Incremental vs Big Bang Redesigns- evaluating design changes for users

airplanes 3 going one way a 4th going opposite direction
Small changes vs big changes- the impact needs to be evaluated for good user experience

Evolutionary or Revolutionary design changes?

How much learning do your users need to do?

If your UI change is bad for users it means that users are forced to change their expectations and assumptions, searching, browsing, navigating, thinking more. If the small incremental changes (typical in Agile releases) add to this “cognitive load” (more thinking)…they can burden the user.

If your UI change is good for users it means the changes met or exceeded expectations, make it even more pleasant and supportive. The change did not force problem-solving but seamlessly introduced helpful change*. The equivalent of buying and installing a key rack in your home so you remember your keys every morning. You have to hang them up every day, but you never lose them now.

Are you perceiving the change or are your users?

A moment of panic came over me when testing a new B2B web application with users at a major bank in London…the (very senior) user said: “Why the hell are you redesigning it again? You better NOT MAKE ME LEARN it all over again!”. He then breezed through six tasks in less than ten minutes (compared to 30 minutes on the old design). When we finished, I asked if the new design would cause him to waste time learning it, he replied confidently: “NO, not this one!”. Whew! Negative change impact minimized. Note: This testing occurred after a round of user interviews/ observations as well as rapid prototyping. Risk-managing in this way can lead to the desired outcome of a user reacting in the way illustrated in the story.

When your big bang is peanuts for the circus elephants

elephant with bird on trunk
Often users find features or UI changes to be trivial when companies intended the opposite…

Example: A user said: “The designs this company produces seem to be evolutionary, not revolutionary”. He explained, “They tend to do small updates that don’t really make a substantial difference or change the core problems with the interface…if I am going to spend my money on upgrading, I want something more revolutionary than evolutionary”.

Definition: Minimum Desirable Product (MDP) is a Lean UX approach to guiding product and engineering priorities by bringing in what is of the highest value and priority for users. This is based on problems users are trying to solve, real pain points and of course, perceived user needs and desires.

So aligning with evidence-based user needs (seeing, hearing, and feeling user stories/struggles) is vital to managing all change and UX success. Guessing is not good enough for a quality UX process.

Steps to managing interface change

Frank Spillers, CEO of Experience Dynamics



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store