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In terms of UX, what's the best way to introduce a completely new design for an application? It will have the same user base and functionalities plus new features (one of them being responsive design). There are two common methods I've noticed---

  1. Gradually introduce new design so there's always familiarity for the users.
  2. Create a beta version of the application and give option for users try it out.

Initially, my though is that from an implementation standpoint, a beta site is easier to manage. However, in terms of UX, I think familiarity may be more important to the users.

Some examples I've noticed from other company varies...

Gradual changes: Amazon

Beta Version: Google Gmail and Inbox (beta)

Does anyone have examples on this topic? Btw, I'm looking for UX examples, not technical.

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Given the examples you've given for gradual changes and Beta Version, I would say Beta Version makes more sense. I tend to see Beta Version as a good way to transition into a completely new design. This allows for the user to try to use the new design to do what they normally do but be able to fall back the previous version if they really need to or to point out some functionality that they may not be able to find in the new version. Gradual change can work well however the changes need to be made clear when they happen and also the pace needs to be done right. Also once a feature is implemented, the user can't fall back to the old design to look for certain functionality that they comfortably know where it is.

Lastly, here's a great talk about ensuring smooth transitions to new designs http://vimeo.com/86763514

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Hey this is a good discussion point one that I advocate all the time. The context does make a difference. For example, let's assume it's an existing web application and you want to make changes - then I would always advocate continuous improvement i.e. gradual changes for the reasons below. But let's say your new web application is going from a non-responsive website to a responsive website. Well this has to be built from the ground up so a beta would make more sense.

Ultimately, try and always go for what you deem as gradual changes. Why?

  1. If opting for a redesign you’re falling behind the competition as the world is in constant motion and your site quickly becomes outdated
  2. It costs a lot of money to manage the redesign: especially the development portion of it
  3. New designs often backfires: either no difference in results, or even a drop in conversions. There are a few examples like Target and Marks and Spencer. Read my question here that touches upon this in a similar manner Professional designs and their effect on sales
  4. It is extraordinarily difficult to get everything right in one big design
  5. Much better to try a little and test. Test a heading, test a link, test an image at one size, then another. Keep testing and learning and refining. We have this facility in the way of many tools and they're there for a reason so utilise them
  6. As you mentioned, your returning visitors are used to a specific design and flow
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  • Improving existing website or app - gradual UX improvements
  • Launching new website or app - direct or 'beta' launch

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