In-App Feedback: How and Why to Capture User Feedback in Your App

There's no shortage of mechanisms for capturing feedback from your users to help inform product decisions, and each form of feedback serves its own unique purpose. Customer interviews enable you to dive deeply into a specific user (or users') challenges and understand many of the ‘whys' behind their requests. Surveys enable you to target a large group of users with a set of specific questions and capture their feedback in bulk. Customer advisory boards are akin to a "peer counsel" that you can bounce ideas off of and see what types of conversations those ideas spark. Meanwhile, in-app feedback can help you capture thoughts, ideas, and even frustrations of your users in real time as they're using your product.

In this article we'll discuss some of the unique benefits of gathering user feedback in app and share some of the techniques and best practices for capturing in-app feedback.

Why collect user feedback in-app?

In-app feedback may be used in a variety of ways. It can provide insight into how to improve the usability of a particular feature, to recruit users who are already performing certain actions for deeper discussions about possible changes, to uncover and fix bugs, or to capture completely new ideas for product improvements.

The context-sensitive nature of in-app feedback is one of its greatest strengths, but that's not the only reason to consider making in-app feedback part of your customer feedback program. Let's look at some of the benefits of in-app feedback.

  • Context-sensitive feedback. Users are already engaged using your product, so they can provide feedback based on their actual usage or needs at the time.
  • Available 24/7. In-app feedback mechanisms enable you to collect user feedback around the clock.
  • High response rates. When feedback is built into your app and available when it is most relevant to the user, they are more likely to share their ideas or point out problems than they would be if they had to leave the application to do so. Of course, receiving this benefit requires following best practices for in-app feedback and making ease of use and discoverability a priority.
  • Low maintenance. Most existing in-app feedback tools require little to no maintenance after their initial implementation, leaving you more time to focus on other tasks.

Now that we've shared some of the many benefits of gathering user feedback from within your application or website, let's discuss the various mechanisms for gathering this type of feedback.

How to gather in-app feedback

There are various ways to capture user feedback right within your application or website. Many product teams opt to use a combination of methods to ensure they get sufficient feedback coverage. Let's take a look at a few of the most commonly-used mechanisms for in-app feedback and some best practices for each.

Customer feedback widgets for open-ended feedback

Customer feedback widgets are arguably one of the most frequently-used devices for getting user feedback from users within an app or website. These feedback widgets are commonly embedded within the app or website and enable users to click an icon or link and share their open-ended feedback regarding a specific aspect of the product (i.e. a new feature) or share feature requests and ideas as they come up with them while using your product. The embedded mechanisms that power open-ended feedback widgets also often power in-app surveys, which we will discuss momentarily.

Customer feedback widgets for open-ended feedback

Lightbulb icon Tips for in-app feedback widgets

Make sure your feedback widget is discoverable

In-app surveys typically solicit feedback, appearing after a user completes a series of actions in the app or arrives on a specific screen. Open-ended feedback widgets on the other hand, usually don't actively solicit engagement. That's why it's important to make sure they are discoverable and not hidden away out of sites. These widgets offer the best results when displayed in an easy-to-discover and consistent location. Consider placing them in page headers or footers, along page gutters, as top level menu item, or as an always-visible icon that lingers in the bottom right corner of the app.

In-app surveys

Customer surveys can teach you a lot about the needs of your user base, but email surveys are notorious for having low response rates. However, when you put those surveys into the context of your application, making it as convenient as possible for users to respond, your survey completion rate will go up substantially.

In-app surveys

Lightbulb icon Tips for in-app customer surveys

Keep in-app surveys short and sweet

Try to keep your in-app surveys short and sweet, ask a single question and let users get on with their days.

Use surveys as interview pre-screeners

Want to conduct a series of customer interviews with a certain subset of customers? You can also use in-app surveys to identify users you want to follow up with and get to know better. Think of it as speed-dating for customer interviews — an inexpensive way to cast a wide net. Screening users before you speak with them is a surefire way to increase the relevance of your feedback.

In-app NPS surveys

Net Promoter Score is a useful metric for understanding user satisfaction, and in-app NPS surveys can help you get a higher response rate from users. They also may give you a more accurate read on user sentiment when served up while the user is actually active in your app.

In-app NPS Surveys

Lightbulb icon Tips for in-app NPS surveys

Leave room for open-ended feedback

In addition to the standard "on a scale of 1 to 10 how likely are you to recommend this product to a colleague or friend?" question, don't forget to give users a place to share additional open-ended feedback regarding their response. You can later revisit that open-ended commentary and conduct a RUF analysis to get useful insight into which aspects of your product could use some improvement.

Make it clear that someone will review the open-ended NPS feedback

Sometimes, simply creating a place for users to share open-ended comments is not enough. It should be very clear that someone will actually be reviewing the NPS feedback that's received.

