I posted this mini-rant in a recent gleanings.
Rant #215. Do usability testing at the beginning of a project, not just at the end. Too many redesigns break what was already working.
People would rather keep using something broken they’ve already learned how to cope with than have to learn something completely new. In a Jupiter Consumer Survey, 44 percent of respondents indicated that they react negatively to changes in site layout, functionality, and look-and-feel, with 24 percent of total respondents exploring alternative sites as a direct result of the relaunch. Do you really want to lose 24% of your customer base? Do you?
and david responded
While I wholeheartedly agree with you about the need for testing throughout the life cycle of a project, I think your rant is a little too definitive. It could be inferred from your comments that we have only one chance to get it right with a website and that, if we blow it, that’s too bad because we can’t change it for fear of losing that 24%. Of course, the reality is that if we do redesign, and we do it correctly, we may lose that 24%, but gain enough new users to more than compensate for that loss. Not to mention enhancing the goodwill and strengthening the loyalty of those who choose to stay after a redesign.
I have seen too many examples from projects that I have worked on where the increase in users has gone through the roof after a competent redesign. And I’m not just talking about curious users who want to see what’s new. In several cases, I have seen conversion rates double and even triple. In addition to usability testing, that post-launch tracking and analysis is crucial. The company I work for has finally realized the value of being able to hold up concrete figures that say things like “we redesigned the site for Company X and their sales increased 500%”.
I think that a lot of people fall into the “homo neophobe” category, even those who use the Internet.
“Change is bad! I don’t like Change!” I wonder, of those 44% who bitch (and the 24% who leave) how many end up preferring the new site? Another thing to consider: what if the it’s not the act of redesigning that caused the negative reaction, but the actual redesign itself? I have stopped using news.com, for example.
Although that decision was based partly in the ugly-ass redesign they just did, the largest factor in that decision was the introduction of those enormous ads that take up 45% or so of the content area. I used to go to the site for the articles. Now the articles have been obscured by ads, so I’m going to get my tech news elsewhere. I would love to see a more thorough study of the effects of a site redesign.