How-To Involves Users In All Central Design Decisions

4 min read
  • “It is very important to us what actual users think of That’s why we decided to invite our target group to test the platform while it is still being developed.”

— Nienke Beekers, Research assistent at

The project

Industry: Healthcare
Using Usabilla Live Since: October 2012 is an initiative by the KWF Kankerbestrijding, NFK, IKNL, and the IKZ, a group of Dutch institutions to fight and research cancer. The main goals of are to provide information and support and to improve quality of life for cancer patients and others affected by cancer. The idea is to provide a place where people can find information and share their experiences with people like them. The design process is based on the principle they call DWUNFU: Develop with us, not for us. Real users are involved in all central design decisions throughout the development process.

The Opportunity has just been launched to the public. Pre-launch, the team behind was actively promoting their beta version and invited users to test the concept and provide feedback. The sensitive nature of the topic requires an early and continuous involvement of the actual users. Only real user feedback can bring up and validate ideas, grant insights into how the platform is used, and help improve the overall concept.

The research team already makes use of several methods to gather feedback at different stages of the design process. For example, they use interviews, questionnaires, usability tests, focus groups, and expert reviews to observe users and discuss their feedback.

Nienke Beekers, Research assistent at explains: “It is very important to us what actual users think of That’s why we decided to invite our target group to test the platform while it is still being developed. So far, we have about 100 active users in our proeftuin.”

Proeftuin is Dutch and means something like ‘experiment’. For this proeftuin, Nienke and her colleagues needed a feedback tool that would allow their beta testers to share their thoughts in a quick and easy way, while interacting with the platform. This is where Usabilla Live comes into the picture.

The Solution

With the Usabilla Live Feedback technology, visitors to the proeftuin of could simply select and share their thoughts and ideas with the team. During the test phase after the first couple of days following a release, Nienke received more than 100 feedback items per day.

The team of includes about 30 people. Nienke Beekers and Maartje de Vries, an external User Experience consultant from User Intelligence are responsible for bringing as close to the user as possible. They perform research, listen to the users, and translate all feedback to concrete tasks for the team.

With Usabilla Live, they get very diverse feedback, such as bug reports, feature suggestions, and compliments. Here is what happens with the feedback: Positive comments are being reported to the rest of the team and serve as motivation. Technical issues are discussed with SCRUM, the product owner, who prioritizes issues according to their relevance. Approved issues are directly pushed to Jira, where they are picked up and fixed by the developers. Any other constructive feedback is gathered in a Google spreadsheet.

Nienke and Maartje then analyze and prioritize the feedback and assign it to the responsible person within the team. Design issues are assigned to the design team, while content suggestions go to the content team, etc.

The qualitative feedback grants interesting insights for improving At the same time, it requires time and expertise to analyze all the personal user comments. Maartje explains that she is glad with the support they get from Usabilla: “There are a lot of advanced features that help us use the tool more efficiently, such as the integration with Jira. Also, the customer support has been very helpful and forthcoming.”

One of the biggest challenges of the proeftuin was to motivate beta users to stay, even though major features are still missing, or might not work. Nienke explains that “the Usabilla Live Feedback button is a great way to show people that we are listening and interested in what they have to say. It really motivates them to give feedback.”If users also leave their email address, Nienke tries to respond and answer their questions. However, this can be tricky as most features were not yet clearly defined, or not yet scheduled during the test phase and answers would be very vague.

As goes life, the team will continue to listen to their users and collect Usabilla feedback at key moments in the site’s development.

Sabina Idler
Sabina was technical writer & UXer @Usabilla for 5 years before she started her own UX research and consultancy firm; UXkids. With UXkids, Sabina leverages her academic research expertise, know how in child development, and strategic vision to help companies build successful digital products for children. You can connect with Sabina on Linkedin or follow her on Twitter.