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Hunting and gathering: How user feedback can boost your app’s success


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If asked, we all answer with fierce confidence: “Of course we are gathering user feedback about our app!” But in reality, many of us don’t have the time to deal with the stream of feedback coming in, the need to validate it, prioritize it and act on it in a timely manner. Having said that, managing an ongoing feedback cycle is critical for your app success. Here are some practical Tips

Yes, I am one of those people who take the time to provide feedback, especially to apps that I am highly engaged with. That’s why it’s so annoying to see (and feel) my feedback fall on deaf ears. I can understand (though don’t appreciate!) major delays in response when I suggest a (brilliant of course) new feature, but sometimes even feedback regarding critical usability issues or bugs remain unanswered or worse, unattended to, for relatively long periods of time (though every minute counts when it comes to the mobile app industry).

So, these days everyone likes to say LISTEN TO YOUR USERS! I call it the listening hype… But the number of apps that truly listen to their user feedback are few.

The real benefits app developers gain from listening to their users

We all know we should listen to our users. But working with developers, I often hear something along the lines of: I researched the market, the audience, the way they are looking to use the app, everything! I know exactly what my app’s users need and want. Well, do you really know what your users think, want and need beyond the obvious? Are you aware of the benefits of having an open communication channel with users, preferably within the app.

1. Target audiences sometimes change their attitudes and are influenced by their surroundings – you should want to constantly “feel the field” and adapt in accordance.

2. End users can have brilliant ideas that come from daily usage of apps. They usually use the app in ways the app developers will never use it themselves. End user ideas may be difficult to implement and maybe a little out of scope from what you originally planned for your app, but hey, if enough of them tell you this is what will make them engage more and be loyal to your app then you should act on it.

3. While you make the effort to listen to your users, you also earn a great chance to encourage end users to rate the app and provide structured feedback. More on this later.

4. User feedback can be the most reliable indicator of things that are not working properly. Broken links, crashes, freezes (god forbids), flows that are not intuitive, etc. There is no one better to hear it from, than your actual users, in the field. And when things like that happen they will raise the red flag if you give them the chance. It reminds me of a popular VOIP web app (not saying their name) that pops ups a question about the quality of the recently completed call (audio, video) on first login after a call has been completed using their service. Now, occasionally the quality is not that good to say the least, but after they pop up this question and I get the chance to tell them what I think, I feel better as I know they are working to improve their service.

How should mobile apps gather feedback? Here are the more conservative and more advanced tactics

There are several channels, which you can use to gather user feedback. You are already familiar with many of these communication channels, as you probably use them anyway to keep in touch with your users. These channels are also the places where you should encourage feedback and update on what you did or plan to do with feedback that you got from users. From my personal experience, I feel so much more connected when I submit a comment and hear back from the developer. Even if they don’t get it perfect, I still very much appreciate the effort.

Here are some of the communication channels for gathering feedback:

  1. Testing your app – I can’t emphasize enough how important testing your app is – on an ongoing basis! Of course (and god help us if this is not the case), you should invest in testing before you launch and before every version release. But I say, you need to have a controlled group of users who keep using the app, and test it on an ongoing basis, after the launch as well. It’s a sure way to identify problems early and avoid things from getting out of hand. It’s extremely difficult to recover from a major bug that takes forever to fix. You want to detect and fix it early as possible as users are not that forgiving, even your highly engaged ones who rely on your app for whatever functionality it provides.
  1. Store rating and reviews – The Apple App Store and Google Play people have realized early on the importance of feedback and ratings, not just as a differentiating factor, but also as a limited communication channel between the users and the developers. Yes, there was an attempt by Google Play to add an option to open the discussion both ways, and provide developers with the option to answer to feedback on the store page. I personally prefer not to have all the dirty laundry aired in public and stay there forever for everyone to see. Therefore my advice is to use these channels to listen to the feedback, but not to communicate with users via the store. Announce bug fixing in social channels, and when you release a new version, make sure you include the changes in the “what’s new” area. Also update your users about new features in the app itself. Read more about the best ways to communicate “what’s new” here.
  1. Social networks and email – No need to say a lot here. Social networks and user emails (if you have them) are obvious communication channels that can be used for feedback as well as for user engagement work. Be sure to be very communicative and transparent around the feedback you are getting and what you intend to do about it. Don’t make your users feel as if what they are saying is going into a giant black hole.
  1. In-app feedback mechanisms – Now, you will probably agree. Your users are already in your app, using it – is there a better place to ask them for feedback? Especially if you can segment your user base and communicate with each segment separately. Of course, you have to make sure not to do it in the middle of an important or a time-sensitive flow within the app, but there are a lot of advantages to asking for user feedback within the app. These days, app developers can enjoy advanced 3rd party services that can help them with the implementation of in-app feedback mechanisms (yes, here too, an SDK implementation is needed).

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to Apptentive’s CEO. Apptentive specializes in providing solutions for implementing in-app feedback mechanisms.  Watch the video to learn about in-app feedback, and the importance of ratings and reviews to your app’s success. How come we are including ratings in the discussion all of a sudden? As it appears, in-app feedback and the push for reviews and ratings should be tightly linked when using advanced UX.  The video also includes some practical tips and recommendations, so don’t miss out!

If you want to learn more about Apptentive specifically, here is what Robi Ganguly, Apptentive’s CEO says about the company and its future offering:

As it turns out you can be smart about user feedback and enjoy advanced capabilities to push for ratings and reviews relatively easily. And you have a lot to gain! Some budget would be required if you choose to implement in-app feedback, and you will most likely need to invest some time around planning your activities. Still, if you are in the app business this is a crucial step in the right direction, towards optimizing your app’s UX.  Good luck…

Tsipi Joseph
Tsipi is one of Co-Founders, a mobile expert and a mentor. Over 10 years of experience in the mobile and marketing industry: Director of Marketing at Telmap, Comverse and marketing professional development director at the American Association of National Advertisers.
Tsipi Joseph
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