The digital age has revolutionized the way work is done—especially with the rise of remote work.

This is ideal for design and product development teams. Gathering user feedback when designing an app or website is simpler than ever, thanks to the many communication apps and collaboration tools available.

But not all tools and communication styles are equal: Your current method of gathering user feedback might be more harmful than helpful.

Gathering user feedback: Synchronous vs. asynchronous communication

Collecting useful and actionable user feedback is critical for developing digital products users will love. There are two communication methods you can use to gather this feedback: synchronous and asynchronous.

What is synchronous communication?

Synchronous, or real-time, communication involves anything that requires an immediate response. Examples include in-person meetings and real-time chat messaging apps.

At first glance, this may seem like the ideal communication method; after all, immediate responses lead to a faster working pace. However, real-time communication can actually be a silent productivity killer. Here are a few reasons:

  • Constant interruptions. Notifications from synchronous collaboration tools are a distraction that cause team members and clients to lose focus on the tasks at hand.
  • Communication fatigue. This happens when you’re overloaded with information, typically when a lot of information is being sent back and forth between you and your client/user.
  • Diminished feedback quality. Since user feedback is required immediately, there’s no opportunity to think through responses. As a result, users don’t give them as much thought as they should.

What is asynchronous communication?

Asynchronous (async) communication is any type of communication that doesn’t require an immediate response, like the ticketing system used for customer support.

While async communication might seem counterintuitive—even counterproductive—it offers a lot of benefits when you’re developing a digital product, including:

  • No more timezone headaches. If your users (or team) are scattered across different timezones, communicating in real time can be a pain. But with async communication, stakeholders can access and process information at their convenience.
  • Improved feedback quality. Because users can digest information at a more relaxed pace, they’re better able to give you well-thought-out feedback.
  • More control. Since team members and users aren’t under pressure to quickly digest information and give feedback immediately, they have more control over how they work together. The result is less stress on both ends and improved productivity.
  • Documentation for future use. Whether it’s an email, recorded video, or any other asynchronous method you use to collect feedback, it all gets documented for future use or reference.

By favoring quality over speed, async communication is the perfect method to get the feedback you need.

How to do async communication the right way

Now that you’ve seen the beauty and power of async communication, let’s dive into some strategies to help you use it to gather user feedback.

1. Design a clear and logical communication system

For your async communication to be effective, you need to design a system that’s logical and easy to use. From labels to naming conventions to procedures to follow, make everything as simple to navigate as possible.

2. Set timing expectations

Assuming that feedback will come within a reasonable timeframe will only lead to broken collaboration. To ensure the smooth flow of communication and, ultimately, projects, you have to set parameters on when feedback is expected.

3. Be thorough in your communication

One drawback of async communication is that feedback is not immediate. To make it useful, you need to ensure every message is as thorough as possible. To do this:

  • Design feedback forms that encourage users to be descriptive.
  • Incorporate the use of visuals such as screenshots, and annotate them whenever possible.
  • Don’t use acronyms or jargon.

With async communication, there’s no such thing as over-communicating—the more explicit, the better.

How to use Marker.io to simplify your process

Async communication should be easy, smooth, and effective—and Marker.io ticks all those boxes and more. Here’s how simple it is:

  • Create a “destination” (a client project that you pull from your preferred project management tool).
  • Invite your client to report feedback on their website or other digital product.
  • When your client/user receives your invitation, they provide feedback through their Marker.io dashboard (which also features status updates).  Before clients can do this, they’ll need to install the Marker.io browser extension. This will help them give you feedback directly from your tools—with annotated screenshots.  

. . . and that’s it!

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Thanks to our handy dashboard, obtaining user feedback and collaborating on projects has never been easier—check out this video to learn more.

Async is the key to quality feedback—and great digital products

Creating top-notch digital products requires clear, useful feedback. And the best way to get it is by adopting an async communication style.