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Silent Feedback [Design
Posted on March 9, 2015 @ 09:55:00 AM by Paul Meagher

Most people have experienced the "silent treatment" from a friend or partner. We all know that even though the person is silent they are giving us some strong feedback about how they are feeling. We might understand that they disapprove of something but may be at a loss as to what exactly is wrong. We might try various approaches to getting them talking to us again.

We might want to keep this in mind the next time we release a new product, service, or concept to the public. Instead of getting constructive feedback to improve this or that feature, we might instead to get no response at all. It is important to recognize that no response is still feedback and can be very valuable feedback if you accept it as such.

If you release something new and share it with some people and you don't get any feedback, chances are it did not hit the mark with them and rather than burst your bubble, maybe they prefer to say nothing. Perhaps your idea does not really solve a pain point they experience or it does not solve very well the problem you claimed it would help solve. If the person you shared your idea with is not a friend or family member, then it is just as easy for them to say nothing as to provide any negative or constructive feedback.

In various startup books we hear about the importance of releasing early and releasing often and using the feedback to create a better product or service. One problem with this idea is that we are all busy and unless the product or service is solving a real pain point and looks to be on the right track, why would I want to engage in the process of providing ongoing feedback about that product or service? What is in it for me? Maybe that sounds selfish but if you don't respect people's time by releasing half-baked ideas and expecting them to correct you, then you shouldn't be suprised if your efforts to gather feedback are met with a deafening silence.

In some corporate settings we may have a set of "users" who are required to provide feedback and help a designer create a better product or service, but for many projects we don't have this luxury. Instead we might share our product or service with people who would theoretically benefit from the product or service but who are not our friends. In these circumstances we have to actively listen for silence as it may be the only cue they provide as to whether our product or service is worth their time to discuss.

The process of using feedback to help guide you towards developing a better product or service is not as easy as it sounds. Of course there will be customers who will complain about your product or service and you can use that to improve your offerring, but when you are putting something new out there you might not even get complaints as these often arise out of some economic or emotional investment into a product or service that your tester probably does not have at this point.

So if you are putting something out there and expecting some feedback and don't get any, you might think that nothing happened. Alternatively, you can you can view the lack of response as critical feedback that something is amiss. Lately I ran into this situation and gradually understood that the lack of feedback was signalling a problem and proceeded to make an adjustment in my concept and sent the revised concept out again. The second time I did so I got some positive feedback suggesting that I was on the right track. Sometimes the best feedback is no feedback provided you interpret this situation as feedback and take corrective actions. When you can get people talking to you is when you know you are on the right track again. It may not even matter much what they are saying, just whether they are engaging with you or not.

In conclusion, don't interpret an absence of feedback for your concept as no feedback. It is probably negative feedback and can be just as useful in telling you what to do as verbalized feedback. Your ultimate objective is to get some verbalized feedback, but until you do something worthy of some positive feedback, you might not get it.

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