Why your users hate your flashy new design (and what to do about it)

You feel excited as your new design or update rolls out to customers. And why wouldn’t you? After all, you’re one step closer to perfection. You’ve made it better.

But your users aren’t as pleased as you’d hoped. They criticise the changes that you were most pleased with; they ask to go back to the old design. It’s disheartening. Why don’t they like your changes, or appreciate the product progress?

It’s known as change aversion, and it happens for a variety of reasons.

Why your users hate your new design

Sometimes, users reacting adversely to a new design is down to sentiment.  Nostalgia and familiarity create a fondness for the legacy version. In every aspect of our lives, longevity and familiarity endear us towards products and businesses. So, when things change, we miss the ‘good old days’.

Plus, your users are accustomed to the experience of your old product. This means they have expectations about what it can do, the way it looks and how to use it. So, users get frustrated when your flashy new design throws the baby out with the bathwater.

Sometimes, our new designs don’t just fix issues and add useful features. They might inadvertently take away, or otherwise obscure access, to functionality that users depend on. When your flashy new design renders your product unusable for them, is it any wonder users get upset?

The cost of a flashy new design

In some cases, users may hate your new design due to what they perceive it will cost them. Instead of seeing all the benefits and efficiency boosts your redesign offers, some users will see change come at the expense of resources and productivity.

Time and effort have been spent learning how to use your product and its old design. So, imagine how stressful it is when users log on one day, only to find that they don’t know how to use the product anymore. Experienced users are reduced to novices, making them feel stupid.

Plus, a new design or update can also mean that users take a productivity hit. It disrupts the routine and quick tasks, which instead become a long-winded foray through unknown territory.

So, users can lose productivity while being forced to spend resources re-learning how to use your program — when the old one would have worked fine. That disruption builds resentment against your flashy new design.

What to do when users hate your update

You know your design isn’t bad, or even all that different from the last one. What’s upsetting your users is the lack of perceived benefits to them, and the perceived costs of the change. So, by reducing the friction of your new design, users will be able to start warming to it.

One way to do this is through strong support materials. Whenever you release a new update or upgrade, you need to offer a strong support service to help customers migrate. Hold their hands through the change and make it as easy for them as possible.

That means going beyond your help files and ‘contact us’ page. You’ll need to give upgrade instructions and in-app help. Make video tutorials available, and easy access to real-time human support for any users still struggling.

Secondly, when users are complaining about your flashy new design, listen to the feedback they’re giving. After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Listening to customer feedback during an update can give you insight into possible buried functionality. Plus, it will uncover unknown customer pain points with product changes.

How to reduce the hate next time…

A big reason that users hate your flashy new design is that it throws a spanner in their workflows and disrupts productivity. A way to combat this is to manage the scale of the changes you make. Instead of making big, disruptive changes to your design and product, change little and often. Small changes are more manageable for users and reduce the perceived disruption and re-learning effort.

Communicate in advance. As with anything, success in managing new designs comes down to managing user expectations. When you release a product without warning, you catch your users off-guard. That’s sure to elicit a defensive response. If instead you communicate your intentions and the benefits that lie ahead, users will be more open and willing to give the change a try.

Finally, take it slow. Let users keep the comfort blanket of the old version, while they explore your new release. Users will be more willing to try out a new interface if they have the choice to go back to the old one until they know how to use it. Fade out the previous version slowly, instead of pulling it from under your user’s feet.

Experience > aesthetics

You need to make changes to your product and your designs — whether they’re to perfect the product, or fix something that’s broken. It’s how your product and your business will grow.

Dismissing the upset your redesign triggers in users as ‘inevitable’ and asserting that ‘they’ll get over it’ is easy. It’s true that, eventually, your users will settle into the new design. But not before you’ve hurt your brand perception and damaged the user experience.

Change aversion is easily mitigated by easing users into change, rather than blindsiding them with too much at once. So, don’t prioritise your flashy new design over offering a quality user experience.

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