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.
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.