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I'm researching for a product (web app) that I intend to improve which has a sizable user base that logs in on a regular basis. The existing product was not thought through design-wise and needs a lift in experience and aesthetics to say the least. What is the best way I can introduce a new design without upsetting existing users who might have gotten used to the current design albeit its poor experience.

I did come across a few approaches from phased changes, user involvement in the redesign to 'just do it' and handle the flak. I'm a little confused.

  • "and needs a lift in experience and aesthetics to say the least". Says whom ? Have you actually asked your users ? – PhillipW Feb 5 '15 at 14:49
  • @PhillipW Yes, we have had many users complain with usability problems and a few have commented on the app's aesthetics. – praveenius Feb 7 '15 at 4:30
  • Cool. Can you interview some of your users ? – PhillipW Feb 8 '15 at 22:06
  • An interesting case is the choice of black and white icons in Visual Studio, as well as ALL CAPS in Visual Studio menu. Both changes were badly perceived by many users. Could you take the risk of being in a similar situation? How can you avoid this? If being in a similar situation, how would you react? What if you are convinced that your new design is better? – Arseni Mourzenko Mar 7 '15 at 11:10
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  1. You need to better understand the current user journey and identify main user pain points. testing and feedback from users could provide an initial point of reference here.
  2. Determine the severity of these pain points and their scale ( who is impacted and how. This will help you create an improved user journey with those users who suffer the most in mind.
  3. Create a roadmap to address these issues, most critical first. Test new design suggestions ( participatory design could be help full here) ensuring that the outcome removes targeted pain points.
  4. Communicate with users when you have launched new features or improved existing ones. You could achieve this via email or in-app notifications.

*Last but not least, avoid catering for the lowest common denominator, it complicates your work and dilutes the experience for the majority of your users. Flexibility always comes at a price! instead use analytics to explore ways of personalising the user journey.

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I guess one important point is to accept that there will be upset users. Try to see it their way: they are accustomed to the way they are working and you are going to change it.

With that in mind, I think there are some things you can do to reduce the amount of anger:

  • Be open and honest about the changes. In my opinion transparency is an important point: Users are far more willing to accept changes if you can make it clear, that the changes are not arbitrary.
  • Invite the users to participate in the change and give them a feedback channel.
  • I'm more a fan a slow transition in contrast to the big bang approach. This is not always possible, but smaller changes are often more acceptable to the users. Of course your changes should all be in line with the larger goal of your redesign
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Communicating with your users and seeing what they need or ant is always a very good start. When users are logging in frequently. they are likely finding your current design in a 'working' condition. Find out what they like about it and make sure that stays.

After refining the design make sure to user test the new system with some of the current users, this will ensure that the new design works and not as many people will be upset.

Alternatively to user research you can always rely on analytics which will give you numbers to crunch to see what the users are using the most.

After usertesting you can always release the new design in an A/B testing format. This will allow you to compare the new versus old design.

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If you have an existing design and deployment, you have a source of metrics.

With user consent (I would hope), see if you can track which features they use and don't...and how often. For instance: it is helpful to know how many clicks a button has before you move or remove it.

Hopefully you can motivate them to share their usage patterns in the spirit of influencing and improving the design. Many people will opt-in to such things (I will check the usage stats box most of the time, depends on if I trust the people who make the thing or not).

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