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User feedback 101: the complete guide
Have you ever wished you could just ask your users what they think about your website? Get straight to the root of their behavior? Find out why they decided not to convert at the last second?
With user feedback, you can.
Last updated9 Jul 2023
User feedback removes the guesswork from analyzing visitor behavior on your site and reduces the communication barrier between you and your customers. By giving users the opportunity to share their thoughts, you find out exactly what they loved (or hated) about their experience on your site—no interpretation necessary.
Read on to find out what user feedback is, why you need it to improve the user experience (UX), and how it gives you deeper insights into user behavior.
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What is user feedback?
User feedback is the direct collection of feedback and opinions from the people using your product, website, or service. It’s a customer-centric method to gather actionable insights from your users and get their unfiltered opinions—because what better way to find out what people think of your business than to simply ask them?
What does user feedback look like?
Most user feedback tools take the form of widgets on websites (like the Hotjar Feedback widget), email surveys, pop-ups, push notifications, and chatbots.
But feedback can also be gathered through user interviews and forums, or sourced on digital channels like review sites and social media platforms.
These methods are simple but powerful ways to gauge how users interact with your website or product and learn about their experience, falling into two categories:
1. Proactive feedback
This is the feedback you seek out from your users before they’ve contacted you themselves. You proactively encourage your users to share their experiences with you as they navigate your website or interact with your product.
Proactive feedback includes:
Proactive user feedback in action
See that little red tag to the right side of this page? 👉
That’s Hotjar Feedback!
Our widget lets users rate their experience, write a comment, add screenshots, and leave their email address for follow-up communication so you can keep the conversation going.
Unlike most user feedback tools, which seek feedback after the interaction is over, Hotjar Feedback makes it easy for users to express their feelings in the moment as they run into a blocker or discover something they love.
Hotjar Feedback is an unobtrusive widget that gathers in-the-moment responses
2. Reactive feedback
Reactive feedback happens when the customer responds in reaction to an experience they’ve had—usually one they have strong feelings about, good or bad. More often than not, reactive feedback is the result of an unhappy customer’s negative experience. You’ll see this type of feedback on social media or review platforms like G2, Yelp, or Google reviews.
💡 Pro tip: negative feedback is never fun, but it happens to everyone. How you approach it is key. Provide quick, genuine customer support and try to mitigate any damage by showing you’re listening to—and are willing to address—your customer’s pain points.
Turn a temporary speed bump into an opportunity to double down on strengthening your customer relationships and show off your brand’s principles.
Why user feedback matters for a better user experience
User feedback is a direct route to hearing what people really need, and ensuring your customers remain your business’s top priority:
Making a habit of regularly collecting user feedback forces you to step outside of your business and see things from your customer's perspective. Instead of relying on guesswork and assumptions, you can make adjustments reflecting the needs of the real people who use your product or site.
User feedback makes it easier to empathize with your customers by revealing your product through their eyes—and the more empathy you have for your customers, the better your product or service. With these valuable insights, you’re that much closer to creating a standout experience for your users.
Feedback is good (even when it’s bad)
Sometimes, you’ll receive unfiltered feedback about your product that might be a little humbling (we’ve been there).
Harsh but helpful: unfiltered feedback is the key to making the best optimizations
But collecting feedback is an essential practice to adopt if you want to know what your customers want.
Without input from real users, your product or website risks becoming a vanity project that loses sight of its original purpose: your customers.
3 ways user feedback tools benefit your business
User feedback is a well of inspiration for making educated site optimizations while keeping your customer at the heart of your decisions.
Keep reading to discover how feedback tools help you tap into an amazing source of inspiration for product optimizations your customers actually want.
1. Find out what your customers really think
If you were serving your customers at a restaurant or in a store, they’d tell you in person whether they were enjoying their meal, or if they were having difficulty finding something on the shop floor.
User feedback tools give your customers this same ability—just digitally.
As we mentioned, collecting customer feedback is an objective way to discover how your customers interact with your site or product and whether they enjoy their experience.
By collecting user feedback, you empower your customers to be more than just passive users, driving people to engage with the product—and your business as a whole—on a deeper level. Even better? As they share their thoughts, you discover more about how to meet their needs.
Ultimately, engaging with the people using your product creates a more human experience that makes them feel heard, respected, and connected to your business.
We love Feedback because it gives us instant feedback from shoppers. It doesn’t interrupt the checkout flow, and it allows us to fully understand our shopper’s experience, in real-time. This helps us study performance trends and identify shopper concerns.
🔥 Get it while it’s hot
On top of collecting feedback from customers who have completed an interaction with your business, it’s always a good idea to gather impromptu feedback that captures your users’ feelings there and then, while their experience is fresh.
As time passes, customers are often less likely to engage, even if they had felt strongly about their experience at the time. So rather than sending out an email survey long after a customer has left, use a tool like Hotjar’s feedback widget to catch users in the moment and get 100% authentic feedback, fast.
2. Make more intelligent optimizations
Analyzing large amounts of user behavior data and website metrics is daunting. The sheer volume of information can make it seem like your site requires an overwhelming number of updates and changes.
