Designing for change is about keeping users in control

Great post by Christina Wodtke on change: User don’t hate change. They hate you.

The first point is critical: user’s don’t hate change. This knee-jerk explanation is almost always wrong. What people don’t like is to have to re-learn something they already knew. They don’t like starting over. They don’t like being forced to change when they’re busy getting work done. It’s easy for designers to assume the new thing is better “at least it’s better than what we had before” but if the user was actually using the previous version then it’s a huge disruption.

So, it’s really about control. It’s about keeping your users in control of their experience. If you must make a big change, then give them control over it by choosing when it happens to them. A simple way to do this is a new feature toggle that lets people move over and back to the new feature. Use a toggle for a while (most people will move over if it’s a positive change) and then clearly warn people that it’s going away. In other words, you have to design the change.

Read the whole thing. Christina references one of the best articles on new product adoption, John Gourville’s Eager Sellers and Stoney Buyers. Still one of the best HBR articles on product design.

Published: September 30th, 2013