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I work in an Enterprise UX environment (designing apps for use by my company). We often get feedback that seems heavily attitudinal from many of our employees. Much of this feedback seems to be based much more on preferences than impacting the ability to accomplish tasks (e.g. "I don't like the name of this button", "I would do this instead of this" etc.)

I have taken the stance that we do usability testing based on our most important tasks with the application, and let that guide our design (behavioral over attitudinal).

Some of my team seems to put a lot more stock in this preferential feedback than I do. I would rather base most of my decisions on the actual behavior, than attitudes.

So my question is, does anyone have any tips/ideas/validation for pushing back on design feedback that may be completely off-base?

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    Why is attitudinal feedback "completely off-base"? If your group is only able/willing to implement certain types of feedback, then let it be known before and after getting the feedback. Based on your description it seems like co-workers are including they're preferences because they're personally invested in the apps, which make sense. If you aren't going to bother defending or explain your choices, then I wouldn't be surprised if people stopped giving any feedback besides generic comments.
    – Tim Huynh
    Nov 27 '15 at 1:38
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There's an old saying, "Treat kind people kindly. Treat unkind people even more kindly." With the user interface, I think an analogy applies: "Take good advice seriously. Take bad advice even more seriously."

It could be that the "attitudinal feedback" is bad advice based on nothing more than an aesthetic preference. Or they don't understand the data flow or trade-offs that have already been considered. BUT: it could be that there is a kernel of truth or a rational basis to the feedback, but the user lacks the vocabulary, training, or self-awareness of their own habits and workflow to express it in a way you recognize. Or they could just be very bad communicators, regardless of the topic! (I used to work in the medical field, and patients would be "poor historians" or use technical jargon incorrectly all the time. If you take their statements at face value, you may miss something important that was just expressed in a very bad way.)

The only way to tell the difference is to get even MORE feedback from the requester (usually a phone call or in-person discussion). That's where the "Take bad advice even more seriously" part comes in.

Of course, this takes time. And it takes a bit of "emotional labor" to deal with these people who can't express themselves well. But if you have some team members that seem to put stock in the feedback, maybe they can do this extra footwork.

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Be prepared to provide hard data for your own choices, and ask them to do the same.

It will take you a lot of time and effort, but eventually they will realize that you always back up your decisions with research and facts and will stop.

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I agree that gathering individual preferences i not helpful. If you get a lot of aesthetics comments that do not converge, you might point out that a Visual Design overall might be beneficial. Otherwise, you can drill further when the participant provides that kind of feedback, to try to unearth underlying issues. Such as: "I don't like the color of this button." "Why not?" "Because I worry I will confused it with this other action on the other app the team has to use all the time."

Based on this, you could do two things for instance: Decide to instrument how often press the button accidentally. Or you could treat it as pure aesthetic and benchmark aesthetic to make sure it does not degrade, and potentially to compare it to other products.

You should not dismiss aesthetics wholesale, since there is ample evidence that aesthetic has a strong impact on perceived usability.

The Effect of Aesthetics on Web Credibility argues that the look of the website can make you look more or less legit.

Attention web designers: You have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression! says that it only takes 50ms for people to make up their mind, hence the importance of aesthetics.

Don Norman even argues that beautiful is sometimes more impactful than usable: Emotion and Design: Attractive things work better. This has to do with perceived usability instead of actual usability, as explained in What is beautiful is usable.

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I wouldn't say that design feedback is off-base. Feedback is always valid for whoever is giving that feedback. That doesn't necessarily mean that you will take action on that feedback.

Whether to take action, and what action to take, depends on how the feedback comes in. If it is offered outside of your normal feedback-gathering mechanisms, you can keep track of it. That allows you to observe over time and see if you get other natural feedback like it. When you are conducting your next round of user research, you could add questions or tasks to see whether others have similar opinions.

It is always worthwhile to know the difference between attitude and behavior. That does not mean that it is valid to discard opinions. If there is a marked difference between attitude and behavior, you can try to bring the two more in line with each other through an improved design.

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I wouldn't push it off-base, mostly because emotional feedback is normally more important in users' decision-making process than the rational one.

This being said, the feedback samples you have provided do not seem as an attitude to me, if a person doesn't like a certain phrasing or a certain solution it's for a reason they don't like it and typically when they communicate that reason, it makes perfect sense.

As an UX specialist, one is in a perfect position to gather that data and make decisions on top of it. UX person can always decide to override users' opinions, if they have a valid justification to do so.

However if you feel this kind of feedback is given merely to bully you personally and meddle with your processes (it happens), it's a sound issue and your superior should handle this.

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