Online feedback methods?

Subject: Online feedback methods?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Stacia Marlett <smarlett -at- digitalriver -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2006 16:02:53 -0400

Stacia Marlett wondered: <<We're going to revamp our feedback system for our online help. Currently we assign a URL to a button at the bottom of each help topic. Clicking the button opens a new window with a bunch of questions and a Submit button. Then someone else in our group puts the feedback in a spreadsheet.>>

Sounds like a solution that's ripe for automation. Any reason you couldn't replace this with a forms-based approach? The simplest solution (i.e., least progamming) is to use something like FormMail (or a similar CGI script) that e-mails you the results of filling in the form as ASCII text that you can easily import into a spreadsheet or database.

You can certainly get far more sophisticated than that if your pet geeks are interested in playing with new toys; it should be possible to directly stock the database, eliminating the manual import step, without much work. That's way beyond my expertise, but I've read about it being done and I'm sure someone here can provide specific details.

<<We've gotten very little feedback over the course of a year with our online help system.>>

This is hardly surprising. If your product's users are typical, many (perhaps the majority) aren't using your online help system at all (they play around until they figure it out, or call their favorite geek and beg for help), and most of the others can't be bothered to provide feedback either because they're too busy or because they don't believe you do anything with the feedback. If you can't provide strong incentive to use the system and provide feedback, this won't change.

<<Plus, we've abandoned the unique URL in most recent help topics because we ran out of numbers (to tack onto the end of the URL) and nobody seemed to know how to get more.>>

What, you mean the universe finally ran out of numbers? I always secretly suspected this would happen some day. I only hope that the end, when it comes, comes quickly. <gdrlh>

OK, as non-sarcastically as I can possibly muster while still giggling over the possibility of running out of numbes: So long as you have a finite number of help topics, you cannot possibly run out of numbered HTML pages. All HTML pages become the following: "". Problem solved!

If you mean that you've got so many help topics that you've exceeded the number of bits allocated to assigning Help IDs, I can't help you, other than to suggest that the usual solution is to break the help system up into sufficiently small chunks that you no longer run out of help IDs.

<<This method was way too much work. We also recognize that our feedback form was way too long.>>

Sometimes you need to try a different approach. For example, have a look at the following article:

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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online feedback methods: From: Stacia Marlett

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