Implementing Contextual Feedback and Help to Improve the Usability of Web Applications
Traditionally, communication between developers and users has been sparse. Developers have always provided limited help through a single help window and users rarely get the chance to offer feedback and bug reports. However, those limitations have been changing in recent years. Many software developers have created help forums where users can discuss issues with other users and support personnel can also participate. In fact, in the past few years we’ve also seen the addition of feedback forms, which allow the user to send feedback to the developers. Overall though, things haven’t changed much – especially in the world of Web applications.
For most Web applications, help is nowhere to be found or is clumsily organized in a separate browser window. Also, the ability to provide feedback is often only available on the main contact page. At Sitening, this has always bothered us. So, when we set out to create the best-of-class online SEO tools, Raven, we wanted to make the user experience exceptional. By exceptional, I mean not only intuitive, but also easy for our users to communicate with our developers and for our developers to communicate with our users.
With Web applications, contextual feedback means the ability to provide feedback within the context of the active page. For example, if a user just experienced a bug or wants to request a feature, they can submit feedback right where they are. Additionally, when the developer receives the feedback, the system will tell them what page the user was on, who the user is and what platform they’re using (operating system, browser, etc…).
We built in contextual feedback throughout Raven. So, no matter where a user is in the application, they can submit feedback from the page that they’re currently on.
Contextual help is similar to contextual feedback, in that it provides help on the page the user is currently on. That way, the user doesn’t have to hunt down the help file or risk not seeing any help, because their browser blocked the popup window that had the help content in it. We provided contextual help throughout the entire Raven Web application.