Wednesday, May 2, 2007

A process for digesting user feedback

One thing I've learned through the television program CSI, is that the evidence doesn't tell all. In the case of user experience design, neither does user feedback.

If I just blindly follow the user feedback, without combining principled thought into your designs, I would just end up with very little functionality or something unusable. The fact of the matter is, any time I come into such feedback, either positive or negative, there's always something to be learned here. Most of all, question the fundamentals - question the feedback.

I ask myself why someone says what they said. Is there a better way where I'd be able to change that perspective but tweaking my design? I usually answer - "Of course". And that's where better ideas come to solve the problem. I focus on the desired result, asking myself - "I want them to say -this- about the interface, now how could I go about getting that result?"

I look at many things in user feedback.

1. Patterns - namely, user habits.
2. "Negative" feedback - it's not always negative. There's actually more to learn from it.
3. Why it was interpreted the way it was - find the causes.

I then look at possible steps to correct or enhance the user experience in small bits at first, then use a bit of my subconscious (i.e. experience) to guide me. In these steps, I usually do several quick prototype iterations either in my head or on a whiteboard where I can explore solutions and its interactions to solve the inherent usability problems. Then I translate the best solutions into the actual mockup.

This is just one of the ways where digesting user feedback is taken in little steps - and systematically at that.

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