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Why the Best Feedback Might Make You Cry

FeedbackWhen building a website, it makes sense to constantly receive feedback. Without feedback we’re unable to make real progress. We won’t know what works on our web pages, what doesn’t work and where we can make vital improvements.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can work all this out for yourself as you’ll know if you read Why your opinions don't count. You’ve invested so much time, money and creative energy in the pursuit of creating great looking, high performing web pages that you’ll naturally have put some defensive or protective mechanisms in place against criticism. Metaphorically speaking you won’t take too kindly to someone telling you that your baby is ugly. But here’s the thing, what if your baby is ugly?

We solicit feedback in the first place to help identify the problems that we cannot see. Being so close to the production of a webpage from inception to delivery make us wholly inappropriate and highly bias judges. We have a long time ago, lost our ability to gain first impressions of our webpages. Outsiders can only judge your website based on first impressions and also with complete neutrality.

You are a lousy critic

Let’s face it; your built-in and heavy bias makes you one hell of a lousy critic of your own work. 

When you receive feedback, you’re hoping for encouragement, confirmation that you’re on the right track, your visitors will love it, they are going to buy your products or services like it’s going out of fashion. This time next year, you’re going to be so rich that your only problem is going to be working out how to spend it all.  Let’s just say that this is the feedback you get, what will you then do with it? Absolutely nothing, that’s what. If you’ve created perfection, there is no need to make any changes. You’ve nailed it.

Queue the wavy dream sequence with accompanying harp…

But now let’s look at the contrary scenario.

You’ve spent days crafting the perfect landing page to accompany a client’s marketing campaign, launching a flagship new product. You’ve read the books, taken the courses, you know what it takes to make a high performing webpage, a webpage that sells. You’ve double checked the top twenty mistakes that people make when creating pages that sell and you’ve made none of them. You’re feeling confident as the expensive marketing campaign starts reeling in the sales leads and when they land your highly tuned webpage is going to convert them to sales.

There is just one problem. It doesn’t work. The people come, the product is great, the price is special and the webpage we already know has got hours and hours of the very best advice built into it. But something is definitely broken; the marketing costs are exceeding the sales. You know that the problem can’t be the webpage but there is only one way to find out – it’s feedback time.

An anonymous, representative panel of feedback merchants is assembled. They don’t care about how much work has gone into your webpages and they don’t care about how clever you are. They don’t know you and they certainly don’t care about you or your baby. They’ve been asked for their honest opinions of your marketing campaign, and boy, are they going to give it to you – with both barrels.

86% of the people surveyed say that they would probably not or definitely not buy online from this company, based on the marketing campaign and the webpages that they’ve seen. The absolute stinger is that when asked, the problem is with the sales web pages.

86% say no

Ouch, that hurts! How disrespectful of all your hard work and of your web page prowess. How downright rude of them to say, right to your face, that your baby is ugly. It’s not unlikely that what follows is a combination of denial, anger and finally some tears.

You were wrong. There’s no escaping it, you were wrong. And the big fat 86% of the survey says you got it wrong. But guess where the solution lies? The solution lies in the hearts and minds of the very same spiteful, disrespectful 86% that caused you to weep. They’re the ones that first recommended that you suspended the marketing campaign that was loosing money. Oh my, and they’re also the ones that know why your webpages suck. And what’s more, the answers already lie in their feedback; the very feedback that caused the pain in the first place.

A quick parse back though the feedback forms and soon a common thread emerges. How could we have missed this, they were right all along, how could we have not seen it?

In fact, once the criticism was taken onboard, it was seen for what it really was, constructive criticism. To rectify the problem was not more than 30 minutes work. It took a change to the colours, the sales speak was turned down a couple of notches and some of the graphics were warmer and less aggressive. Also, the unbelievably good offer was removed and replaced by a good offer. And here lied the heart of the problem, the offer was so good that no one could believe it. Instead, they’re impressions soon turned to scams and negative connotations flooded their emotions.

How did we know this was to fix the problem? After the adjustments, the 86% that probably wouldn’t or definitely wouldn’t buy from us turned into just 22%. Thinking that’s it’s possible that every single person would buy from you is delusional and so having 78% saying that they would, is work very well done.

78% say yes

And so the moral of this story is clear, negative feedback that becomes the catalyst for improvements is to be welcomed. But for the really good stuff, the feedback that turns failure into success, this is the stuff that makes you cry.  

Now it’s your turn to share your negative feedback experiences. What negative feedback have you received and did it turn out for the best in the end?

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Comments (1)


November 19, 2014 at 2.48 pm

Having just done a huge web project - I’ve been waiting for this day to show people how clever I am! Having read this…..I know I now appreciate I need to focus on the opposite. Not looking forward to it - but you can’t argue with the logic. Thanks for spelling it out.

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