Users leave us a lot of feedback these days. Some of it is active and deliberate, like adding a comment to an article on a website. Some of it is incidental, like clicking on an article and then closing the browser window before the page has fully loaded. And many companies aren’t taking advantage of all of the user feedback they could be collecting.
Here are some modern types of feedback that technical writers should have access to:
- Social media mentions
- User comments
- Up/down votes – and
- Website analytics
- Search keywords
Let’s look at each of these and what they can tell you about your company’s documentation.
Social media @mentions
Monitoring social media platforms for mentions of your company or software can give you a lot of information:
- General attitudes towards your company.
- Pain points suffered by customers.
- What users are talking about around your product, including the documentation.
- The socioeconomic profiles of your users.
- Identifying brand advocates – people who frequently talk positively about your product.
There are a lot of tools on the market that help you monitor social media for this sort of data. Check out this article for a few of them: How to Monitor Your Social Media Mentions: 5 Listening Tools.
Most people will only go to the trouble of leaving comments when they’re in the extremes of emotion – very happy with your product, or very unhappy. While individual comments might give very useful user feedback, you can also keep track of:
- Which articles receive the most comments.
- Whether comments are primarily positive or negative.
- Which formats receive the most positive or negative comments.
To be able to monitor user comments, of course, you’ll need to enable comments on your content. You’ll also need to use a third-party tool to analyse or track the tone of comments.
Upvotes and downvotes
Giving users a quick positive/negative feedback option can provide more general information on your documentation. Because it requires a single click, the effort barrier is lower – meaning you’ll typically get more responses per article. Using upvotes and downvotes can tell you:
- Which articles users are finding helpful.
- Which articles users are finding unhelpful or obstructive.
- That users are having trouble finding the right content.
There are a few different positive/negative options you can utilise:
- Thumbs up/down
- Happy/sad face
- Up/down arrow
Most plugins that provide a binary feedback functionality also include basic tracking, so that you can look at a list of articles and see the trouble areas of your documentation.
Using a tool like Google Analytics can give you information like:
- Which articles users are visiting most.
- How users are finding your articles.
- Which articles are causing ‘false positives’ – for example, coming up high in search results for issues they don’t help to solve.
- Articles with readability problems.
Look for things like:
- Low Time on Page: this can mean that users are skimming the content and not finding the answers they’re looking for, which can indicate search result false positives or readability issues.
- High Bounce Rate: while this is usually considered bad in general website analysis, it can mean that users are searching for a solution to their issue, finding their answer first-up on your website, and then leaving because they have the solution they needed.
For more information on website analytics to keep an eye on, check out this article: 7 Website Analytics That Matter Most.
Using a tool like Google’s Search Console can help you to track what keywords and phrases people are using to find your website. This is a completely incidental form of user feedback, but it can give you insights into:
- Common pain points experienced by users.
- Where there might be gaps in your documentation.
- How to improve a particular article’s visibility in search results, so that users can find it more easily.
You can also integrate your Search Console with your Google Analytics dashboard.
Track your user feedback over time
Once you’re collecting these five types of user feedback, track how it’s changing over time. Are your changes improving the feedback you’re receiving? Are more users finding the answers to their questions? You want to be consistently improving the content available to your users and making it easier to find and interact with.