Redesign was never the slippery road it is now.
Every other week brings reports of established web brands facing the wrath of users because of design and functionality related changes. Windows is probably the most recent example of a brand that bowed to web uproar over such changes. This is what happened;
In Windows 8, the company decided to do away with the start button which people were literally habitual to. The tiny button on the left was replaced by a tile like arrangement that served near about the same purpose. This transition seemed only normal from usability point of view but it didn’t go down well with Windows audience. It turned out people wanted the ‘start’ button and the company made the changes in the newest update.
Something similar happened to Flickr when they gave the website a complete overhaul. Presently, Flickr folks are running around, making amendments in their new platform to stop the users from leaving (we have covered the whole imbroglio in our recent post).
While there are plenty of fail examples, there is fair number of online brands that manage the design transition just fine. Pinterest is one brand that introduced design updates earlier this year without any noticeable backlash.
Facebook is another brand that manages fairly well with major functionality and design changes.
So, what makes some succeed and others fall flat on the face?
While reasons can vary with industry and audience in question, there are some points that just couldn’t be ignored before rolling out a major update. Here they are with real examples of brands that have successfully done so;
A redesign is born out of a deeply felt need to improve the website experience for visitors. Once this need crops up, ideas for design changes and improvements are thrown around. When there is finally a consensus about requirements, the development team takes over.
There are obvious difficulties in getting the real users aboard for the changes but this doesn’t mean their opinions don’t matter. This is where pilot testing comes in.
Testing introduces the changes to a group of users and helps in gaining insights about what worked and what didn’t. Testing opens the scope of reconsidering changes that didn’t garner positive response.
Pinterest followed the same route with its recent design updates and saw a smooth shift.
Take the slow route
It is a well accepted fact that ‘too much of anything is bad’ and the same should be thought of before going ahead with a major revamp. Nobody likes to wake up and see a complete makeover of his/her favorite website. Thus, taking the slow route is a wise thing to do.
Introducing changes in phases gives users the time to adapt psychologically. Another benefit of rolling out the changes in small packets is that the brand gets the time to weigh user response. In case there is too much noise surrounding any particular alteration, company can review it.
Help users to adapt
Possibly no web brand does it better than Facebook.
Whenever the social networking giant plans changes, it leaves no stone unturned to make the transition as simple as possible. It deftly uses messages, videos and media to help people get accustomed to the tweaks.
If users find it difficult to cope with the changes, there is a fair chance of base depletion and negative publicity. Hence, a web brand should take every possible step to help users adapt.
Perhaps, what’s missing is a guidebook that tech firms can follow before going ahead with major design and functionality changes. If we had been in the publishing business, we would surely have considered publishing something like;
‘Rolling Out Design Changes Without Screwing It Up’
Sadly, we are not in the publishing business. We are a web services firm and presently could make our point through this blog post only.
In case you have some other ideas or points that a website should consider before redesign or functionality changes, feel free to exploit the comments section.
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