Many of us use the Extension website mostly or exclusively for adding and organizing content, so we don’t always know how our audiences use or experience the site. Google Analytics records some quantitative statistics such as the number of visits a page receives, but it’s hard to imagine the actual human beings behind the numbers. When you say that a page got 10,000 pageviews, all that you know is that the page was requested that many times. If you want to actually improve the content on the page, you need to ask more “qualitative” questions such as:
- Did these visitors find the information they were looking for?
- What did they do most often on the page?
- Were they able to understand the content?
This summer, EESC implemented a few new features on the Extension website that collect qualitative data and answer these kinds of questions.
Collecting audience feedback
The first feature is a “feedback widget” on the right-hand side of every page:
When a visitor clicks on the widget, a small window comes up asking them “Did you find what you were looking for?” They then score a page on a scale of 1-5 (represented by smiley faces). After they score the page, they have the opportunity to leave a comment and, optionally, their email address if they would like a response to the comment.
Another way we are collecting visitor feedback is a “poll” we have set up on all 4-H pages. We can set up similar polls on other pages, but we decided to focus on 4-H for the summer because we knew 4-H members would be using the site heavily for fair season.
This window, asking “Quick question: How can we improve this page? Is anything missing?”, pops up from the bottom of the page after a visitor has had a chance to look around for several seconds. When they comment, they also have the option to leave their email address if they would like a response.
Finally, at the bottom of most pages, visitors see a small form asking “Was this page helpful?” They can select “Yes” or “No” and have an option to leave a (non-public) comment.
So far, through all three tools, feedback has been left 10,126 times. Of these, 8,659 (~86%) were positive. Comments were left along with the rating 1,175 times.
Finding the feedback on your content
Content authors and group members can view feedback on their content directly through the Extension website.
To view feedback (including comments) for an individual piece of content:
- Go to the content
- Click the “Feedback” tab under the content’s title. It is one of the blue links near the “Edit” tab.
To see an overview of feedback scores for all content in a group:
- Go to that group’s group content page (the list of content in the group).
- Click the “Feedback” tab under the group name. This will take you to a list of all content with feedback in the group.
- To see the comments left for a particular piece of content, you can click on “Details” in it’s row on this page.
Seeing audience behavior
EESC also has access to a tool to create “heat maps” of individual pages. A heat map is an overlay over the page that shows where visitors to that page click (or just hover) their mouse. Where people click more often (or hover longer), the colored overlay is brighter. For example, here is part of a heat map of a previous version of the home page:
Heat maps are very useful for figuring out what controls on the page people use the most. When you know that, you can prioritize what controls or links should be in these more prominent spots. If you have made changes to a topic page, county page, or program subpage and want to see what people are clicking on or how far they scroll down the page, please contact us and we can work with you using this tool.
Takeaways and lessons
EESC has been using data from visitor feedback to plan several improvements for the site, including:
- Several users left comments to the effect that they couldn’t figure out phone/visiting situation with our Portland office, so we are planning to make some small design updates for that page that will make it clearer.
- We noticed that several visitors who left a comment saying they were unable to submit an Ask an Expert question were all using a particular version of the Android operating system. This gave us a clue about where to start looking for glitches in the system.
- We used heat maps to help with designs for several program landing pages and the website home page.
Feedback, particularly comments, can also be very useful to content authors. Many times a visitor will ask a follow-up question or request further information that maybe wasn’t originally included, and they can reveal places where the information isn’t clear or is outdated. It’s useful to look at the “feedback” tab when updating your content.
Here are some general tips for improving content based on common visitor feedback:
- Use high-quality, illustrative images. Many users comment about the images (or lack thereof) that go with an article. Most are asking for images on articles that don’t have any, and others compliment the quality of our existing images.
- Keep your writing as short and clear as possible. When giving positive feedback about our content, visitors often use words like “succinct”, “concise”, “brief”, “clear” and “quick”. These are qualities that leave a positive impression on readers and make the information easier to understand and use.
