Thursday, April 3, 2008

On User Feedback

User feedback is a term used constantly in the startup world. It’s the driving force behind the concept of “launch early and often”. It bridges the chasm between making decisions based on what you “think” users want and what they “actually” want. Everyone’s heard this before, so let’s not beat a dead horse.

Rather, I want to talk about the differing types of user feedback. We constantly discuss as if all feedback was created equal…it’s not. Since the launch of Coordinatr three weeks ago, we’ve gotten feedback from hundreds of individuals. While parsing through it all, it became very clear that we could define and place feedback in three different categories, based on content and recommendation type.

Here are the three categories that we identified:

The first category consists of users’ feelings about the site itself. It contains no recommendations for features or discovered bugs, rather it provides the startup with a different sort of feedback: that users like and are actually using the site. This is huge for a startup just getting off the ground as it provides the motivation and reassurance that what they have been toiling over for the past few months, or even years, has not been in vane. It provides that extra motivation to make another pot of coffee and put in a few more hours of productive work…and every little bit counts in a startup.

The second category is the broadest one. It consists of feedback relating to discovered bugs, features that competitors have and users think you should too, and “nice to haves”. This is the category where we find the greatest volume of feedback, and it’s necessary to parse through all of it to find the discovered bugs and to get an overall feel of what features you really need to focus on. Category two is the reason you launched, to get as much feedback as possible, so you need to get your hands dirty with this one and dig in. Trust us, it’s worth it.

The third category is the one with the least amount of feedback, but some of it can be pure gold. It’s where you find user feedback from people like site designers, fellow entrepreneurs and startup specialists, and coders. This is the feedback from people who use the site, can identify flaws and areas where you can do better, and make recommendations to that effect. After you’ve been working on a site for months on end, you tend to lose the ability to look at it objectively anymore…this is the solution. If you can find even one or two users who can look at your site with fresh eyes and provide knowledgeable advice and recommendations, well that in itself was worth the pain of launching.

We’ve been lucky enough to get feedback in each one of these categories, and would like to thank all of our users for taking the time to use the site and shoot us off their thoughts and suggestions. We can’t improve without you, so keep up the good work!

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