Josh Shardlow Team : Web Production Tags : Usability Tips & Tricks User Testing

Avoiding 'change aversion'

Josh Shardlow Team : Web Production Tags : Usability Tips & Tricks User Testing

An article I read recently on the topic of 'change aversion' reminded me of a situation I encountered a few years back when re-designing/launching a financial services website.

The project commenced with ample internal stakeholder consultation, and the outcome of External User Acceptance Testing was that the new site was an improvement on the version it would replace. Launch date arrived and all went well. The site didn’t crash, performed as expected, looked great and everyone involved in the project felt success had been achieved.

And then it started . . . 

Just one email at first, then another, and by the end of the week we’d received a dozen complaints that the new site ‘didn’t work’, that the old site was ‘better’ and various other grumblings. What had gone wrong?

The main issue seemed to be that the new site changed the way users could access and check their personal fund information. By changing this feature, we’d upset the established habits of site visitors and turned established users into novices.

Here’s a few suggestions that may help alleviate the anxiety of your users and avoid a similar situation in your next website update.

Warn users before major changes go live

Unexpected changes often catch people off guard, which can provoke a defensive response. Something as simple as a message on the existing site that flags any upcoming change will give users a chance to prepare and cut down on the level of complaint traffic from an unannounced change.

Unexpected changes often catch people off guard, which can provoke a defensive response.

Communicate the nature and value of coming changes

Start a conversation detailing the benefits that changes will deliver users. A simple announcement along the lines of, “We’ve redesigned function X on our site. This change will help you save you time when you visit us next time by . . . ” will help show how you’ve been thinking of how the end user will benefit from the upcoming change. 

Allow users to toggle between the old and new version

Give users some time to accept the change by letting them control when the change occurs. Provide a grace period where users can jump in and try the new version without losing access to existing functionality. If they’re in a rush, they might prefer to use the old version. While the change will eventually become permanent, in the interim you’ll cut down on provoking feelings of user helplessness and give back some control over when the change will occur.

Provide support and instruction

It’s a bit of extra work to document and implement support instructions but the benefits definitely outweigh the time it takes to address multiple request for assistance with individual trouble shooting issues.

It also shows that you recognise and empathise with the user’s situation which will create a goodwill until the changes are fully accepted.

Listen to user grievances

Providing an email address dedicated to addressing user feedback can go a long way to alleviating the frustrations of a user who feels their grievances aren’t being heard. Using a LiveChat service goes one step further and provides an immediate channel for users to be heard; it’s a little more expensive than an email address, but is it more expensive than the cost of having your staff tied up addressing the same type of enquiry for the majority of the day?

Tell users how you’re addressing their issues

Respect for the issues raised by users is important. Once the changes have been made and feedback received, a simple message letting users know you’ve been listening and the actions you’re taking will go a long way to easing transition pains.