Completing the loop

I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite some time as ‘the feedback loop’ is something that I think is more important in human communication than anything else - especially when it comes to technology. Many people have written about feedback loops concerning visual feedback (i.e. does a digital button react when you touch it like a real one would?) which is specific to design and my thoughts here lead on from an earlier post entitled The importance of knowing something’s happening. However, I have been obsessing about feedback loops in ALL forms of communication.

So, before we get stuck in - what is a feedback loop? Well, only yesterday I came across this fantastic post on Smashing Magazine by Loren Baxter which goes into great detail on how to design great loops - it’s definitely worth a read if you want to go in to more detail. Loren breaks out the feedback loop as such:

  1. A person takes an action,
  2. The action has one or more effects,
  3. The important effects of this action are presented back to the person,
  4. This loop is repeated regularly.

Pretty straightforward to understand but then when you start to break it down you realise just how engrained these loops are in our everyday lives: You say something to a friend, they smile, this lets you know they liked what you said. That’s a feedback loop, but it has nothing to do with design yet it is the very cornerstone of communication.

So if I’m not talking about design per se - how does any of this fit into building applications like TGTHR? Well, it’s quite simple. Think about how many loops you have opened in your life but were never closed? How many of you have sent someone a message only for them to never respond? You then begin to ask yourself why and this can have negative effects on the next time you perform a similar task. Were they too busy to respond? Maybe they haven’t seen it yet? Maybe it got lost in the ether? Maybe it’s just me.

When a loop remains open we quite often begin to question ourselves, the technology, the other person. This is bad. So we’ve thought long and hard about how we can close every loop possible in TGTHR whether that be the design communicating to you or other users. We’re not quite ready to share how we’re doing this but once the app has launched you’ll be able to see for yourself. But in the meantime, have a think about all the instances in which you’ve had no feedback - wouldn’t it have been better to have had some response so that you could process the information, learn from it & move on? Just an acknowledgement of your efforts?

As we move further towards a culture where reactions are masked by technology; everyone building new communication tools needs to think about every single loop. We’re not talking about design anymore - we’re talking about user psychology. Now go close some loops and make people happier.