Or „My best pal the stranger”
In the following series of articles we will share our experience on how to gather useful and constructive feedback on your website on a tight budget. If you are opting out for large focus groups and eye tracking software this article might not be for you. If you are a small business or a Startup like TheSocks.com … keep reading.
Its been months of hard work and finally your StartUp website is live and well. The team is pleased with a job well done and its time to show your facebook friends why you were off the gird for the past few months. Life is again full of promises for a bright future!
A couple of weeks pass though and a strange question starts to sneak past the initial euphoria in your brain. „Is my website performing as well as I expected?”. Sure enough you go to your google analytics to calm your fears. And suddenly that single, sneaky question is now a nine headed hydra attacking the performance of your website from every direction and you find yourself wondering which attack to repel first.
If that picture is all too familiar and you are reading this in hopes of a solution, don’t worry. There might be several.
Getting the obvious out of the way
1. You don’t have all the answers. If your friend wants to know if his new „I love Brenda” tatoo looks nice, are you really the best person to give an objective answer? Well, the same principle applies to your work. When you spend night after night worrying for a project you start forming a strong bias. To the way your website looks, the way it feels and the way it should perform. “OK I will get the emotions out of the way then”, you might think.
2. Numbers have no feelings is my answer. Google analytics and other tools might be tremendously useful. They can point out where your visitors flow is interrupted or which page elements drive most clicks. But do they provide the entire context? Do they tell you if your value propositions are well written or if your site’s real estate feels trustworthy? No, interpreting the numbers is left to you…And we are back to point one.
This is the exact time when strangers become your best friends. Their unique ability to not care all too much about your feelings is what makes them invaluable. And if, god forbid, parts of your website actually suck, they will stand in lines to throw stones at them. If I’ve managed to convince you to start gathering your visitors’ perspective, let’s get to the interesting part.
But I can’t talk to strangers. They are weird.
Now, before you print your landing page on a poster and run to the streets for opinions, there are a couple of things you should have in mind.
- Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Write down several hypotheses of your own, what could be wrong with the website. Is it a design issue? Is it the content or may be the usability? Or maybe you are targeting he wrong market altogether. Plan ahead who you should talk to. For example, does the opinion of Americans and Europeans hold equal merits to your business? And last but not least, prepare a system for analyzing the data you will gather. Fail to do that and you risk finding yourself in a swamp with a horde of nine headed hydras. All roaring mercilessly at your website. Having clear concepts on these points will turn invaluable later in the process.
- Give and you shall receive. Once you go down the user testing road, this should become your new motto. These days you can gather tons of feedback with no cost to your budget. Still most free methods require you to review from 3 to 5 projects of other people before you can publish yours. Which in turn means that you will spend from 5-10h before the first results start coming in? This, I think, is a small price to pay considering that you will get to see what other people are doing wrong and gather some insights yourself.
- Take your time and be straightforward. Do not try to cut any corners and write “I like your work” as a review. Karma can be a cruel mistress and will come back to haunt you when it is time to gather your reviews. Same goes for sparing someone the criticism. Remember that “the strangers” are people like you – in need of a straight answer for their problem.
- Be very, very…very specific. I can’t stress enough the importance of this part. When it comes ot publishing your questions, remember that the quality of an answer is directly related to the quality of the question. So if you ask “How does this look to you?” don’t be surprised to get back “Not bad.” List your concerns and phrase them as questions. Keep the list short, with 3-5 questions max.
- Don’t be shy. You have probably noticed that some people like to help more than others. The same applies to the feedback community. Some people would gladly answer you if you message them with an extra question or two. And if you have a way to thank them through your business don’t miss to do so. We all love smiles and free stuff.
- Not all that glitters is gold. Unlike any qantitive data you might gather, the qualitative leaves more room for bias on the interpreters part. And if you don’t have a way to navigate that bias you are about to enter a world of hurt. Under no circumstances…
In part 2 we will share in details the channels TheSocks used to gather feedback as well as how we went about analyzing the data we’ve collected.