No, I didn’t bang my head in a tragic ski accident and I’m not so cool that I have made up a new term. So, what in the world is feedforward? Don’t you mean feedback? Nope, no sir, no I do not.
Let’s take a quick look at the differences so that we can make sure that your current customer and user experiences have these bases covered.
Why should you care? Simple, a poor feedforward causes people to leave your site, translation….lost opportunities, clients and revenue. Yeah, that’s right, I used the R word. I bet I have your attention now. 🙂
Feedback is what happens when you perform an action: click a button, scroll, enter words into a search box, etc. Feedback tells you that you are, for lack of a better term, controlling the environment that you are experiencing. In other words, it tells you that you and this website/app/product/service are on the same page and that you are both moving towards the same end goal.
Quick Example: Feedback
I am out with a friend and she says, “Gosh, I am hangry”. Confused, I look around and try to play along. When she goes to use the restroom, I pull out my phone and google ‘what does hangry mean’ into Google’s search function. It returns a list of resources that I may read or watch to answer my question. I quickly surmise that this means that she is going to turn into one of those hungry divas from the Snickers commercials and nobody likes a diva.
Feedback in hand, I start navigating towards my favorite restaurant that serves people expeditiously. Alas, my friendship is saved. My friend is fed and all of that happened because Google gave me the appropriate and helpful feedback to get to my goal….answering my question about what hangry meant.
Feedforward is anything that tells you what to do to get to the feedback stage. If I am sitting on a page and I am not sure what the next logical step is, then the site lacks feedforward. To put it another way, it lacks the correct design tools (discoverability, affordances, signifiers and conceptual model) to tell me what I should do next. If I don’t know what I am supposed to do next, then I can’t get to the feedback stage.
When people feel frustrated by the lack of feedforward on a site, they will never be given the chance to be dazzled by well designed feedback interactions.
Quick Example: Feedforward (Or Lack Of)
I am a new employee at a company who is going to be working virtually. I have to take a training class online to be qualified to begin work. My recruiter sends me the link, I log in, and then I get to a page that has a lot of options: text, images, videos, recordings, surveys, etc, but no direction about where to start. Because of the lack of directions (aka..feedforward) I have no idea what I am supposed to do first. I don’t want to make a bad impression, but I am feeling stuck, because the site does not make a clear indication to me about where to start.
Now, I am feeling vulnerable and unsure of myself. These are not the emotions that I want to be experiencing while preparing for my new job. I want to feel empowered and capable and finish the training in the intended order. However, I can not do that, because I have no idea where to begin. This site gave me no feedforward, so I couldn’t get positive feedback from completing the training.
I hope this quick little explanation and these examples were valuable to you in understanding the basic difference between these two terms and how they work together effectively to create a well designed user experience.
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