Using feedback to improve my projects

I thought I’d take a detour from discussing the development of ESL Jobs World and address a strategy that has helped me in the past on similar online projects. It’s really quite simple, but very effective when followed.

Ask for feedback, and then act on that feedback to make improvements!

A few specific tips that I have used in the past to make this strategy actionable:

Get email addresses

This is very basic, but without doing this step, you basically have no way to have a conversation with your visitors. Whether it’s via a registration process or a newsletter subscription, make sure your site has some glaringly obvious way for people to give you their email address.

Confirm email addresses

In addition to being good form for opt-in marketing and staying on the right side of the law, you have to make sure your process to get email addresses requires confirmation. It goes without saying that a bad email address is of no use. Whatever your method, make sure visitors get an email with a confirmation link.

Ask specific questions

Asking “what should I do to make my web site better” is pretty broad, and “do you like my web site” is pretty much useless. Asking “what can I do to improve my registration process” is much more focused and as a result much more likely to get a useful response.

Ask about competitors

One of the questions I love to ask is “What’s your favorite web site in , and why is it your favorite?” It’s great to be able to find out who the competition is, and what’s helping them stand out.

Ask about best/worst

Another favorite question I ask is “what do you like best about ? What do you like least?” If you ask that question enough, certain themes should begin to emerge that can help you focus your efforts on what to improve.

Ask one question at a time

Nobody likes paging through gobs of questions. If someone feels like they’re filling out a census form they’re going to delete your request for feedback in a heartbeat. Pick one question, ask it, and leave it at that.

Don’t be a pest

Don’t spam people day after day with questions. They’ll get annoyed and will unsubscribe or unregister or worse. I typically reach out about once a month. Don’t be a pest, and people will be far more likely to respond to your questions.

Follow up for clarification

If you get a response and you’re not quite sure what they mean, say so. One of the things I like to do when I get a suggestion is to ask for examples from other web sites where it’s been done well. You’d be surprised how frequently someone will kick back a few links for you to review.

Follow up on changes

If you get feedback and make changes, let the person know and ask them for their opinion. Sometimes you’ll get a nice thumbs up, but sometimes you’ll learn that you’re not quite there yet. You need to know.

Always say thank you

You’ve just asked for help, someone has actually gone against the odds and been kind enough to respond, and then you don’t have the common courtesy to say thank you? Do you think that person is likely to help you again? Exactly. Always say thank you.

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