We did crazy things to gather design feedback. Here’s what worked.

Article posted on
June 19, 2018

In order to reach our goal of building the most easy-to-use digital marketing toolset in the industry, we at Ryte know that we have to do extraordinary things. UX testing is no exception. These past few years we’ve gone to great lengths to understand our users and build the best possible experience for them. We’ve conducted hundreds of interviews and feedback sessions and have resorted to some very untraditional means to gather feedback (more to come on that).

Along the way, our UX team has learned that there is definitely a right and wrong way to gather design feedback. In this article, we want to share what we’ve learned so that you can avoid investing a large amount of time and money into user testing and get right to the stuff that works.


What we tried

Feedback from customers

We have a huge user base of over 500,000 website optimizers, so it made sense for us to start our user testing with existing customers. We found that the customers that most recently terminated their contracts provided the most valuable insights.

We tried talking to them on conferences, inviting them to our office and scheduling remote calls. At conferences, they tended to be a bit hesitant. Feedback sessions in our office can sometimes be too much effort for both sides. We found the best solution in video calls. They are easy to schedule, we can reach our entire international user base and with InVision, we can watch them clicking through our prototypes via screen sharing. For us, it was the best solution because it required the least effort for the most outcome.

Feedback from beginners

Before rebranding from onpage.org to Ryte in 2017, we mainly built our tool experience for experts. Today our goal is still to serve these pro users. But we also want to make website optimization understandable and accessible for everyone and that’s why we constantly gather feedback from people who never used our products.

It’s super helpful and especially on the wording side of things we regularly get many insights doing so. For example, many asked what it means when we „Crawl their website“. We thought about it and found out that there was no reason to keep that word in our software. We ended up replacing it just with the word „Analyzing their website“. Users never asked again.

Feedback from other Designers

We have a top-notch design team at Ryte, but we also wanted some fresh input from other designers. So we hired multiple consultants and well-established UX agencies to go over all of our designs for one week and audit the UX prototypes.

This brought us many new insights, leveled up our design quality and taught us many things. In the future we would do some things different when getting external knowledge into our process:

  • One day is enough. When you consider taking advantage of 80:20 most of the insights and experiences from the external partners come in the first few days.
  • A fresh unbiased start is important. When you show every screen with 100 comments about why you did what, people will be influenced. Give them a brief overview and only answer the following questions: What is the key objective of the product, what is the end goal of the user and how do we monetize it?

Design Feedbacks using 99designs

One day our managing director Andy approached our design team with this crazy idea: „Let’s start a 99designs contest to get hundreds of suggestion for our new color palette at once”. We were totally bought in.

We immediately developed a strategy to get this going. We started a platinum contest with the objective of creating a new color concept for the tool with the subtask to fix other things in the design that bothered them.

Our bet was that some designers did similar projects in the past that had similar requirements and could add valuable input. And it was great, over 100 designers built every possible variation of our dashboard, placing things on different locations and testing out all ideas they had. It was a good opportunity to look over it to rethink and improve our previous design decisions. Our UI Designer got so inspired that she invested 2 weeks afterward refining and leveling up our coloring scheme, making everything look even more fresh and modern.

Our lessons learned

1. Use a clickable prototype with real data

Letting people click through a prototype is way better than just showing them screens. We use InVision for that. With a clickable prototype, people feel like they are using a real product so they identify more issues. When working with data-heavy applications, it’s also important to use real data in your designs so users have the feeling that they are using an actual software.

2. Don’t confuse design feedback with user research

At the beginning of a project, it can be very valuable to schedule user interview sessions to ask questions, dig into the user's workflows and find out their exact habits. Oftentimes, just showing people some screens doesn’t help you understand their needs and find out their why’s.

3. Keep your design files lean

At Ryte, we work with one huge clickable InVision prototype that is basically a copy of the existing platform with lots of improvements and future designs. We upload all screens that we want to get feedback on in there. To make it maintainable, we learned that it’s important to put as few states as possible in there. No Onboarding, no dropdowns, no null states, no error states, just the plain screens.

4. Have a scheduled system in place

PO’s and designers tend to be really busy and find „no time“ for user feedbacks. In our case, customer support schedules regular feedback sessions with our most active users but we are sure a system can be set up for this as well. One way would be to automatically ask customers for feedback via Intercom and let them pick slots in our calendars. We will soon figure this out and update you on this.

5. Double down on customer feedback

It’s important to make your current users happy, so we try to get the most feedback from existing customers and heavy users. In our case the ideal ratio is 80% existing users and 20% potential users, consultants, 99designs etc.

6. Go through your onboarding regularly

The first impression a user has of your website or platform will shape the entire experience that comes afterwards. So it’s important to go through this onboarding process regularly with users to find usability issues there.

7. Designers should be part of the user sessions

We tried to outsource usability tests and design feedback to our business development team. Soon we realized that while this was great for getting a report on overall mood, it didn’t produce a lot of insights.

Designers should be present to see customers trying to use the product. It gives them the chance to find out their underlying needs and to design with more empathy afterward.

8. Have an intention what you want to find out

It is important to have assumptions in the design that we want to challenge, for example: “What do you think is behind this share button?”, “What can you do with that product?”, or “What do you not like to see on this screen?”.

Conclusion

We gathered design feedback from customers, industry experts, beginners, design agencies and UX consultants. In our case, power users brought us the most insights regarding features and functionalities. Interviewing beginners showed us what we needed to simplify in the software. Feedback from other designers was great for bringing the general UI and UX of our tool to a whole new level.

So, go out there and talk to your customers regularly! Only through this, you will be able to reach your goals and build the best solutions for them.

What are your experiences with design feedback? We would love to hear them in the comments!

Hi! I’m Raphael, a product designer from Munich and the creator of this blog.

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