Follow-up: Feedback Hub feedback

After last weeks “The Windows Insider Program has lost its way” fenzy, part 1 and the follow-up part 2, you may think “Certainly he’s done now”. And as said at the end in part 2: Nope. I left 2 major things out of that follow-up because I think they deserve their own article. So here we go with number one: the Feedback Hub.

The Feedback Hub as it was on July 22nd.

The Feedback Hub —earlier known as Windows Feedback — is the place to be for Insiders to file feedback. After the release of Windows 10 version 1507, Microsoft opened it up to all users of its OS. The Feedback Hub as it stands today actually started as both the Insider Hub and Windows Feedback.

Throughout the coming story, I’ll point out a number of things that I think are wrong wth the Feedback Hub. Whenever I do that, I’ll write down a number like this: (1). If you agree, feel free to scroll down to the bottom of this article and click on the link of the corresponding number, it will send you to the Feedback Hub (as long as you have the Anniversary Update, Creators Update or Fall Creators Update) and you can upvote the problem/suggestion there.

Filing feedback

Define “feedback”

Filing feedback is the most important part of the Feedback Hub, which is probably why it is called that way. So before we get started, what is “feedback” in general.

feedback
/ˈfiːdbak/
noun
information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.

Note how it doesn’t say anything about whether feedback is positive or negative. Feedback can be one, the other, both at the same time or neither. But here’s the thing: negative feedback is often the most valuable feedback developers can get. Negative feedback doesn’t mean you’re insulting someone or something, or are just generally hating on whatever the feedback is about. Because these things aren’t feedback.

Negative feedback is something like… well… scroll up and click on “part 1” and “part 2”. That’s negative feedback. Perhaps it is better if I let Rudy Huyn explain it to you:

Types of feedback in the Feedback Hub

Now, I would like to divide the types of feedback that can be found in the Feedback Hub, because I believe there are 4:

  • Suggestion: a suggestion is a feature request, an improvement to the OS, perhaps a graphical change. The things found in these kinds of feedback should improve the UX.
  • Problems: problems are bugs. This is the type you should report whenever you find Windows behaves differently from what you should expect.

So… Those are the options the Feedback Hub provides. But then… uhm… what’s the third and fourth type of feedback? Well…

  • Upvote: an upvote is neither a suggestion nor a problem, it is just a “Hey, me too!” note. Despite how insignificant they may seem, obviously they are important. The more upvotes something has the more Microsoft will notice.
  • Comments: like upvotes, these aren’t items you post directly to the Feedback Hub, comments are made upon suggestions and problems. They either give another insight, are a more extensive “me too”, or give more details about how to reproduce a bug.

New feedback

Right out of the gate, I would like to say that I think that there isn’t much wrong with the “New feedback” form. And I say “not much” because despite it being a form that would do fine for any beta program, for the Windows Insider Program and the simple fact that even non-Insiders have access to this thing, it isn’t. The simple reason is: it’s isn’t foolproof. Other problems with it are more in the details.

(1) I think that Microsoft should either rename or properly define what “Suggestion” and “Problem” means. Because in some situations, these words are just a point of perspective. People familiar with the matter know exactly what falls under either category. Example: flac support. Many people report the lack of support for flac-audio files as “problem”. But the lack of support for a certain filetype isn’t a problem, it’s a request to actually start supporting it. The only reason such a things should be filed under “Problem” is if it is actually supposed to be there. So either Microsoft should rename these options or properly define them.

Another major issue in the Feedback Hub is, in my opinion, the list of duplicates. The majority of the feedback reported in the Feedback Hub are duplicates of previously reported bugs or requests. Microsoft has tried to solve this with Collections, and while that does improve things slightly, it doesn’t fix it and it the end, it doesn’t keep people from making duplicates. (2) The “New feedback” form will suggest a category based on the feedback you’re trying to add to the Hub… So… why not also suggest issues that look similar? The Feedback Hub should, upon an user trying to save the feedback say “Hey, thanks for the feedback, but we found other items that look similar, are you sure yours isn’t a duplicate?”.

