How to Apply “Diagram Thinking” to User Feedback at Your Startup

It all started with a tweet by @StartupLJackson:

Blessed is he who, in the name of profit, shepherds the user through the funnel, for he is truly his user’s keeper.


Jokes aside, this is exactly what we do with “users” (I wish there was a better term for this.). We take them through funnels and user journeys, and if there’s a hitch on the road, we’re back to square one. To find the hitch, we can either stare at analytics all day or actually ask them what went wrong.

Enter user feedback: the land of insights we didn’t necessarily ask for but got anyway. It’s the land that we all have to cross before we get to launch. Because if you launch before going through the motions, that will cost you and it could kill your product.

So let’s try and cross that land together.

Collecting user feedback.

If you’re not collecting user feedback, you are missing a huge opportunity for growth – both personal and professional. Those who skip this step usually end up releasing a buggy app or spending 2 years and $50K on a bust product. Ouch.

Let’s just assume you’ve built an MVP and you’re ready to test it. You have a list of subscribers (if not, read this article) and you’re ready to let them know they can sign up for the beta. But before you send that email, you have to figure out how you want to collect feedback.

Most founders just install a survey widget on their apps: Qualaroo, SurveyMonkey, and even Typeform all have you covered. But is this enough for truly valuable feedback? Will your users volunteer it up? Is that all there is to user feedback: installing a widget and bugging people with emails?

Nope. I’d say there’s lots more to it.

Applying “diagram thinking”.

Those of you who are thinking long-term know that – especially at the beginning – user feedback has its own cycle. It’s not enough to smack something on your app and pray for instant gratification. Or to email thousands of people with a request and wait for the feedback to rain.

Most of the time people don’t respond to general requests. If you want really good feedback, you have to work at getting it, meaning you need to direct your users and ask the right questions. Yes, like the sheep. 😛

However, you must avoid “selective questioning” at all costs. If you ask certain questions and avoid others, you’re guiding the answers, which means you’re still building the product you want to build, not the one your users want to use.

So how can we make sure we get the right feedback and lots of it?

I’ve always liked this visualization based on Dave McClure’s pirate metrics:


Whether you call it a lean marketing funnel or pirate metrics diagram, what matters is that this graphic outlines the user journey perfectly. And now I’d like to propose a diagram that attempts to do the same with user feedback.


So I borrowed this from Edraw because I’m not a very good designer, so thanks, Edraw. Before explaining what all the steps mean, I have to start with this disclaimer: I just made this up and you can mix and match some of the steps to make the cycle more compact. Moving on.

  1. Ask your users for feedback. There’s a variety of tools available to help you do that, but be certain that they offer exactly what you need. For example, if you need to ask specific questions, a simple window with blank space for feedback won’t work. Most people go with Qualaroo.
  2. Guide your users: where to find the feedback widget, what questions interests you, giving them options, etc. I’ll include an example later.
  3. Receive the feedback. Make sure you can access the feedback quickly and easily, and also, that you get all the data you need, including who sent the feedback and what they were doing (with your users’ permission). The problem with most survey widgets is that they won’t show who sent a particular piece of feedback, so if you want details, you’ll have to consider a built-in option.
  4. Apply – implement changes, fix bugs, etc. Address everything. (And if you have doubts about a piece of feedback, make sure it has come from a few sources, not just one. Some people just give opinions and you have to be able to recognize those for what they are.)
  5. Reply – make sure your users know that you got their feedback and you’re working on a solution or just make them feel appreciated. Also, you might want to have a system for updating everyone at once. I’ve heard only good things about Intercom.
  6. Prompt any users who have been testing your app but have not given any feedback. Maybe they just forgot.

And then ask more questions, more users, etc. The cycle can go on and on forever, until there are no complaints and no bugs to fix. Only then have you done your best to improve your product.

PRO tip: Keep “feedback logs” so that when someone asks you something related to a previous conversation (and you can’t remember what it was) or you have to prompt some people but you can’t remember which, the feedback logs will have your back. They don’t have to be super detailed, but they should at least have a name, date, and feedback medium.

Got any hacks?

Sure. 🙂

When we first talked about collecting feedback with my co-founder – Mike Sutton – we discussed a two-pronged approach: installing a widget in the app and emailing beta testers with specific questions a week after they’d started using it. However, we decided to do a little extra:


This is the page that asks our users to register for the beta. As you can see, they’re required to choose one of three ways to give us feedback: in Slack, via email, and over Skype. We wanted to be thorough and give them options, which paid back big time. In a matter of days we got feedback over Slack and the widget, and we get to send the emails today, which means more feedback!

I think in this way everyone is happy – we get feedback from various sources and our users get to choose the way we bug them. 😀

Timing and location are everything. Make sure you position your feedback tools where – and when – it matters.

How important is this?

If you’re still asking this question, here are a few benefits of feedback:

  • it pushes you to satisfy your users’ needs instead of your own
  • it eliminates any false assumptions and challenges your thinking
  • it gives your product more opportunities for growth
  • it improves your product (obviously)

So it solves a few problems that have made a lot of startups fail. For example, the classic “I made this because I think people need it but actually nobody does” or the “I thought my product was perfect for these people but they’re not really interested”, and so on.

Nobody likes to be challenged. I don’t particularly look forward to being proven wrong every day, but this is the price I pay for wanting to create something people will love and use.

If you want to do the same, you’ll have to be ready for:

  • I had assumed this would be a specific iOS app which would work offline.
  • You want to make this more secure. I will be unable to use this until it is resolved.
  • etc.

This is all super constructive and has helped us – at Amazemeet – make our app more secure and more available to unexpected target segments. The above feedback is 100% real. And so is…

  • Nice clean design, tour was great, very intuitive. 
  • I’ve been using your PDF with my Adobe Illustrator open to edit real time during meeting, and this web app of yours saves a hell lot of time.
  • etc.

I can’t wait to see what will become of our little app. In my dreams, I see it big and so helpful that everyone is using it to improve their meetings. But before we get there, we need to see how our users see it.

What do you think about the User Feedback Cycle? Are you applying it? 🙂

5 thoughts on “How to Apply “Diagram Thinking” to User Feedback at Your Startup

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