The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea :  Welcoming feedback

A local council elects a quick and friendly method of gathering feedback.

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The feature

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC), a local government authority in London, uses ‘smileys’ to encourage feedback on site content. RBKC positions a feedback tool at the foot of all pages under the heading ‘How do you rate this information/service?’. Beneath this is a set of three brightly coloured ‘smileys’ (graphical emoticons): a green smiling face, an orange neutral face and a pink frowny face. Clicking one of the faces leads to a branded feedback page where users are invited to indicate the main reason for their rating of the page (good, average or poor) and add comments. The list of reasons from which to choose is different depending on which face has been clicked. The feedback page opens in the current browser window and is hosted by a third-party GovMetric. Text links at the bottom of the form allow a return to the RBKC site, either to its home page or to the rated page.

The takeaway

RBKC’s feedback feature has its smiley points but also some frowny ones. On the good side, its cheery graphical interface is appropriately inviting at a time when local government authorities are being encouraged to be more approachable and receptive. Unlike more standard feedback mechanisms, which are neutral links to the feature itself, in RBKC’s approach the first click provides the site administrators with a data point. It also triggers a response form tailored to the initial rating, which aids both immediate use and subsequent processing. Other elements are more likely to irritate the user. The set-up and labelling of the smileys give no indication that a click will automatically take a user to the feedback form rather than, as might easily be assumed, register a simple rating. In the context the transfer to the form is presumptuous and opening it in the current browser window is disruptive as well as a further and unnecessary disorientation. RBKC’s understandable desire to gather user feedback should be informed by a more sympathetic approach to usability that would serve it as well as site users better.
First published 15 August, 2013
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