(3) Another issue I have with this form is the limit of 1000 characters for the “Give us more details”, in my opinion this is not enough. Especially not if you want to do a details bug report. (4) After you’ve submitted your feedback, you’ll get to see a “Thank you” page. While nice to let us know that you appreciate the effort, this isn’t a helpful page. All of this can be summarized in a banner displayed above the feedback you just submitted. Why above that? Because it would mean that after submitting feedback, you would get redirected to your own feedback where you could easily go and get that share link. Now, you need to dismiss this message, go to your own feedback, reset the filters if necessary, find your newly submitted feedback item and click on share. This is overly complicated for something that could be done in 1 click, simply by making this message a banner rather than a page.

Feedback details

Feedback details is where you can view… details of feedback.

Random screenshot. Just don’t.

First of all: “Report abuse”. Here is another example of ill-defined buttons. (5) And actually, it isn’t even a button, it is a toggle that once clicked, can’t be turned off again. But what is “Abuse”. I can’t imagen Microsoft isn’t getting a lot of false positives from this because people do not agree or hit it accidentally (there is in fact a lot of feedback on this). (6) More importantly: I would change it into a “Report a problem” button which would send you to a form, or at least a single set of radio buttons where you can tell them what’s wrong with it. Why? Because we need an option to be able to point out feedback that doesn’t belong in the Feedback Hub, feedback that is a duplicate (and perhaps provide a link to said duplicate, or even collection), etc. Basically, don’t just let us “Report abuse”, let us help you manage the Feedback Hub. And if not all of us, at least some “Verified” Insiders.

(7) Finally, and the first bug I’ll point out in this story, see the “Previous” and “Next” links in the screenshot above? “Previous” is correctly deactivated, but “Next” is clickable, suggesting that there are more comments. But there aren’t, for some reason, the Feedback Hub shows these links no matter if there is anything to show.

Feedback search

(8) On the main page of the Feedback-section, there is no pagination. You can only see 50 results for any query you throw at it. This seems weird to me, a should be improved.

Feedback can be “labeled” (I’m not sure what Microsoft calls these things internally) with a status like “We’re looking into it”, “Changes made”, etc. (9) First of all, I believe that suggestions and bugfixes that have been implemented should be hidden by default. This only muddies the waters to find feedback that is still relevant.

(10) And while we’re at it, why can’t we filter on these labels? Especially the feedback that is labeled “Looking into it” seems to be interesting to me to know where this product is heading next. And give those labels some colors…

Announcements

Back in the day, Microsoft used to use the “Announcements”-section of the Feedback Hub to do more than just announce new builds. At one point, they made separate articles for known issues and gave those articles a label as such. Also, it once got used to tell us other stories about the team behind Windows 10, how they did the things they do and how we helped them change Windows. This story isn’t about the content of this “blog”.

(11) Here, Microsoft should introduce categories. In fact, the Feedback Hub once had this, but solely for “Known issues”. Categories could include “Build announcements”, “Made By You”, etc. This would, once again, make navigating the Feedback Hub easier as well as making it easier to find older stories, instead of having to scroll through all of them you can just click on the filter and go.

Profile

“Hey! You skipped Quests.” I don’t have much to say about quests. So yeah…

The profile is basically where you can find what you’ve done. Or at least, I believe that that is what a profile should be used for. Sure, Feedback already has a “My feedback”-tab in its pivot, but this kinda feels like a thing that belongs here in the Profile. (12) In general, the Profile needs to become more useful.

Achievements

Achievements is a game-like system where Insiders can gain badges for doing certain tasks and reaching certain goals. Microsoft introduced this system at the beginning of the Insider Program and… never updated it since.

The achievements today are still the same as they were 3 years ago. There are 3 achievements for providing feedback, receiving upvotes and finishing quests each. These are all easy-to-reach goals. On top of that, there is an achievement of becoming an Insider, being here while a version of Windows gets shipped (they did this for all versions of Windows 10 until the Anniversary Update and for Windows 10 Mobile), an achievement for Windows 10’s anniversary and achievements for each and every bug bash. Microsoft promised more a few months into the program, but that still hasn’t happened.

Now, I do not believe that Achievements are the best of ideas in a non-game project to begin with, but I do believe that this might help people to get more engaged in this. So, why do I not believe that this is the best way to go? Because some people will only try to collect these badges, resulting in abuse of the system and that abuse will manifest itself in horrible feedback, if not just spam. For the people that do actually use the Feedback Hub for what its meant, to the people that do use the Feedback Hub for what its meant, it isn’t much of an addition either because these people probably don’t care for those badges. In the end, they are just a fun gimmick to them (and I’m one of those people).

