band-aid approach to changing product UI

Changing a product’s UI is a bit like removing a band-aid. There can be two approaches and both have a level of pain associated with them. One could publish the new product UI overhaul all at once, this is the equivalent to ripping off a band-aid. It’s a short transition but the pain can be somewhat intense to the end users who need to learn the new look and feel. The other approach is to gradually shift the UI from one look to another. This is the equivalent to slowly pulling the band-aid off which lengthens the pain (in this case, to the software development team) but lessens the intensity to the end users while the transition occurs.

I recently read an article about this topic which seemed highly relevant to feedback I once heard from an end user of the software I was managing. The article looks at the two approaches when transitioning the UI in a dramatic way and suggests that each approach has its benefits, but it depends on who your target audience is to determine which approach is best. In my case, the software I was managing was business-related, not consumer. The feedback from the end-user, when reviewing some potential UI changes that the team was getting ready to release gave us two critical points of feedback.

First, we received confirmation that the changes to the UI were good and she liked the new design (always a win). What she also shared which was surprising at the time was that although the changes were, in her opinion better, she was concerned that when released it would impact her ability to stay efficient at her job. Our software helped her research and status various tasks and she was measured on how fast she could get through the tasks. Although the new UI would eventually make her more efficient, she was so used to the way things were that she was concerned that the ramp-up time to learn the new UI would decrease her productivity in the short term. Even with an improvement, releasing this change to the end users all at once was potentially going to cause more pain than they wanted. Essentially, her feedback was saying that ripping off the band-aid was not a good approach for our end users.

This lesson is the same in the article which suggests that although many popular software companies like Facebook, seem to significantly adjust their UI all the time, the fact that they are consumer focused gives them a different liberty to do so than a business focused piece of software. They may cause some pain to their end users but they also present a new sense of interest and excitement with their products by making major changes all at once which is also valuable. For businesses however, the slow-removal band-aid approach is better and allows for less pain and adjustment without hurting productivity. Gradually introducing new UI concepts, or offering a beta trial (while the old UI is still available) helps transition business users over without too much pain.

The biggest take-away however was that when making the decision to rip or pull slowly, keeping the impact of the end-users in mind is the best way to make the right choice.


Read more about Making Drastic Changes to UI: Consumer vs. Business Apps

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Pete Dudchenko

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