Modify the standard NPS prompt for B2B products

If you have a consumer product, the standard NPS question, "On a scale of 1 to 10 how likely are you to recommend our business to a friend" is generally advised. However, this question may be a bit awkward for niche B2B products. If you manage a B2B product, consider modifying your NPS question to better apply to your situation. (i.e. "On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our product to a colleague?")

Shake-to-send feedback

Many mobile apps use this mechanism in an effort to be less obtrusive — users shake their phone to trigger a menu of feedback options to appear. Shake-to-send feedback is a subtle, out-of-the way option for embedding feedback options into your app, especially because users don't lose the context of where they are within your application when they want to leave feedback.

Shake to send feedback

Lightbulb icon Tips for shake-to-send app feedback

Discoverability matters

Not every user of your application will be aware of this functionality. To remedy this, consider offering additional ways for users to leave feedback and/or using in-app messaging to point out the shake-to-send feedback functionality during user onboarding.

Allow users to opt-out

Some users may find this functionality frustrating if they accidentally trigger it. Give users the option to turn off this functionality if it isn't useful for them.

Rate my app!

Mobile applications commonly leverage the rating mechanisms provided by the platforms they sell their apps on. They trigger prompts asking customers to give a rating as they're using your app. This type of feedback can not only help inform product decisions, but also support growth. (if your reviews are good, it can help boost your app's popularity and credibility in the app store.)

Rate my app

Lightbulb icon Tips for rate my app feedback

Don't annoy your users

Some users may find these pop-up requests annoying, so alternatively, you can include a request as an option within the main menu. The downside of this less aggressive method is that the user will lose the context of what they were originally doing before they navigated away to give feedback.

Embedded behavioral analytics tools

This category of application feedback is slightly different than the others we've discussed in that it's virtually invisible to your users and produces primarily quantitative data.

Embedded app analytics tools can produce touch heatmaps and data about things like application crashes, behavior/conversion funnels, and event tracking. They can help you identify bugs, run A/B tests, spot patterns in behavior, and better understand how users are interacting with your app.

Embedded behavioral analytics tools

Lightbulb icon Tips for app analytics feedback

Data doesn't tell the whole story

While analytics can highlight interesting patterns, they won't tell you the whole story. That's why we recommend supplementing any behavioral analytics tools with qualitative user research as well.

Best practices for gathering user feedback in-app

While we've already provided a few best practices for specific feedback mechanisms above, there are a few important considerations to make before you make in-app feedback part of your customer feedback program.

Integrate in-app feedback with other feedback streams

Keeping the user feedback you receive from various sources in silos won't do you any good. Make sure you have a way to aggregate feedback from all sources in a single place to get a better understanding of all your users. Bringing together in-app feedback, internal feedback, email survey feedback, and even social media comments about the product in one place will give you a more complete view of what users want from your product. So, before you start collecting feedback in your app, make sure you have a way to easily aggregate the input you receive with other sources.

Consider how you will follow up

As is the case with other types of feedback, you'll want to come up with a plan for closing the loop and following up with users after they've gone through the trouble of sharing their feedback with you. You also may want to dig deeper into feedback as you go about problem and solution validation down the road. For these reasons, it's important to consider whether the mechanism you use for in-app feedback will allow you to easily follow up. It's also worth outlining what your follow up plan will be for this type of feedback before you start collecting it so that this important step does not get overlooked.

Consider the overall user experience

While enabling your users to share feedback with you without ever leaving your application is a generally positive user experience, it is possible to go overboard. Be careful not to annoy users with too many pop ups such as surveys, and "rate my app" notifications. These can distract from the user experience if they are too frequent or if there is no option to disable them. The last thing you want is for you users to begin associating your product with constant solicitations.

One way you can ensure that you get a constant stream of user feedback without annoying users is to enable them to leave feedback at any time through an easy-to-find feedback widget or link, and keep your surveys to a minimum.

Give users time to form an opinion before asking for feedback

If you're actively soliciting feedback in your app (i.e. using survey pop ups, NPS pop ups, or rate my app prompts), be thoughtful about when you trigger the prompts to appear. In many apps, users are bombarded with feedback requests shortly after opening the application. This doesn't leave them with much time to form an opinion, and often interrupts their use of the application and gets in the way of what the user opened the app up to accomplish. Consider waiting until a user has been idle for a period of time before triggering any feedback prompts.

Summary

By embedding feedback tools directly into your product, you allow people to provide feedback in context, as they are using the application or performing an action. This is extremely valuable when assessing usability or looking to improve existing functionality, and also helps you validate decisions. By allowing users to provide feedback when they are already using your product, you are ensuring that they can provide fresh, live, valuable, and targeted feedback.

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