Simple Feedback diagramOne of the most difficult disciplines to master is the process of self analysis. I personally believe this process is even more difficult when the object of the analysis is something you create or produce for consumption by others. In that humble piece of software, that you lovingly crafted, contains some portion of the digital world that will forever represent some significant part of you! We assume, however, that the code (or music, or whatever) we produce is correct whole and lacking in nothing, that its logic, design and style fully represent the function for which it was purposed. It is becoming clear to me, however, that creation of anything is a real process and rarely ends just because we have released version one.

One of the most important lessons I have learned is the true value of feedback. Whether that comes from fellow developers, mentors, QA team, product consumers … your wife. Whatever the source it is important to listen and respond to feedback. Your response does not need to include product changing actions, but it must complete a positive ‘feedback’ process that affects the person who gave you the feedback in the first place. I feel the feed back process is useful for your product even when the feedback is negative just for the sake of being negative, why? because even bad feedback provides an opportunity for engagement and introspection.

A couple of relevant examples cover apps I currently have in the Windows Phone Marketplace, and from inception, feedback has varied wildly. Here is the current description of the app (this has change because of feedback):

The Free Marketplace Songs app makes it really easy to find and subsequently download free MP3's available within the "Zune Marketplace." Free MP3's are usually available one at a time and for a limited period (approximately 3-5 days). With this app you can quickly check the latest deals from the Zune Marketplace directly from your phone before they expire! Songs are usually from independent artist, so true music lovers everywhere will enjoy this new tool for music discovery. Please note these songs can be found by simply searching the Zune Software on your PC, this app is just a little more convenient.

I have grouped my feedback with the action I took for each group. Please excuse some of the following content these are real comments, some of them are a little … raw.

Feedback Group 1 – We need more features!

  • “If the app only included push notification...”
  • “Does what it says. -1 star because no live tile.”
  • “Can't get live tile. I don't know who the ****some of these artists are and it only updated once in two months...I'm gonna delete this and hope for something better.”

Action Taken:

  • Added toast notifications. Alert users who opt in when new songs are added.
  • Updated the description to ensure that it is clear Free songs are courtesy of the Zune Marketplace.

Feedback Group 2 – It does not do what I thought!

  • “This free app is a waste of time. How do you suppose to search for music that a person like.”
  • “REALLY SUCKS CAN'T EVEN DOWN LOAD OLD GOOD MUSIC U GUYS COULD DO A LOT BETTER”
  • “Awful! If they were decent songs/artists we actually have heard of it'd be great. WHERE'S THE GOOD MUSIC?!”
  • “Didn't really find my type of music”

Action Taken:

  • Further updates to the description and app workflow to make it clear that we offer free songs from Zune Marketplace only.
  • Share the limitations of the service within context of the Zune Marketplace.

Feedback Group 3 – The songs are not free!

  • Wack. Free? My *** they charge fir everything here
  • Sucks ain't *** free on this *** phone
  • ***** stupid not really good music I can't get the once I want for free:S=[ Help!!!!! PS, why do ppl say love Im thinking u ppl like **** music?
  • It said download FREE MUSIC....tge stuff is not even free....lame app...it get 1 STARS

Action Taken:

  • Ensure I communicate clearly what the app and the service provides.
  • Share the limitations of the service within context of the Zune Marketplace.
  • Verify that the app is only available in geographic locations that support Free Zune Marketplace songs.

Feedback Group 4 – We do not like your app!

  • EPIC FAIL for HTC HD7....uninstalling NOW
  • Sucks ***
  • Confusing
  • Sucks **** would not recommend

The final group do not provide much specific feedback and at least on the surface provide no actionable responses. However, this type of feedback provides a tiny opportunity to engage the user directly. In my specific case I am able to reach to the users providing feedback via the Zune software as follows:

  • Click on your user name in the right hand corner of the Zune software.
  • Click on the “send message” link

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  • Create a semi-colon separated list of users. There user names are available in the feedback section for your app on the windowsphone.com site.

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Short version: Use every opportunity to engage your users, look at the feedback you are receiving, talk to them on social networks, absorb it, own it, no matter how negative or pernicious. In some instances you may find a tiny opportunity to improve your product and win over people to your cause.