Great products and user experiences aren’t created in a silo. The best products emerge from well-orchestrated collaborations between many teams. And each team member isn’t just an expert in their specialty, but also recognizes their peers’ expertise.
But, there’s another group of people who help build great products: the end users.
As product designers, we understand the immense value of talking to users and customers at the start of the product development process. This helps us make sure we create the right product for the right people. It also helps us get to know who we’re designing for—their behaviors, habits, environments, needs, goals, expectations, etc.
Skipping this step isn’t an option. Without this knowledge, you won’t understand the problem you’re trying to solve, and your solution will be flawed.
But after you’ve done that customer discovery, gone through the product development process, and launched your product, what do you do next?
Well, smart product teams go into data mode, and they’re looking for 2 key types of data.
Quantitative data: know your numbers
Smart product teams understand that they should have data backing every change they make, and the change itself should be quantitatively measurable.
With so many analytics tools available, many for free, there’s no excuse for a lack of data. You can pull quantitative data from Google Analytics, MixPanel, CrazyEgg, KissMetrics, Intercom, and many more. Each of these tools can help you answer questions like:
- What page do people visit first?
- What are the most popular pages?
- What pages do people leave from?
- How long do people spend on a page?
- How far down the page do most people scroll?
- Where are people putting their mouse on the page?
- Which conversion funnels perform best?
- How many pages does the average user visit?
- What are the page-by-page navigation paths people take?
- What keywords bring people to the site?
All super useful. But analytics aren’t enough, because they can’t tell you why.
So, how can you gain insight into your customers’ overall user experience? By gathering qualitative data.
Qualitative data: know your customer
Understanding how people use your product is important. But understanding why they use it is much more important.
So how do we get inside users’ heads to truly understand their experience, and their impression of your brand?
Traditionally, this would involve lengthy surveys, focus groups, exit interviews, and feedback emails, among other things. But these methods have a lot of problems. They’re time consuming for the customer to fill out, and require a lot of work to create. And we’re often forced to ask users about their experience days later, when the memory has gone stale and indistinct.
Delta recently tried to collect feedback about my flight experience. I got the text-heavy, unfriendly email 2 days after my actual flight. But I clicked the link—and things didn’t get much better. The survey was long and poorly designed, providing very little incentive to fill it out.
I’ve seen other companies, including Amazon, Apple, and Bank of America, try to collect feedback in similar ways. Unfortunately, the way they go about it doesn’t consider the user and their experience of giving that feedback. As a result, I’m guessing these surveys don’t have a very good response rate.
So what’s the alternative? It’s called microfeedback.
As the name suggests, microfeedback is little bits of information collected from customers at specific trigger points in your product’s experience. The goal of gathering microfeedback is to get definitive feedback about key interactions with or outcomes from your product.
You’ll want to think about 3 things when setting up your microfeedback system:
- Define the type of feedback you want to collect
- Pick the mechanism for collecting feedback
- Identify the action or activity that should trigger this feedback mechanism
That’s all pretty abstract, so let’s dig into some examples to learn more on what microfeedback is and how others collect it.
I love Instacart because it’s very easy to use and the mobile app is amazing. But what I love most is that your food’s delivered the same day you order it, not days later.
After I place an Instacart order, I get a standard email confirmation. I also get an email and text when the order’s on its way, along with an ETA, which is a nice touch.
But here’s the most unexpected part of the user experience: After I get my food, Instacart sends me a text message asking me to rate my delivery on a scale of 1 to 5. The first time it happened, I didn’t hesitate for a second. I replied because it was so easy. All I had to do was text them back a number. No surveys, no emails, just a text with 1 number. When I have experienced issues with an order, I just text them and they’re quick to fix the issue.
This is a great example of how a company can use text messaging to get valuable microfeedback from customers in a non-intrusive and simple way. If a delivery person or in-store shopper consistently gets low ratings, Instacart knows they might need to look into their operations.
Uber also collects data through microfeedback by having riders rate drivers using a simple star system (very similar to Instacart’s numeric model)—right after their ride’s done.
That’s the key. If Uber emailed you a day later, you’d probably just delete the message.
Earlier this year, I was coming back to New York City from a trip to Ireland. Nobody looks forward to going through security, but something happened at Dublin Airport that actually made me smile.
After I got through the security scan area, I was greeted with this sign:
I had to stop and take a photo. They asked me for feedback in a simple, timely, and even delightful way, making it really easy for me to engage.
3 tips on designing microfeedback opportunities into your product
Now that you’ve seen examples of how Instacart, Uber, Olark, and Dublin Airport use microfeedback, here are 3 ways to do it yourself.
1. Feedback: keep questions and answers simple
Obviously, microfeedback is meant to be small. So, keep the questions you ask very narrow and specific so the answers can be simple and short. Stick with questions that can be answer with a “yes/no” or a 1 to 5 numeric rating. If you really want to get cute, you could use little faces or emoticons. That said, always give the user the option to provide more details if they want. You’ll be surprised at how many people take the time to give you more information.
2. Mechanism: choose a low-friction input method
Don’t ask for microfeedback by email or a lengthy web survey. Why? Because we all get too much email, and chances are, it’ll get deleted or simply ignored. Sometimes, Delta emails me a day or two after my flight. Well, you know what? I never click the link because I have no idea how long the survey will be. And, a few days after the flight, I really don’t care to tell them anymore. But if they texted me 10 minutes after my flight landed, I’d probably reply! This is why I think Instacart has nailed it by asking me for feedback via text message. It’s easy, and I only have to tap a single key to do it!
3. Trigger: ask for feedback at the right time
After you identify what you’re asking and how you’ll collect that feedback, figure out the best time to ask for that feedback within the user experience. In the case of Instacart, they wanted to know if I was happy with my order. So, the perfect time to ask is, you guessed it, right after I get my order. If they waited until the next day, or even a few hours, I probably wouldn’t reply. And if I did, my answer might not be as accurate as it would be an hour after I received the delivery.
The value of microfeedback
Microfeedback lets you gather insightful feedback at just the right moment, so you can create an even better product or experience.
Asking hypothetical customers and users you recruit through a usability service is a good option. But asking real users works better. Microfeedback ensures that your input comes from someone who’s actually engaged with your product, improving the likelihood of you getting quality feedback.
The quality of the feedback user experience directly affects the quality of the input you’ll get. Take the time to truly design feedback into your product so that you’re asking real customers the right questions at the right times, so you can collect meaningful data you can use to inform your product decisions.
Want to learn more? Get my free guide: Intro to Microfeedback.
by Sarah Doody
Sarah Doody is a User Experience Designer, Entrepreneur, and Educator. She helps companies assess product ideas, understand customers, and design and optimize the experience. She created the popular weekly newsletter, The UX Notebook. Sarah is a contributing author to InVision, UX Magazine, UX Mastery, UX Matters, and has been published in the New York Times. Sarah is committed to helping people learn to think like a designer. She does this through online and in-person UX education programs on topics including user research, storyboarding, rapid prototyping, and creating a UX portfolio. In 2011, she created the curriculum for and taught General Assembly’s first 12-week UX immersive, the genesis of their popular UX programs which are now taught worldwide.