title:Eliciting Constructive Website Feedback
"You've done a nice job."
"I don't like it."
At some point, you have probably received comments like this when asking for constructive criticism of your website efforts. Unfortunately, the generic nature of these comments does not give specific information on elements that you need to improve your site.
So how do you elicit specific, constructive, targeted feedback from the public in order to improve your website? The seven techniques below, when implemented properly, will give you the constructive feedback you need to make your website the best it can be.
1. Ask both closed-ended and open-ended questions. Closed-ended questions, such as "how would you rate the site on a scale of 1 to 10?" will provide quantitative measures which, in aggregate quantities, can be very useful. Open-ended questions provide your users the opportunity to provide specific and detailed answers in their own words, thus providing a more qualitative measure of your website's appeal.
I generally find that a 60% closed-ended/40% open-ended mix of questions provides sufficient data from both a qualitative and quantitative standpoint.
2. Give your existing website customers surveys. Your website customers are the people for whom your site is ultimately constructed, and showing that you are interested in their feedback to make your site more useful to them serves as an excellent way to ensure repeat business.
3. Develop a "focus group" whom you can approach for advice on a regular basis. One of the positive aspects of soliciting opinions is that there are many people who are more than happy to provide it on a regular basis. Your group can be comprised of customers, suppliers, friends, neighbours, relatives, or just about anyone you like!
4. Critique another's website when asked to do so. By providing a thorough and constructive evaluation of another person's website, you will establish a relationship with that other person. When asked, said person will usually be quite happy to return the favour.
For those of you who may wish to participate in this sort of exchange without the risk of offending someone whom you personally know, you may wish to visit a web design discussion board that offers a Site Review section and participate. The advantage to this method is that you have the option of posting your site for review; reviewing another's site and possibly getting ideas for your own site; or, as most people tend to do, a combination of both.
The following websites, among many others, offer a site review forum:
Web Design Forums' "How's My Site?" Forum (http://www.webdesignforums.net/forumdisplay.php?f=86)
WebProWorld's Submit a Site for Review Forum (http://www.webproworld.com/viewforum.php?f=4)
SitePoint's Reviews and Critiques Forum (http://www.sitepoint.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=90)
5. Purchase an experienced, professional website analysis. For those of you who aren't sure which questions you'd like answered about your site, or perhaps would like a more concrete plan and direction, you may wish to acquire the services of a website consulting professional. Depending on what you require in terms of feedback and your budget, website consulting professionals can analyze your website for usability; provide a detailed error and "bug" report; review your traffic statistics or raw logs; determine if your website is search-engine ready; and many other services.
One such company is My Guru Knows (http://www.myguruknows.com). Among other business advice services, My Guru Knows can provide an analysis of your web presence in such things as Internet sales, database marketing, and interpretation of web site statistics.
6. Give away a redeemable website coupon in exchange for survey information. Coupons are a very effective way to encourage your site's users to provide you with the marketing information you require. It doesn't even have to be an expensive item either: it can be something along the lines of "free ABC Company pen in exchange for answering these five questions". Mind you, the nicer and more valuable the item is, the more survey information you will acquire.
7. Incorporate your survey elements as part of registration or other interactive elements of your site. Add a question or two at each interactive stage, such as "how did you find this ordering process on a scale of 1 to 10?" By breaking up your survey, it doesn't appear as obvious to the user that you are gathering valuable marketing information. However, the downside is that the marketing information gathered will be somewhat fragmented, as some elements of your website will be used more frequently than others.
Use of these seven elements, by themselves or in concert, should lead to a substantial increase in both the quantity and quality of your website feedback and allow you to more accurately determine how to go about building your website in the best interest of your customers.