Assessing performance is great for inspiring potential optimizations—but it's difficult to define which updates will most benefit your customers.
User feedback lets you find exactly where the work needs to be done, all while ensuring your users remain at the center of your business optimizations.
For example, imagine your website has a bug preventing the sign-up page from loading properly, causing your users to get frustrated and leave. Data like abandonment rates will show you people were leaving your site, but without feedback to call out the issue, you could miss an obvious fix.
This is where user feedback tools work to minimize the communication barrier between you and your users and open up a direct line of communication so they can tell you, "Hey, I’m not happy!"
💡 Pro tip: want to launch a new product feature? Bring user feedback on board to test a soft launch before a more general release to a wider audience.
Collecting user feedback at this stage—through formats like email surveys, ideas portals, or focus groups—is a great way to find out if you’re on the right track, or if there are still a few things you could work on.
User feedback is particularly helpful for UX designers and marketers or product teams needing to assess whether an element of a page, or the flow between multiple pages, is used as intended.
By conducting focus groups, customer interviews, or usability testing sessions with the very people who matter most—your users—you remove any ambiguity about whether that new call-to-action (CTA) placement or redesigned homepage is really working.
This opens the door to creating more functional and inclusive products and user experiences. And the happier your users, the more likely they are to convert.
📈 How Matalan increased checkout conversions with user feedback
Karl Rowlands (UX Manager) and Lucy Walton (UX Optimization Analyst) from fashion and homeware retailer Matalan used Hotjar to gauge customers’ initial reactions to onsite changes.
“We knew that we needed a tool that would help us understand what our customers think, and understand the why behind everything we do.”
—Karl Rowlands and Lucy Walton, UX team at Matalan
As Matalan undertook a major site migration, the team set up Hotjar’s user feedback tools—Feedback and Surveys—to help Karl and Lucy understand how customers responded to the changes.
Hotjar Feedback helped them spot (and fix) bugs during the migration process and stay on top of user sentiment.
The result: checkout conversion increased by +1.23%, and the team saw a +400% return on investment (ROI) within just nine months of using Hotjar.
3. Get a deeper understanding of the user experience
Assessing qualitative feedback is an excellent way to get a deeper, more empathetic understanding of your customer’s experience as they explore your website.
User feedback lets you hear directly from the users themselves how they have experienced your product, so you don’t have to rely on analytics and numbers alone.
User feedback tools offer broad insight into the realities of how—and why—people use your site or product. The needs and use cases of the real people you’re targeting may be different from the purpose you had in mind.
Factoring real users’ needs into your website optimizations ensures you treat it as a living creation that doesn’t exist in stasis, but adapts based on what your customers are saying.
This insight ensures fixing bugs and making optimizations that are more intuitive.
Feedback complements other UX data
Viewing session recordings of users navigating your website is a foolproof way to understand the user experience and gather valuable qualitative data. Viewing a recording of a user’s session on a page reveals things like:
Actions they took
Areas they wavered on
Elements they didn’t interact with as expected
But with recordings alone, you don't know why a user behaved a certain way. You can’t reach through the screen and say, "Hey, why aren’t you clicking the CTA we put right there?"
💡 Pro tip: want more context behind user behavior? Combine Hotjar Feedback and Hotjar Recordings.
Hotjar lets you connect website feedback responses with associated recordings for an extra layer of depth into your user insights. When you get a feedback response, jump to the relevant recording to see which actions the user took before they left feedback.
Feedback and recordings working in harmony
With user feedback tools complementing your analysis and showing the motivation behind an action, you stay on top of what matters most: the user experience, and the reasons behind your users’ behavior.
🐞 How Hussle spotted bugs and solved problems with user feedback
Luke Calton, a Product Lead at Hussle, noticed a high number of new visitors leaving unhappy feedback at the point of signing up.
Instead of troubleshooting manually, Luke used Hotjar’s user feedback tools—Feedback and Surveys—to go to the source and get a real understanding of where the issue was happening.
He discovered visitors seeing error messages at registration when using corporate accounts instead of personal accounts.
“You know that your registration form works. So when you get feedback that it isn’t working for a user and you then watch the recordings, it makes you think, ‘Well actually, the user can't do it.’ They're not wrong.”
— Luke Calton, Product Lead at Hussle
The solution was simple: update the error message to explain users needed to wait until their details had been confirmed by their employers before activating their account.
Not a major lift for Luke and the team, but one that made all the difference to Hussle’s users.
Get right to the bottom of your users’ needs
User feedback is at the heart of deeper empathy for your customers and a more holistic understanding of why they behave the way they do. Feedback tools are amongst the simplest—yet most impactful—methods of collecting mutually beneficial qualitative insights that enable you to provide a human-led, customer-centric experience.
Keen to start incorporating user feedback into your own optimizations? Check out Hotjar Feedback to tap into the customers behind the data, and gather valuable insights into the user experience.
Get deeper product insights with Hotjar
Feedback makes listening to your users easier than ever.