Yesterday morning, I received a Tweet from Jason Calacanis, who is current is building Mahalo, asked for suggestions and feedback on a redesign of their site. I quickly saw how many other people were aware of his request when I saw 100+ comments (actual comments, not garbage like “this sucks” or “get a life!”)!
I’ll get to my point real quick on this one:
- User Feedback is not obtained through surveys, focus groups or usability designers. (Though cognitive research is, but it’s insanely wasteful!)
- Users change interests, needs and tolerances all the time.
- Sometimes even the simplest things in the board room can translate to disaster-like or utopian experiences for Web users.
- Why would you use traditional methods to test a progressive medium like the Internet?
I was attracted to the suggestion of collecting feedback because it was quick, painless, and was purely qualitative. In most surveys on usability, they rate interfaces on numbers (1 to 10 for example); but this was only people’s opinions on a subject. Yes, it’s a pain to read through it, but you get much better results from that than numbers.
As startups become more prevalent on the Internet, I would like to expect their owners and designers to consider using methods like what Calacanis had done. Using open, free, accessible products while not hiding “next releases” behind a curtain. This will not only get you decent feedback, it will also net you a good dose of viral marketing.
I’m still using Mahalo and haven’t had a chance to build an informed perspective on it yet. So far, from the surface, looks good, relevant and offers value for visitors, even though it’s just a traffic pump for the Web. I do like the human vetting process to prevent spam. Stay tuned for a deep-dive into Mahalo in the future.