What happens when the average user doesn’t know you’re going to change the UI.

Few weeks ago I witnessed my father’s reaction to a (not massive) change of graphical user interface (GUI, look it up on Wikipedia) on his bank’s website.

I can’t deny some amusement when he burst out yelling at the laptop screen ‘It’s not there anymore!’, he didn’t say anything else, but I could also read on his face ‘How does it work now?’.

Then he turned to me and asked ‘Where is it?’ like I would know, just because I’m a web designer, we are not even with the same bank!
‘Dad, I’m sure that If you look closely you’ll find it, unless they removed it, which would be weird’. The last bit was said in a sarcastic tone of voice.
‘I think they removed it’ was my dad’s answer.

My dad is not a web savvy person, nor he is a frequent internet surfer, but that’s why this involuntary test looked immediately interesting to me: he is a typical, average user facing a non-expected GUI change.

After a bit of ranting my dad found his way to the account summary, but was not happy or interested, not even a tiny bit, in the new graphic version of the website, more elegant and slick.

First lesson learnt:

Don’t change the GUI without notice.

Second lesson learnt:

Don’t expect the user to notice the wonderful work you have done.

We know the majority of people is resistant to change, but change is healthy and necessary.

Few things you can do when you change a GUI:

  • Tell users in advance.
  • It’s a good time for a newsletter, put a banner on your homepage, publish a short news statement, let them know when and how much it will change, they want to know if and how they will be affected.
  • Use tooltips for fundamental areas (like your login box!) for the first few days. Let the user get used to it and ease the change in.
  • Personally I believe that if you change your homepage, the rest of the website should follow…