By Renee HoDecember 3, 2015

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These days it’s easy to order anything from your smart phone. Almost without thinking, your fingers navigate the images in a silent language. The screen anticipates your emotions and desires as if to say, “Yes, I’m listening to you.”

Behind this interaction are User Experience (UX) designers. They employ research and design skills to understand user needs and behaviors. With this understanding, they create concepts, solutions, and designs for users.

To do their job well, UX designers need rapid and frequent user feedback. They put a product (or service) in the hands of a user. They both observe the user’s natural interaction with the product and ask questions of her.

UX designers need feedback because without it, it’s difficult to improve.

But it’s not all that simple to get feedback. In a recent blogpost entitled, “Why You Don’t Give Feedback,” Andrew Rasmussen explores the bottlenecks that are preventing feedback and, therefore, preventing product improvement.

According to his study, 88% of respondents get frustrated when products don’t work properly and yet half of these people do nothing about their frustration.

90% of respondents have ideas for how the products they use could be improved. Crazier still, 61% of these respondents rarely or never reach out to companies.

Just think of the loss in product improvement that happens without feedback. And from a for-profit company’s perspective, think of the loss in revenue.

Rasmussen finds that people ultimately don’t give feedback because it feels like

“writing into a vacuum: you usually get a discouraging generic response and it’s unclear whether your feedback is valued or will have any impact on the product roadmap.”

He argues that people value feeling like a part of the product development process, like part of a larger community. There is something inherently socially motivating about giving feedback to a community to which you belong and that makes you feel valued.

80% of his respondents are curious about what others think about their feedback. 76% are interested in the feedback others have about the products. 80% would be willing to write feedback publicly if great feedback were rewarded.

This social and transparent nature of feedback resonates with work in the non-profit sector. In an earlier piece about feedback in the humanitarian sector, I ask “Would you use Yelp if you couldn’t see other people’s comments?”

There are trade-offs like privacy but depending on the context, names can be made anonymous. Generally, transparency is critical to feedback working. That is, if we want to actually motivate closing of the loop — actual changes in products and services based on feedback — then we need openness.

Transparency is a scary thing for most organizations. You feel exposed and maybe even vulnerable.

But what is often forgotten is how transparency strengthens: by including your consumers (beneficiaries) in the design of your work, listening to them and responding to them, you improve your work and simultaneously build supporters that treat your success as their own.

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