Just about every content site needs some kind of feedback mechanism. Whether it’s a simple mailto: link or a form, there should be some way for readers to contact the site’s author. Most site authors get this right, but I’ve been surprised to learn how different the feedback you receive can be depending on where and how you ask for feedback.
Case in point: I’ve always had a clearly linked Contact Us form at The Quotations Page. Sure, I get mail from people asking me to do their homework or trying to contact Oprah, but it does get me some useful feedback as well, particularly when a reader notices an error in a quotation.
I noticed a problem a few months ago. People were emailing me corrections, but not saying where exactly they found the error, so I’d have to search through the database to find the problem, or email them back for clarification. So I added a comment link directly on each individual quotation page, and set it up to email me a link to directly edit the item with the comments.
It worked—now the corrections readers send me are easier to handle. But here’s the surprise: after making that change the number of corrections I received each month went from two or three to twenty or thirty. Thanks to these comments, I made more corrections to the site in the last quarter of 2004 than the first three quarters combined.
In retrospect, the conclusions seem obvious: Assuming you want as much feedback as possible from readers, you should make it as easy as possible for them to reach you. You may need to experiment with different comment forms, link locations, or link text to get the best response. Your readers are probably happy to help improve your site—they just want to do it with a minimum of effort.