There is, however, a silver lining in between there. There are people that want to collect these badges but are restrained enough to only progress when their contribution is valuable. (13) For those people, there should be more badges and probably also of more varieties.

Feedback Hub notifications

(14) Every now and then, the Feedback Hub will throw a notification at you asking you if you like something or not. Notifications can be interacted with and for a matter of fact, these things can be quite advanced. Advanced enough to put a small form in them. So what does the Feedback Hub do? It allows you to post your feedback through those notifications to make sure that you’re not pulled out of your workflow of course!

Yeah… nope. It does not. The notifications are static text and once you click them, the Feedback Hub launches and takes you through filing your feedback. This isn’t how this should work. I for one would file more feedback if it were like this because it would just take less time and my workflow wouldn’t get broken.

(15) Having said that… “How likely are you to recommend this build of Windows 10 to friends?”. Seriously Microsoft? I’m on Insider Previews, I’m sane, I’m not going to recommend my friends to join the Windows Insider Program. These people are regular PC users, what the heck should they do with the Insider Program?

Interface

Finally, I would like to have a word about the Feedback Hub UI. This is supposed to be an app where Insiders spend hours in. The UI should be at least somewhat inviting, fast and productive. Instead, we get an all-black (or white) UI, with slow feedback search.

Just implementing Fluent Design here would do a lot of good already. A nice separation between the SplitView panes on its own would already be a nice enhancement to separate the navigation better from the content. But more importantly is an eye for detail.

Feedback Hub uses 2 different scrollbars, one that is theme-aware, the other is not. One collapses, the other does not.
Feedback is oddly misaligned within its highlight box.
Home uses the same strange padding, but a different highlight.
And the quest highlight isn’t any better. The screenshot should go edge-to-edge and the title and date should have a slightly lighter background.

The Feedback Hub team should take a page out of Groove’s book when it comes to design. With one exception: the title bar. They should integrate the title bar in the Feedback Hub’s design like seen in many concept, something that Groove currently lacks as well.

I do not have feedback items on these ones as I hope that once the Fluent Design System gets applied to Feedback Hub a lot of these issues will get fixed. If not, I’ll start complaining anyways.

Bottom line

The Feedback Hub has come a long way yet it is far from perfect. As you may have noticed, this story is more about improving existing features of the app than it is about adding new ones. Why? Because I believe Microsoft should first improve what it already has before thinking about adding new features.

Right now, due to the nature of the Windows Insider Program and the fact that this app is available to all users, the most important change that should be made is to make it more fool-proof, but another change lies more in management from Microsoft’s side: the Feedback Hub should be kept clean and focusses for Insiders to find what they want to provide feedback on much easier than is now possible. Still to many duplicates are made, and honestly, we can’t really blame Insiders for this.

Trying to search anything in the Feedback Hub will most often lead to 1 feedback item that is actually relevant, a number of duplicates, some nonsense and feedback that has already been applied to the OS. Basically, many issues could be resolved by cleaning up and improving search.

Get your Feedback Hub links here

  1. Define “Suggestion” and “Problem”, or rename these options: https://aka.ms/Lc6acu
  2. Show “Similar feedback”: https://aka.ms/Gli41t
  3. Bump the 1000 characters limit in “Give us more detail”: https://aka.ms/Oyrna7
  4. Redirect to our feedback after submitting it for easy access to share it: https://aka.ms/Udo6xs
  5. Make “Report abuse” reversable: https://aka.ms/x1rzmr
  6. Improve “Report abuse”, and let us help you clean up the Feedback Hub: https://aka.ms/Askx11
  7. Hide “Previous” and “Next” links in “Feedback details”: https://aka.ms/Fe9749
  8. Paginate search results for feedback: https://aka.ms/K9l9dg
  9. Hide feedback with “Changes made” by default in results: https://aka.ms/Umhmir
  10. Allow us to filter on feedback status: https://aka.ms/M60pl6
  11. Use categories in announcements and allow us to filter on those: https://aka.ms/O64q3d
  12. Make the profile more useful: https://aka.ms/Fucjl7
  13. Add more achievements or rewards for using the Feedback Hub: https://aka.ms/Sccs07
  14. Make Feedback Hub notifications interactive: https://aka.ms/Ygfqyt
  15. Stop asking me of I would “Recommend this build”: https://aka.ms/S2oer8
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