Managing unsolicited feedback during a user experience review

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21 Apr 2015

I recently completed the first stage of a structured user experience review, following established and standard-fare UX techniques such as user testing, personas and red routes.

At once stage, colleagues were drip-feeding ideas, suggestions and feedback which they had received from users.

The difficulty with this is that the feedback was completely out of the context of my user experience process. It was unmoderated, unverified and – I suppose – a bit slap-dash.

On the other hand, user feedback is valuable, and my feeling was that it shouldn’t be ignored.

I needed a bit of advice from peers, so I posed the scenario on the user experience section of StackExchange.

From the replies I got, it looks like I struck a chord. Other user experience professionals have been faced with the same question: how to manage unsolicited feedback while trying to keep the UX process on track.

One user summed up his approach as follows:

You don’t know the weight of this information or how to compare it to other data. From that perspective it is useless for your own research. But don’t throw it away, it is still real feedback so better take it seriously. Once you’ve gathered your own data, don’t mix it up with this low quality feedback but use it to see if there are similarities.

Another said this:

Build structure with them, tell them that you need all requirements before hand, because this trend keeps going if it isn’t stopped in the beginning.

If something is sent in a vague fashion, ask for more details. Ask for context and more details. If they don’t know, then the data is unreliable. Unreliable data is just as bad as not having any data to begin with (because you can’t really do anything with it).

Good luck. I know the frustrations all too well.

My approach #

My approach was to:

  • thank colleagues for feedback so far, and encourage them to keep it coming (user feedback in any form is valuable and should not be discouraged);
  • do a little bit of awareness-raising about the UX process (a new concept for many at the company), for example to explain the value of doing things in a structured, unbiased, moderated way;
  • say to colleagues that, while I’m grateful for all feedback, I would put it to one side for the time being and review it later as a means of corroborating/contradicting my findings.

That was a month or so ago. In hindsight, I’m pleased I took this approach. By sticking to a structured UX process and not being side-tracked or biased by out-of-context feedback, I feel I achieved more accurate results.

However, I did review the feedback, which (thankfully) corroborated my findings. I also chose to do a moderated user test with one of the users who had been particularly vocal in his feedback.

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