Let User Feedback Feed Your Site - HTML 4

Who better to tell you what works and what doesn’t than those who use (and hopefully, even depend on) your site? Who better to say what’s not needed and what’s missing? But if you want user feedback to feed your site’s growth and evolution, you not only have to ask for it, you have to find ways to encourage it to flow freely and honestly in your direction, then act on it to keep the wellsprings working intact.

Foster feedback
Even after you publish your site, testing never ends. (Are you having flashbacks to high school or college yet? We sure are.) You may not think of user feedback as a form (or consequence) of testing, but it represents the best reality check your Web pages are ever likely to get, which is why doing everything
you can — including offering prizes or other tangibles — to get users to fill out HTML forms on your Web site is a good idea.

This reality check is also why reading all feedback you get is a must. Go out and solicit as much feedback as you can handle. (Don’t worry; you’ll soon have more.) But the best idea of all is to carefully consider the feedback that you read and then implement the ideas that actually bid fair to improve your Web offerings. Oh, and it’s a really good idea to respond to feedback with personal e-mail, to make sure your users know you’re reading what they’re saying. If you don’t have time to do that, make some!

Even the most finicky and picky of users can be an incredible asset: Who better to pick over your newest pages and to point out those small, subtle errors or flaws that they revel in finding? Your pages will have contributed mightily to the advance of society by actually finding a legitimate use for the universal delight in nitpicking. And your users can develop a real stake in boosting your site’s success, too. Working with your users can mean that some become more involved, helping guide the content of your Web pages (if not the rest of your professional or obsessional life). Who could ask for more? Put it this way: You may yet find out, and it could be remarkably helpful.

If you give to them, they’ll give to you!
Sometimes, simply asking for feedback or providing surveys for users to fill out doesn’t produce the results you want — either in quality or in volume. Remember the old days when you’d occasionally get a dollar bill in the mail to encourage you to fill out a form? It’s hard to deliver cold, hard cash via the Internet, but a little creativity on your part should make it easy for you to offer your users something of value in exchange for their time and input. It could be an extra month on a subscription, discounts on products or services, or some kind of freebie by mail. (Maybe now you can finally unload those stuffed Gila monsters you bought for that trade show last year. . . .)

But there’s another way you can give back to your users that might not even cost you too much. An offer to send participants the results of your survey, or to otherwise share what you learn, may be all the incentive participants need to take the time to tell you what they think, or to answer your questions. Just remember that you’re asking your users to give of their time and energy, so it’s only polite to offer something in return.

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