- Put important links on the main page (i.e., not just the sidebar). From heat maps, we know that when visitors first come to a page, they often skip over the sidebar and focus on content on the “main” part of the page. This is especially true on mobile, where the sidebar gets pushed to the top of the page before visitors can get any context. Quick link bars are a great option for highlighting important links, such as links to newsletters, event lists, or active social media profiles.
Sample positive feedback
The Extension website has an overwhelmingly positive rating from visitors, and it is important that everyone who has contributed it hears it. In that spirit, here are just some of the supportive and positive comments left by visitors to the Extension website. You may also want to look at these as examples to get ideas for your own content:
- 4-H forms and events
- “I really appreciate the details you have put here for us to have access to on the weekends! Thank you for helping our kids!!” [State 4-H record books page – kudos to the state 4-H team!]
- “Thank You So Much. We don’t have enough info about Record Books and this helps outs Tremendously!” [Benton County 4-H record books page – kudos to the Benton County 4-H team!]
- “Great page and really like that you can share the link with others!” [Horse judging and hippology contest – kudos to the Clackamas County 4-H team!]
- Educational articles
- “Wonderful article! I would love to learn more in a part 2. We just bought a home with highbush blueberries in poor condition and are wondering how to best reclaim these plants.” [How blueberry plants develop and grow – kudos to Bernadine Strik and the Ag/Berries content team!]
- “Thanks. Your comments are greatly appreciated. They have given me a new perspective on how to deal with Powdery Mildew early in the season.” [How to deal with a vineyard powdery mildew outbreak – kudos to Jay Pscheidt and the Ag/Wine grapes team!]
- “Thank you very much for the information provided in this article. I am just thinking about pasture and have no experience. This is a great start for northern pasture growers and I hope it will be beneficial to my starting out.” [Pasture and grazing management – kudos to the Ag/Dairy team!]
- “Lots of information and the pictures really helped thanks.” [What are those worms in my firewood? – kudos to the Forestry and Natural Resources team!]
- Educational collections
- “Thank you so much for making this information available, and all the work that went into it! I appreciate it very much! And thank you also for making it affordable, this is a huge help to me. Have a great day!” [Native plant gardening – kudos to the Ag/Home Hort team!]
- “Thank you for making so much of your information easily available! So grateful for it.” [Poultry resources for small farms – kudos to the Small Farms team!]
- Educational videos
- “I like them. Easy to try out, and following the steps well.” [Basic stepping – kudos to the Better Bones and Balance team!]
- “We love the OSU Extension Service. You have provided a wealth of information to us over the years and we are so thankful. You are always gracious and kind and willing to share your knowledge, expertise and tips! Way-to-go, Beavs!!” [Master Gardener Fall Festival – kudos to the Lane County team!]
- “I am hoping I can go!!! I currently do my own chili meat but have not had any formal education in pressure canning meat. This looks great.” [Pressure canning convenience foods workshop – kudos to the Deschutes County team!]
- “All of the information that I needed was on this page. Great job!” [Thinning and Selective Management in Mature Forests – kudos to the Clackamas County team!]
- Focus areas
- “Moving in the spring to Salem. Looking forward to starting a new garden. I’ll be back to this site… (and back, and back, and…)” [Community Horticulture, Marion County – kudos to the Marion County team!]
- Program information
- “Excellent lessons for seniors! I will use them in my Cooperative Extension Classes in NJ Thank you!” [FCE Lessons, health topics – kudos to the Family and Community Educators team!]
- “I’m new to Oregon and hungry for any information about my new home. I have always wanted to be a Master Gardener and am delighted to have the possibility to combine these two goals. Thank you very much!”’ [Linn/Benton MG, How to join – Kudos to the Linn-Benton MG team!]
- “Thank you! You took the frustration out of finding the info. This was one of the main reasons I wait until the last minute to fill out my forms – to avoid the hassle. Now, it seems it will be easy, so I can and will do it right away in the future!!” [Metro MG 2019 volunteer log sheet – kudos to the Metro MG team!]
(Some comments have been edited for readability.)