Saturday, August 1, 2009

Feedback for libraries - Getsatisfaction, UserVoice, Yelp


Today's libraries interact with users and obtain feedback in a dizzying number of ways from email to sms, instant messaging, twitter, skype, Facebook and comments on blogs.

But most of these methods are private (e.g other users cannot see an email sent to your library) or in the case of comments on blogs/wall posts on Facebook the feedback obtained is unstructured.

Why allow users to see feedback from others? By allowing user to vote on or comment on feedback already left by other users, this allows you to get a sense how common a certain problem is or how popular a certain requested feature is (is this crowd sourcing?). There are also some efficiency gains as you can answer a commonly asked question with just one reply, yielding you a kind of FAQ/Knowledge base.

Services like UserVoice and Getsatisfaction provide such features. Think of them as forums customized for collecting feedback ( "Feedback 2.0"?)

Currently many of the top web 2.0 companies are using these services, including Twitter and Google related services.

It still early days but a few libraries have started exploring Getsatisfaction, these include Lunia Library, Vancouver Public Library (blog entry) . Others include Pierce County Library System, Charles City County Library Campaign, Central Medical Library UMCG, John C. Fremont Library District

Luria Library on GetSatisfaction

There seems to be slightly fewer libraries using UserVoice, but these include Cook Library
and Diablo Valley Library

Diablo Valley Library on UserVoice

Yelp and other local information sites

While UserVoice and Getsatisfaction aim to be feedback/support systems for companies and services (though they allow users not affiliated with services to start support pages) , there is another set of feedback systems that naturally aggregate user reviews of services that libraries should be aware of.

Typically they are online review directories (location based) that list businesses such as restaurants and users are encouraged to comment and rate such services.

Yelp is probably the most famous of them. Yelp is unique among its competitors in that it as a specific category for libraries so there are quite a lot of reviews for libraries there.

Do note that Yelp is available only for selected cities in the US and the UK.

Libraries that have being Yelped in San Francisco

Yelp allows you to claim your business profile and it's probably a good idea if your library is listed. Doing so allows you to respond to feedback, get analytics, send offers to users etc.

San Francisco Public Library Main branch Yelp page

Yelp isn't a particularly new service and some blogs have covered this including this and this , so the rest of this blog will cover UserVoice and Getsatisfaction

Usersatisfaction features

Here's some of the features offered by Usersatisfaction

Side-Mounted feedback link

Feedback tab on Lupton Library

Rather than burying the feedback link in some obscure place, both Uservoice and Getsatisfaction allows you to create a rather eye-catching feedback link that shows one's commitment in soliciting feedback.

By adding simple javascript code provided one can display a "feedback" tab that appears on the left of the screen. This tab is extremely prominent and hovers as you scroll down the page. Clicking on it will either bring you to the getsatisfaction/Uservoice page or show a short summary.

So far, not all libraries have chosen to do this though

Categories in Getsatisfaction

The main categories users can post in Getsatisfaction are "Ask a question", "share an idea" , "report a problem" and "give praise". It has the usual feature where it tries to determine if something similar has already being posted etc.

Allows users to vote on ideas, questions, problems

Autogenerates categories like "popular ideas", "frequently asked questions"

GetSatisfaction also automatically generate categories like "Frequently asked questions", "Popular idea", "Recent praise", "unanswered" etc.

Create widgets

There are quite a few features you expect of web 2.0 services including the use of RSS feeds, social bookmarking/tagging, giving overall rating of service etc. But perhaps of interest would be the ability to add 4 different widgets to monitor getsatisfaction, including the "feedback tab", "feedback page", "Satisfaction search", and "topic page". These can be used to supplement FAQ pages.

In particular you can embed the feedback page widget into your pages, so feedback can be carried out straight from your webpages. If the user leaves a email, they will create a getsatisfaction account which will inform them when a reply is received.

Maui Community Library Getsatisfaction embeded in their webpage

- use cases

UserVoice seems to be more focused on voting for ideas/features, rather than for questions. Each voter is given a number of votes (default is 10) and they can spend their votes on voting for each idea (3 maximum). As ideas are deleted or implemented the votes will be returned.

You can pre-seed UserVoice with ideas , for instance you might want to find out what users think of extending opening hours in some days but cutting down on others, if they would like to increase ebooks etc. But users can also add their own ideas.

One of the more interesting users of UserVoice for libraries seems to be by Cook Library.

Cook Library has being working on redesigning their webpage. They have being doing it in a very transparent way and have being very open to feedback, beside their excellent blog, they have effectively leveraged UserVoice to collect ideas on their webpage redesign.

Cook Library Website Redesign UserVoice page

Currently there are almost 500 votes cast, assuming each voter used up all 10 votes, this would mean a minimum of 50 people voting.

Some of the top voted ideas look generic, "unclutter the page", but the high number of votes (close to 100) seem to indicate it's a big problem.

You don't actually have to log-in to vote, and looking at the votes on the page, most votes are indeed by anonymous voters who didn't bother to register an account.


There is some risk engaging with users in such an open manner of course. But it should be noted that users are already commenting on your services on the net, (or these days Tweeting about it ) anyway. A centralized place to address such issues would in fact be a lot easier, rather than doing environmental scanning to keep track of feedback posted elsewhere.

Is your library using UserVoice, Getsatisfaction or Yelp ? What are your experiences so far? Are there any similar systems out there to collect user feedback that you are using?

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