Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Webmasters- Don't Neglect Visitor Feedback

Today I will remark on a very common issue, neglecting visitor feedback. If you want the largest amount of great feedback, this is my advice-

Allow visitors to give textual feedback directly on the page they are currently on, and have it displayed on that page for others to see.

God forbid that visitors correct (or suggest corrections to):
  • Typos
  • Grammar
  • Broken links
  • Incorrect information
  • Outdated information
  • Page order, organization

There are different ways to allow visitor feedback:
  • wiki page implementation (should always include a separate "talk" page for every informational page)
  • visitor comments on page, and visible to others
  • a url to a contact page, email, mailing-list, or forum

The only intelligent reason I can think of making visitor feedback difficult is if your content is highly controversial, or "politically incorrect". You will surely become vandalized often if that is the case.


When should you use wiki implementation?
  • Whenever information changes over time.
  • Whenever it's possible that the information could be more complete.

Recognize that vandalization will always occur with wiki style pages, but the positives can often out weigh the negatives. Is your content more likely to be vandalized than the average website? These are all pretty subjective criteria, so you just have to make an estimation of your own level here.

A wiki implementation allows visitors to easily fill in gaps of information. Wiki can also lead to visitors making tiny edits/corrections here and there- innovative little ideas about writing things that would have never crossed your mind. has moderators, registered users, and even allows for some anonymous user editing. They are an excellent example of how to implement wiki style editing.


When should you use page comments?
  • Anytime you're not implementing wiki.

Yes, you read that right. Simply put, if it's not a wiki type page, you should implement visitors comments. Why the hell wouldn't you? If you don't allow comments because you are trying to avoid spam, think again. The amount of spam you receive will be proportional to amount of quality feedback you get. If you exclude comments to reduce spam, you're successfully reducing quality feedback also.

Many people like to read the comments of others and this can also keep visitors on your site longer. Visitor comments can sometimes reveal tremendously informative things that were not mentioned by the page author. Also, having other visitor comments displayed will encourage new visitors to be less shy about giving their input on the page.

How to handle comments-
Use common sense. You want comments to be super easy, while also reducing spambots. An excellent solution to this problem is OpenID login. People can still remain semi-anonymous, while still being scrutinized on an identity basis. The barrier to leave feedback is very low, while amount of spam protection is just as high as if you had gotten their credentials directly. On a website I previously ran, I permitted anonymous comments, and I setup filters to moderate comments that posted url links (likely spam). Also comments were blocked based on a honeypot input system. The filters would automatically block and remove any repeat offenders. This successfully allowed anyone to comment, while having virtually no spam.

Contact Page, Email, Mailing-list, or Forum

These are all good forms of contact, but none are an intelligent replacement for wiki or on page comments! These forms of feedback should be thought of as complimentary. They require more initial time, preparation, and knowledge from from the user. They also may require the user to reveal more information than they may be willing to divulge (therefore preventing them from giving feedback at all).

These forms of contact act to compliment a good feedback system, but often are poor if used alone.


Every website is going to have different needs, but we create all this content for the visitors. If we are doing something wrong, we should be smart enough to allow those visitors to let us know.

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