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Do you remember the time when Facebook rolled out ‘Timeline’ to replace Facebook profiles? Or perhaps that time when Microsoft proudly showed the world for the first time, what Windows Phone 8’s tiles and ‘Metro UI’ would look like? Surely you remember the time when, more recently, Apple launched a visually revamped iOS 7?

What do all these events have in common? Two things : User Experience (UX) Evolution and Hatred.

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All of these are instances of how large corporations have boldly tried to break the monotony and come up with a product that looks refreshingly new and different. They dreamed of a revolution in the way people interact with their phones and computers. Without exception however, all of these brave acts were shunned with hatred and loathing. What a bummer it would have been for all the designers, developers and testers who spent so much of their valuable time to carry these changes from the whiteboard to reality!

That’s the inherent problem with investing in UX Evolution – a majority of your users will almost always hate it at first, and most of them won’t even know why they hate it. It is hard-wired too deep into our human minds, to hate and resist change.

Did you add a new set of buttons?

“Ugh, there are so many buttons now.”

Did you tone down the colors?

“Ugh, it’s so dull now”

Did you try simplifying and improving on readability by removing unnecessary 3D effects and shadows?

“Ugh, it’s so flat now.. so old-fashioned”

This problem is particularly accentuated for large corporations with large user bases. The more varied your user base is, the tougher it is to come up with a solution that pleases everyone.

Looking at the bright side (“Ugh, it’s so bright now”) of things though, we see that Facebook’s Timeline, Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 and Apple’s iOS7 are all successful products today. Their struggles are testimony to the fact that end users don’t always know what’s best for them. Backed by a skilled set of designers and developers who work in close collaboration with a sample of end users, corporations need to push their revolutionary UX changes to the market – even if they aren’t greeted with a red carpet at first.

This is more relevant today than ever before, because we no longer have just the ‘desktop computer’ to work with. We have computers in all shapes and sizes, and with varied capabilities that our ‘traditional UI patterns’ cannot cater effectively to. This is the time for disruptive UX innovations and it is good – for both the consumer and for software company – even if it doesn’t seem so at first. On the same note, I am happy and proud to see SAP make bold moves in the right direction, with Fiori and with heavy investments in the UI5 framework itself.

With time, once people realize that this ‘new way’ of interacting with their computers is actually helping them save time and boost productivity, they’ll love it. And then nothing at all can go wrong – until, of course, another wave of UX evolution comes around.

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  1. Markus von Detten

    Nice article. Just some observations here.

    1. Coming up with “a solution that pleases everyone” can surely be filed under “Impossible”. To my mind, it is neither practical nor desirable to achieve such a solution.
    2. I agree that is probably hard-wired in the human brain to dissent and reject everything that is new and unknown at first. However, nowadays people can be more vocal about their hatred by sharing it online. I guess every noticable design change through the ages has been greeted with rejection only, what could you do back then without the internet? Being subject to world-wide accessible complaints from users provides companies with a whole different challenge than back in the day when people had to write letters to complain…
    3. Strangely, I experience rather interest than complaints about SAPUI5 and Fiori applications from customers. Maybe if you have something that is widely acclaimed as dead ugly, people will accept the design change more readily. 😉
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  2. Abinash Mohapatra

    Pritin,

    As far as your examples are concerned regarding FB, MS and Apple:

    1. I think Facebook timeline was well received except for the fact that facebook requested users to fill in more data using the ‘complete your profile’ option. This could very much have been a meticulous move to assort data for marketing purposes. Further, due to timeline, user abstraction was reduced and it was quite easy to filter down and search users now as you had more meta data about users. On the contrary, I think an INFINITE SCROLL could have been a better example here which deviated from a standard template that has a footer.

    2. Microsoft’s Modern UI received criticism due to its anti-pattern – horizontal scroll. A good example to relate with would be a car of Hyundai make which has an anti-pattern with its reverse gear (just try driving one and you would know). Modern UI is gesture heavy which is not intuitive to users (for e.g. closing a running app or search for an installed app). Same reason could be associated with the new MySpace design as well. There hasn’t been a website with such transcendental flamboyance (in my opinion).

    3. iOS7  features a minimalist/flat design which differs from its predecessor, the  Skeuomorphic design by a factor of 100%. Don’t you think that a substantial change as this would trigger such a reaction? It’s analogous to moving from 3D to 2D.

    You mentioned “…. and most of them won’t even know why they hate it. “. These examples show legitimate reasons for the criticism. I think the work done by these companies doesn’t fall into “adding a few more buttons” category. I agree with you that certain risks need to be taken as far as UX enhancements are concerned and sometimes they click. The Google+ design would be an epitome in this category. MySpace, DuckDuckGo etc. follow. However, things always do not work out. Facebook for e.g. can also explain you Disruptive UX gone bad – the “Clutter Free” project (if you recall). Twitter moving to a Gotham font was yet another example.

    Lastly, I think users GET USED to a product than “realize that this ‘new way’ of interacting with their computers is actually helping them save time and boost productivity” and that’s completely fair.

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