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I'm working on a legacy software built on Java 6, the design is old and the components look like they're from Windows 98. We're introducing a new big feature and one of the requirements is to design the feature with more of 2020 trendy look and feel. (to show that change is coming)

My concern is that this might damage the consistency and the user experience if we're launching a feature that looks completely different than everything else in the application. Should we design the new feature with the components we currently have on the current app? This way we focus on the value more than aesthetics and later this year we can redesign everything once and for all

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It depends upon what your user-base, particularly your target audience, respond more to:

A) Will they prefer features, stability, and consistency over a new look and feel?

B) Will they prefer a new look and feel over features, stability, and consistency?

If your system is one that aims (or should aim) to provide productivity, then look and feel can take a back seat. If your system is more on the brochure-ware side, then glossiness is important (for lack of being useful).

IMO (I am a designer-developer), (A) is the way to go, with a view to iterate towards a better design across the board following a successful launch of the new feature and based on analytics (you might find users don't actually like the mechanics of the new feature, that would suggest working on the feature's behaviour rather than looks should be higher priority).

  • This is gold! thank you sir – user122415 Feb 4 at 3:52
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According to the article: Radical Redesign or Incremental Change? by NNgroup.

Gradual enhancements if:

  • Minimal adjustments will suffice. Allow data to help you determine the extent of the problem
  • You're biased towards aesthetics-driven solutions. Make yourself aware of your cognitive bias
  • Consider the cost of switching users to a new interface. . Avoid disrupting the user experience with wild design changes without careful consideration.

Redesign the whole app if:

  • The gains from making incremental changes are miniscule or nonexistent. You’ve performed many iterations and found yourself at the point of diminishing returns.
  • The technology is severely outdated, making critical changes impossible. The backend system can’t support interactions and features necessary for critical user journeys
  • Architecturally the site is a tangled mess. After several years of patchwork the site is incohesive and people can’t accomplish what they need.
  • Severely low conversion rates site-wide. Conversion measurements indicate extremely high exit rates and bounce rates, and few page views
  • Benchmarking research reveals your site is far inferior to the competition in terms of supporting user needs.

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