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I've noticed a few sites that allow the user to toggle between a new and old version of a feature or site like Google used on their Forms redesign. We are currently trying to figure out how to let users play with both an old version of a feature that they are used to and let them explore a completely new way of completing the same task. This will be for mobile. We are considering using a toggle at the top of the screen to let the user explore their two options to complete the task.

Has anyone let their users have access to two versions?

  • Is the idea to have two sites running parallel which a user can swap between at their own will or is this along the lines of you introducing a new version and seeing how users react? E.g. display your current version and let the user view a beta version. – sclarke Jan 3 '18 at 10:13
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When should you let users toggle between and old and new version of a site or feature?

This is an appropriate strategy to use when the legacy version of what you’ve redesigned is supporting a high volume of business-critical traffic. It provides continuity for the “I like things the way they are” audience and gives them the option vs forcing them to change. Even if testing suggests people will adopt it, it’s better to make it optional as long as you can.

It also allows you to compare old version traffic vs new version traffic conversion paths via Google analytics or Visual Website Optimizer or some other analysis tool. Then you can see if there are obvious patterns or correlations and fine-tune your new design if you need.

A few years ago I helped update an e-commerce ordering UI that was supporting thousands of daily transactions. We were very careful about rolling the new version out and provided this “toggle legacy version” mechanism for users to opt out of the redesigned experience to use the old one.

We also tracked that toggle click as an event (“Go back to the classic site”) so that over time we could see fewer people reverting as more and more of them made the choice to just stick with the new design. Eventually when that number fell below a certain threshold, we were more comfortable with moving towards taking it offline altogether and “sunsetting” so we wouldn’t have to support 2 UIs.

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If you do expose a beta version for users, be prepared to scrap it, if they prefer the old site.

Recently one of my daily faves did this. Surfline -- http://www.surfline.com/home/index.cfm -- debuted a new site design last summer. I tried out the beta version. It had some good features, but ultimately the old site made it easier to get to key content quickly (cams, tides, and buoy reports).

I guess a lot of other users felt the same way. Surfline quietly withdrew the beta version and we're happily surfing the old version now.

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I think often this is a suitable strategy when you have a large existing user base but also a growing number of new users, and you want to try and test which design works better in the long run without asking one group of the other to change their behaviour completely.

An alternative to allowing users to access two different versions of a website is to provide different 'views' which would be a more subtle redesign of both pages so that there is a more consistent look & feel across both pages.

Another strategy is to simply let one set of users access one site and another set of users access the other site rather than managing the complexity of switching between the two.

Do you have a good reason for wanting to do this? Perhaps thinking about what I have mentioned will help you come up with the best strategy for managing both versions.

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