confusing, for example, ask them why they think so. What were they expecting? What gave them the expectation?

Tip #4: Some users are more equal than other users.

As a general rule, if 8 out of 10 users you’ve approached gave you the same feedback (e.g. that they found the notifications system useful), then it’s probably safe to assume that the feedback’s legit. But some users deserve more priority than others.

If the 2 users that gave you a different feedback (e.g. that they found the notifications distracting) are clearly closer to your target audience, or belong to a group that is more important, then you might want to reconsider your notifications system.

It’s ultimately a balancing act: you’d have to weigh the frequency of feedback with the importance/relevance of the person(s) giving the feedback.

5 tips to get the most out of user feedback

Except maybe balance something a little more useful.

Tip #5: Test out the “improved” version of your app.

I know this might sound troublesome and totally unnecessary; why do you need to test the app again, after implementing a change requested by users?

Because sometimes, users don’t really know what they want. Other times, they don’t know how to externalize what they want. And yet other times, we don’t fully understand what they say they want.

5 tips to get the most out of user feedback

If I didn’t get further feedback after implementing the solution to Problem 4 above, my game would have ended up worse off than before!

Conclusion: If you’re building an app/game/product, you should really get some user feedback.

Start by asking your friends. You could also post a prototype of your app on relevant Facebook groups; the UXSG Facebook group is an excellent place to get UX-related feedback!

What other tips do you have in getting user feedback? Let me know in the comments below.

Yu Sheng

Yu Sheng

Yu Sheng is a UI designer at ReferralCandy, who’s transitioning over to a UX role. He blogs about the UX lessons he learns along the way, and can be found on Twitter. He’s also a finance major.

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