This is part three in a three-part series exploring WHY user feedback helps you make better products, HOW to best collect and digest that feedback, and WHAT greatness will come for your product, your team, and your organization when you solicit feedback from your users.

The best way to make great products is to get a prototype in front of your users, solicit feedback, listen, then iterate. The ‘solicit feedback and listen’ part tends to get tricky, so let’s take a look at the awesome benefits you can expect when you optimize this process.

You’ll feel more connected

Developers to Users

When you enable one-way feedback (from users to developers) you provide a sense of humanity to the people who live in the code. It’s important for developers to read at least some  pieces of user feedback exactly the way they are written, because someone’s word choice conveys their emotional state of mind in a way that can get lost if a middle-man translates feedback and categorizes it into charts and graphs.

For example, here is a feature that was discussed, but not implemented until a real user explained how it affected his day:

Hi, I think there should be some visual difference between items with no assignee and ones with. One might think that everything without someone’s picture isn’t assigned to anyone, but those could be assigned to people without a user icon.

Thanks!

Bob

feedback-feature-request

Bob’s request above came from the “Got Feedback” button at the bottom of every Agile board in Jira. Can you imagine Bob’s excitement when a short time later the feature he had requested was now in the product?

A note about scale: this works when feedback is moving at a trickle, but once you’re drinking from a firehose of hundreds of items each day, you’ll want to make your feedback soliciting more selective. If you can’t read through and process everything, don’t capture it. You’ll give users a false sense of hope that you’re listening, when you’re really not, which will hurt you in the long run.

With hundreds of thousands of users, some of the ways we manage this at Atlassian include turning on the Got Feedback prompt to a small segment of users on a rotation, and displaying it on selected pages for only a small amount of time.

Users to the Organization

Have you ever Tweeted at your bank or cable provider out of frustration? If you have and you’ve been lucky enough to get a Tweet in response, you know just how valuable a personal communication from within a company can make you feel. A connection to someone who cares about your problem makes you think a little higher of that organization, doesn’t it?

feedback-Twitter

You can channel this energy too, and you don’t need to use social media to get it. Collecting and responding to feedback in any way – email, phone, or private online forum – is enough to make customers see that instead of a faceless organization, you’re a team of people who care.

Your people will work better

Positive Reinforcement

Feedback isn’t always negative. Positive feedback is motivating for folks who normally just see bug reports to hear from someone whose life is made better because of your software. This is another piece of feedback submitted through the Jira Issue Collector. Note the smiley face: we talked about emoticons in part 2’s HOW, and emoticons are in the default Got Feedback template:

feedback-positive-reinforcementIf you’re looking to invigorate an under-motivated team, you can try prompt specifically for positive feedback by asking users to “Tell us what you like”.

Champions Emerge

When presented with direct feedback about your product, champions emerge from with the team: passionate people who work hard to solve Suzy’s problem or fix the bug that Evan keeps running into. This is great for the product, but it’s also great for the individual.

Above we saw Martin, a developer, write something based on Bob’s feedback. Once Martin has stepped up to the plate and solved a problem for a customer he cares about, Martin’s excitement infuses throughout the team. Martin’s new expertise around this particular problem is an asset to everyone, and teammates come to him looking to discuss related features. Martin’s passion and expertise becomes to the product team, and also an asset in his own career.

Validate Theories

Product Owners have one idea, CEOs have another, and Designers have a third. How do you choose which way a behavior should work, or whether or not users like what you’ve created?

Customer feedback can serve not only to drive the product roadmap, but can serve as immediate validation of a new design or function. We had a hunch about the new search interface we released with Jira 5.2, but releasing a beta version early and combing through hundreds of pieces of feedback from users like you served to validate our thinking and even cause a change in direction on a feature or two.

You will be more Agile

Let’s look at the Agile Manifesto:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan

Customer feedback enables the principles behind the Agile Manifesto. The more you solicit feedback from your users, the more you are able to provide them with intuitive products, collaborate with them to solve their problems, and respond to their changing needs over time.

Next Steps

We’ve covered quite a bit in this series, and you should now understand WHY user feedback helps you make better products, HOW to best collect and interpret that feedback, and WHAT you, your team, and your organization can expect to gain once you optimize your feedback process. We know that continuous improvement is what helps great teams stay great, so here are some additional resources to continue your learning.

Further reading:

Participate!

  • If Atlassian was an animal, what would it be? We’re interviewing our customers to find out what you think about us and our products. Email uxinterview@atlassian.com if you’re interested in giving us a little of your time (and we’ll even throw in a $50 gift card in return).

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