Kayce Basques

Results From The Generic/Specific Feedback Prompts Experiment

Technical Writing

I conducted a scientific experiment to find out if specific, more personal requests for feedback generate more responses than generic ones. The results reject the hypothesis. More personal requests for feedback do not generate more responses than generic ones.

The experiment

I conducted an A/B test in What's New in DevTools (Chrome 67).

Half of the viewers got a feedback prompt with the following generic text: "Was this page helpful?"

The generic feedback prompt.
Figure 1. The generic feedback prompt

The other half got a prompt with the following more specific and personal text: "How are we doing with these release notes? Did you find this post helpful?"

The more personal feedback prompt.
Figure 2. The more personal feedback prompt


The results reject the hypothesis. The more specific text did not get more responses than the generic text.

The results of the experiment.
Figure 3. The results of the experiment

The Total Events column represents the number of responses. In order to confirm my hypothesis, the specific prompt would have had to generate significantly more responses than the generic prompt.

The Avg. Value column represents the average score of each response. Clicking the No button sends a value of 0, whereas clicking Yes sends a value of 1.


When I say "significantly more responses" I don't mean statistical significance. I don't remember much from my college statistics class, but I'm pretty sure that you need very large sample sizes to achieve statistical signficance. However, I think it's important to bring the scientific method to technical writing, so I'm not going to let perfect be the enemy of good. If you know how to calculate statistical significance, feel free to send the numbers to me at kayce@basqu.es.

How I'm acting on this data: If the specific prompt had generated a few hundred more responses than the generic prompt, say 900 to 600, I would have started using specific prompts throughout my docs. But since there doesn't seem to be any noticeable difference, I'm going to stick with the shorter, more generic text.

Next steps

I'm going to follow up with another A/B test using a more aggressive version of the personalized prompt. I'm thinking that I'll include a picture of my face and write some text along the lines of "Hi! I'm Kayce. I wrote this doc. Please leave feedback. I really do use it to make better docs for you." My thinking is that if people understand that I actually look at the data and use it, they'll be more likely to respond. On the other hand, I could see my readers finding this annoying, resulting in less responses. It'll be fun to find out, either way!

In other news, I'm running a different experiment where one half of users see red feedback buttons, and the other half of users see white buttons. The red buttons do seem to generate significantly more responses. Subscribe to my mailing list to get an email when I publish the results.