Sunday, July 25, 2010

Feedback Is The Best Design Technology On Earth

Conversation is the best learning technology on earth. Dialog is the best decision making technology available. Feedback is the best design technology on earth. Frequent, timely feedback can improve your design, reduce cost and increase the adoption rate of your products.

Collecting feedback is an art.

My design thinking mentor and friend @MChewD impressed upon me the need to show users that you are actively listening to them while they are giving you feedback on your story boards or prototypes. I do that by writing feverishly on Post It notes while they are giving their feedback and posting it on the storyboards on the wall. 

When they watch me take down notes, and read the notes I post on the wall, they get engaged in the process. The nature and quality of their feedback increases significantly. They give more objective feedback. They correct what I wrote down to ensure that I capture their thoughts accurately. They build on what I wrote down and give more elaborate feedback.

However, all these things are possible only if users are in the same room as you are. What would you do if you are sharing the prototype via a web conferencing tool? My friend @JeremiahStone solved this problem in his feedback sessions by showing his storyboards using a PowerPoint presentation and writing down the feedback in the same slide while sharing the slide via a web conferencing tool such as Adobe Connect. Viewers get to notice that their thoughts are being recorded. They get to see the thoughts written down in earlier sessions. He had great success with this approach.

I wondered how I can do the same thing with an HTML prototype. I also wanted to collect the feedback from multiple colleagues on the same page. I wanted to keep everyone informed about the feedback collected. I wanted to not duplicate my work by having to write down once and then copy and past the feedback in another Excel file. [For some reason my colleagues love Excel]. Most of all I wanted the process to be simple.

I recently tried out Protonotes to collect feedback on my web prototypes. I do not have significant usage information yet. But it is very promising. I like the simplicity of it. Looks like it will meet all my needs. It even has a feature to download the feedback in an Excel file to satisfy the Excel fans in my team.

Here is a video showing how to use it.

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