July 2, 2009

Sun-Sentinel: How to Skew Feedback to Impress the Boss

As you might have heard by now, the Sun-Sentinel has re-vamped its look. Each page is moderately easier to read (if you have really good eyesight) but site navigation is in the dumps. (More on that later).

Worse, they've chosen to use GetSatisfaction to track customer feedback, probably the most annoying webtool since the pop-up add. Forget about the stick-in-the-eye tab that sticks out of the right side of the screen, scrolling with the window so you can't ignore it, threatening to leap out at the slightest mouse-over. No, the worst part of GetSatisfaction is that it's designed to spin customer complaints so they look like positive feed back. It's really intensely evil.

So how do the do it? Let's look at the top of the feedback form:

Note that you have exactly four options, and complaining isn't one of them. You can ask a question, share an idea, report a problem or give praise. So what's wrong with that? Well, say you're a board member, and you want to know how your readers are filling out the feedback forms: primarily, you want to know how many complaints there are. And guess what? There aren't any. I know, you think I'm nitpicking. I'm not.

You can't register a complaint. So what can you do?

Questions are good: that denotes interest in the production. It indicates people want to know more. People care enough to aske

Shared ideas mean that people are taking ownership of the website: they really want to get involved. They care enough to share.

Problems can be addressed: problems are usually things like "the link is broken" and "the page is missing" which you expect when you change format. But problems means the team can fix things. "Well done, team!"

Give praise says it all. You love the product.

As you can see, right off the bat, the entire thing is skewed to indicate positive feedback.

But it gets worse.

GetSatisfaction offers another feature: it gauges the emotional state of the respondent. After you fill out the field with your question/idea/problem/praise, you scroll down to this:

This is where the designers of GetSatisfaction get insidious, and really screw over the reader and make the web designer look brilliant. A lot of people skip over tags; no big deal, you said what you wanted. And if they look to the right, they see emoticons.

How does "this" make you feel? What is "this?" It doesn't say. "Well, I'm happy that you're letting me give you feedback. I feel good about that."

And the damage is done. 168 support topics, most of which are complaints, and according this evil little tool, everyone's happy about the new Sun-Sentinel website.

They're happy about the fonts they can't see, they're happy about the pages they can't find, they're happy about things they find horrible:

So upper management asks the web design team how things are going, the design team shows management these GetSatisfaction results that are little more than fantasies, and six months later, the Sun-Sentinel lays off the 6 actual reporters they still have working for them, while blaming people for just not being interested in news anymore.

And we, the readers, get screwed again.

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