There is an iOS app which has been on the app store for several years and there are several hundreds of active users. A proposal has been made to revamp the entire UI from scratch. The end result will be something totally different from the existing one.

How will the long-term users react to this?

Is a step-by-step change advised or a whole transformation at once?

  • It depends on what your changes are: if they're generally visual, you'd be mad to do it iteratively because users will be exposed to bits and pieces of each style at once. If it's a full UI overhaul, you'd probably be better off doing it in one hit, but controlling expectations (perhaps showing users what the changes are and why on a blog or Twitter before they go live). One other option is to release the new version side by side with the previous one (but beware: if your app is a paid one, this could frustrate your existing user base).
    – Kit Grose
    Jul 3, 2013 at 5:25
  • @KitGrose i disagree. CNN did a wonderful job retooling their site over the course of 8 or 9months in 2012. The site is still an informational cluster F@#% but visually, the incremental approach was enacted very well. It can be done, but its important to discern what is changing - if it's just lipstick on a pig, then do it incrementally, however if it fundamentally changes user interaction and approach - might be better off with the whole enchilada Jul 3, 2013 at 6:16
  • @BrandtSolovij Certainly websites are a different beast to apps, but I take your point.
    – Kit Grose
    Jul 3, 2013 at 6:39
  • @KitGrose i would agree only to an extent. Runkeeper has seen many revision to it's iOS app. Color schemes, icons, IA visual hierarchy, etc... and each time their incremental uplifts were / have been until recently approached with a heavy hand. A "native app" is very much more sensitive to sudden, significant changes, because users internalize the familiarity of use much more so - as such , subtle, continual alteration makes much sense. Nothing is more frustrating than re-training a thumb :) Jul 3, 2013 at 6:44
  • @BrandtSolovij "Nothing is more frustrating than re-training a thumb"? How about re-training a thumb repeatedly while the UI undergoes frequent small changes? I think the question comes down to the scope of the changes as much as anything else—if you're making design improvements as you find issues, roll them out as you fix them, sure. If you've totally redesigned your app, I'm not sure you're saving users anything much by breaking your redesign into tiny chunks and sending them to users in pieces. Especially since apps need to be explicitly updated by the user (at least until iOS 7).
    – Kit Grose
    Jul 3, 2013 at 6:54

6 Answers 6


Jared Spool has a great article on this topic which makes the point that users don't so much dislike change itself as being made to feel suddenly stupid. That means it's more about the specific changes you make than about how you unveil them. It's probably worth noting that Spool is, in the article, rejecting an article by Aaron Sedley at Google about their change aversion lessons when they moved from Google Docs to Drive. There's a presentation by Sedley on the topic given at last year's UX Australia.


depending on time scales and budget you could try a combination of both.

start by inviting trusted, regular users to try out your new design and give feedback

then act of this feedback to improve your new designs

next start migrating a subset of your users onto the new design, giving them plenty of notice and the option to switch back

again analyse usage and ask direct questions

finally you can set a date for complete switch over and notify users, giving them the option to try the new designs now, or pushing everyone over to the new design with the option to switch back

eventually your goal would be to switch everyone over and remove the old designs, but to have a product that so well tested in the real world that even reluctant users will not get lost should adapt without too much friction

you will notice sites like facebook and google have done this when they overhaul their UIs, a good example is the switch to the timeline in facebook, or indeed the recent 'invite only' access to the new google maps.


A proposal has been made to revamp the entire UI from scratch. The end result will be something totally different from the existing one

Based on your question as per my personal experience it will be better to make it step by step rather then the whole transformation at once. Because you never know if the some of the features of your app would work or not in your new UI, it advisable to test the feasibility one by one.

  • I would like to assume that the testing would have all been completed before it is released. The question is more about how users react to gradual vs rapid change.
    – JonW
    Jul 3, 2013 at 12:20
  • @JonW that we never know its depends on uses feedbacks.
    – IamAbhijit
    Oct 15, 2013 at 5:38

Actually this question is a bit controversial. It mainly depends upon the type of users. Users may or may not be ready to accept the change. If the changes is a good one then it may be appreciated, but on the other hand if its a complex or tedious one (making the UI somewhat complicated than the existing simple one)

Hence it is always better to make some changes and let those changes be accepted by the user if you are not in a hurry to change everything ASAP.

Hope this might answered your question.


Well, it all depends on the UI/UX. If the users think the new UI in much better and easy to use than the older one, they wouldnt really mind a sudden change. But for users who have been working on it for a long time, getting accustomed to the new UI will be difficult. So it will be better to make the changes in two or three leaps rather than just one big leap.


I'd just do it all at once. If the UI is totally different, I think it will feel a bit unfinished/unprofessional if a small bit of the UI changes, and then more and more of it in updates.

Maybe give the user hints using arrows and text on first startup/update.

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