Product development is never complete. There are always UX improvements to be made and concerns to be addressed.
That doesn’t mean your customers will like it, though. Chances are, they’ll be resistant and react negatively to the change. It is as inevitable as the need for the change in the first place.
How do you balance these two realities?
Why change is hard?
Most product companies want to craft a deep, meaningful relationship with customers that goes beyond logic or a rational need. The best of these relationships exist because a product successfully fulfils a customer’s emotional need. The user experience the product offers is comforting and familiar.
Take away the familiarity, and resistance is sure to arise, no matter how effective the change may be. A new version of a product is unfamiliar and that makes customers uncomfortable.
A sense of mastery
Users often invest their time and energy in learning how to navigate the user interface, use the various product features and gain expertise in it. A change in the capabilities of a product can come off as an insult to the hard work they poured into the initial version.
Everyone has an opinion
The result of such emotional attachment and investment seems to be that everyone has an opinion on a UI/UX redesign. Whether they are UX designers or loyal users themselves or not, platforms like social media gives everyone the space to leave their input. That may make getting through the change harder for you.
However, difficulties in bringing about changes doesn’t take away from the future benefits you are sure will arise out of them. A UX change-management framework can help you understand the various stages in making this a possibility.
User Experience Management Requirements (UXMR) Framework
A paper titled, “Managing User Experience - Managing Change” proposes a system to deal with changes in any product’s UX and the subsequent user resistance that arises called the User Experience Management Requirements (UXMR) Framework.
Preparation involves creating an environment in which change can take place and be accepted easily. It involves understanding users, their backgrounds, their needs, and their reactions to previous product changes that have occurred. Once that has been done, there can be an informal discussion initiated about the need for UX changes.
The second aspect of preparation is to assert the plan for change and influence users through “champions” and representatives who will connect with different levels of users and positively influence their attitudes.
After the initial stage, the focus is to allow product changes to be implemented as seamlessly as possible.
Making users formally aware is key to keeping them involved in the product’s evolution. Their discomfort, after all, arises from the unfamiliarity of a new user experience much more than an objective dislike for any change. Preparing them beforehand will help avoid any unpleasant surprises.
This can be done by letting them know about the new version as early as possible, even while they are using the existing product. Disseminating complete information about what changes are to come, how they will impact the users and the benefits they can expect will keep them ready for the future. They can also be allowed a choice of converting to the new version then and there.
Awareness alone is not enough. Users need to be able to feel the need for change. This is where persuasive design comes in. Persuasive design looks to influence human behaviour through a product’s features or media technology.
Effective persuasive design can help smoothen over groups who are very resistant to the changes.
Monitoring and Evaluation
Monitoring and Evaluation is a step that is iterative, i.e, it has to be performed repeatedly. Throughout the stages of UX change management, it is necessary to communicate effectively, measure user experience, test, and implement the feedback received.
Apart from an overall framework you can customise and work within, there are some other principles you can keep in mind.
1. Let users decide when they want to upgrade
Take the example of Bloomberg, which allows its users to decide when they want to convert their existing product to a new version. It is accommodative of needs that exist across a wide spectrum, it allows them to collect feedback continuously, and it gives users a sense of agency.
2. Let users access the older version
For some time, allow your users to access the previous version of your product. Let them ease into the new version at a more comfortable pace if the one you set didn’t work for them. It will help you retain the customer, and help the customer become less resistant when they finally start using the new version.
3. Design for what you know
Instead of designing for ample choices that can later be made, design for what you currently have in mind right now. UX design is a never-ending process, and you can keep some faith in a redesign to adapt to new needs instead of leaving a space in an existing design.
4. Don’t keep optimising
There is only so much you can optimise a feature. The drive to make it perfect is admirable, but it takes away from current users, as well as your current resources. One of the core lessons of user experience design is that improvement is an iterative process. There will always be other redesigns where you can sharpen your features.
Understanding change in UX, itself an evolving art, as inevitable helps you prepare on how to go about it best. If your existing means of change management are ineffective, adopting a new framework could be beneficial. The adjustment may have friction, but as you know, a redesign is always in the works - even for your processes.