How to Sift Through the Noise and Action User Feedback

It’s User Experience 101: to have a great user experience, you must talk to your users and test, test, test, and when you think you’ve tested enough, a client stakeholder enters the metaphorical chat, and there are more user interviews, more user feedback, and even more testing to complete.

That’s a lot of data to sift through, and–while we’re incredibly lucky to have it–all that information can lead to a lot of noise as each voice is factored into the feedback. So how do you find the actionable needs in all that noise or–as we like to say in the iSeatz UIX department–how do we find the canaries (feedback we need to address) among the squeaky wheels (outlier feedback)?

It’s still important to listen to all your user feedback–arguably, even more so. What’s crucial, however, is to find the golden threads within it. When one user on one test mentions they think snacks should be included as a part of their Activity package (that is real feedback we’ve gotten), don’t ignore it! Instead, tune your ears to the messaging behind it. You may notice multiple users over the next rounds of tests wanting to know if food is included in that activity. What could have initially been squeaky wheel feedback is now canary feedback!

The engine for this analysis goes beyond a formal process like affinity mapping. It takes someone truly listening to the user and making empathetic associations to what problems they’re experiencing. Involving as many teammates as possible–Product and UIX especially–means more chances to build relationships to the feedback. In the case of our snack-happy user, we socialized the feedback with our Product team, which inspired them to keep their ears open to customers looking for more detailed activity information. It also inspired us to consider future personalization features for culinary-centric searchers!

A potentially controversial take: users are not just data points in our quest for perfect products. That’s not to say they’re always right (at least, not when it comes to how to solve the problems), but it is crucial to keep humanity in user experience by contextualizing the feedback. Personas may be the industry standard for communicating this, but all too frequently, they’re just names on some document passed around half-heartedly to follow best practices. Connecting the dots from the crafted persona to the anonymized user to someone you or your team knows elevates the feedback from easily dismissed to passionately focused.

Remember our user who wanted snacks? While discussing the feedback, we realized we all had people in our lives who were either hypoglycemic, caretakers of small children, or had other personal reasons for being conscientious about food. Maybe it was the pre-lunch meeting, and maybe we were all feeling a bit peckish, but we realized the feedback that seemed outlandish suddenly didn’t seem so strange when your own stomach was wondering where your next snack was! The lesson we gained was remembering that even if we have not experienced the issue, someone else has, and they’ve been generous enough with their time to give that feedback–the least we can do is listen.

So I challenge you, reader, to take another look at your user experience data: that one piece of feedback from that one user that came out of left field? Reorient your field: take another look and see if the underpinnings of the response are actually pinned to other items that have been tagged as outliers. Do it with the help of your broader teams to expand the potential connections, and never forget that your user is–with all the nuances, complexities, and insights that come with it–human.

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