Subjective feedback is good (if you know what to do with it)

How to deal with subjective feedback about your product

Karan Mhatre
4 min readOct 13, 2021
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

We know how important a good feedback loop is for our product. Let’s explore how we can assess what good feedback is and how we can use it to improve.

There are generally two groups of people that will give you feedback.

  1. Internal stakeholders
  2. Users

We need to deal with each one differently. Let’s start with internal stakeholders.

Taking feedback from internal stakeholder

Often we present your new product roadmap/designs in front of a panel of internal stakeholders and ask for feedback. And we get defensive when someone pokes holes in our plan.

Subjective feedback: We should add ads before each video. I don’t think too many users would mind seeing a 5 seconds advertisement before a video.

With statements like this, you immediately realise that there is no research backing such a claim, and you either discard it based on opposing research, or treat it as a hypotheses and test. Don’t follow the HiPPO.

Hypotheses and test scenario: Is there no (or little) increase in video drop-off after the introduction of 5 second advertisements? What is the drop-off we are comfortable with? Formulate a test and find the answer.

Subjective feedback that you should pay attention to,

  • Multiple stakeholders giving the same subjective feedback.
  • Or a Domain Expert giving feedback on a product meant for that particular demographic. Doctor’s feedback on a Clinic Management Solution.

Subjective feedback that you may not want to take seriously,

  • Personal bias: You can find out if this is a personal bias by trying to establish a common ground. Say you are presenting a proposal to add a social networking element to your mobile application. If someone is opposed to the idea, you can ask them “Are you active on any social media platforms? What do you think about Facebook?”, and if you receive these answers as negatives, then you know that the person is biased to not liking the concept itself, regardless your implementation.
  • People talking out of their domain. Statements like, “I’m not a designer but I feel like the balance is not maintained on the screen”. Stop listening at “I’m not a designer…”.
  • People that were not involved from the beginning of the project, or lack the necessary context in which the product was created.

Collecting good feedback internally

Bad Question: “Do you like this page?”

Better Question: “Do you think users (20–25 year old college students) will like this page?”

Even Better Question: “Do you think users (20–25 year old college students) will like the new illustration on this page?”

Reduce the subjectivity of the answer by defining the audience and subject clearly.

You don’t need to like this feature. Your users need to.

Feedback from users

Researcher: How do you like this product?

User: I like the home page. But I don’t like the new feature you introduced that lets me add photos.

Researcher: Ok, why do you not like it?

User: I don’t think I will ever use something like that.

If we generalise this statement, we might say that this new feature is not great and we should remove it. Wherein the reality is that the user hasn’t even used the feature. This is not the user’s fault. They answered your question.

In reality, this single user does not want to use the new feature. Ask more users and you might be able to reduce the subjectivity.

Subjective feedback is less subjective if a majority believes it.

Collecting good feedback is an art and should not be taken lightly. If done incorrectly, you could end up spending hours talking to users without any concrete findings.

The researcher must have clarity of what they are looking for when interviewing users.

Ask the right users the right questions

A good example of this is Amazon. When your product is just delivered, they only ask you to rate the delivery experience, NOT the product.

Once the product is delivered, Amazon takes a rating ONLY for delivery experience and waits a while before asking you to rate the project itself.

In the Amazon example above, they know that the user would not be in a position to review the product as soon as it is delivered. Hence they only take feedback about the delivery experience.

At GOQii, we have built a feedback system that collects objective feedback based on how much of the video health class you have attended.

GOQii collecting feedback for their Video Health Classes

Collecting the right feedback from the right people at the right time is an integral part of building better products.