Survey 101 - Research, Feedback and Tips

Get Product Feedback When It Counts Content

When is the right time to collect product feedback?

  • Once you have an idea
  • Once you have a solid prototype
  • Once you have launched
  • After a new release
  • Early and often
  • It depends

It would be so easy to say there’s always a right answer to this question. The truth is, feedback can always be helpful, no matter where you are in your development process. The problem is, feedback can slow you down, too.

Imagine the extreme: If you conduct tests at every stage, this means using online survey tools and focus groups for things like product name, then logo, then color scheme, then for each feature that should or should not be included. Clearly all of these decisions are critical, right?

Sure, every decision is important. Still, if you spend all of your time talking about what to do and collecting feedback on why it should or shouldn’t be done, progress will be impossible.

So, make some decisions up front. Three smart questions to start with:

  • What must you know?
  • Who has the right answers?
  • How will you find out?
  • When will you ask?

First, decide out what answers are critical at this point. If  you and your team have enough data - or enough stubbornness! - to make most decisions yourselves, figure out what’s left.

Next, who’s your audience? The more specific you can be, the better. “Customers” is a start, but narrow it down as far as you can. Once you’ve got your target group (men in their thirties who live in California and have professional jobs in the tech industry, mothers who love yoga and stay at home with their children, etc.), remember: These are the only people who know the answer! Be careful about making assumptions too soon - unless you belong to the target market, too!

Then, how will you find out? User testing is conducted in all kinds of ways, ranging from fancy controlled scenarios and recorded responses to simply leaning over to ask someone nearby, “Hey, what do you think of this?” Product feedback surveys are generally a good fit in the middle, allowing you to focus on what matters but get the word out to participants all over the place. If you can, consider offering incentives for participation, too.

Finally, decide exactly when to ask. If you’re still early in the process, ask for feedback well before you need to make decisions. If you hear unexpected feedback and it’s already too late to implement, you’ve wasted everyone’s time. If you’re asking for feedback about some aspect of your product’s functionality, is it possible to check in with people who have used this feature? An in-app question or two or a trigger-based email could help. If your product is more offline, consider following up with customers after a certain interval to ask your key questions. New users will have different feedback than those who have seen many iterations, so be sure you’re comparing relevant data.

Again, nobody else can tell you exactly when to collect feedback. Still, when you’re at a clear decision point and you realize you’re just making guesses, take the time to get the data you need before investing any more time or effort.