Ever wondered what you can learn about website redesigns from the old XP versus Vista debate?
Well, I think the underlying reason why a lot of XP users are still resisting the switch to Vista is because the latter is just so visually different. I don’t think it’s got anything to do with actual brand loyalty or software compatibility.
I think just boils down to a case of visual familiarity.
As blogger Charles Engelke says in his post “Dumping Vista“, perhaps there is a layer of complexity that needs to be dealt with in order to get the most out of the operating system.
In other words, there’s a big learning curve to get past, a big visual difference between Old and New. So big, in fact, that it’s not only enough to put you off experimenting with it, it’s also big enough to put you off even liking it.
So, how come Mac users never complain about this kind of stuff? Ever overheard a Mac user complaining about how their new OS isn’t as easy to use as their old OS?
I think that’s because Mac OS X updates always introduce incremental changes.
In other words, they’ve paced themselves with their OS updates, and instead of changing everything visually from top to bottom, they’ve retained the same look and feel of their interface. They’ve kept things familiar, so that people don’t have to learn as much about the system as PC users usually do, because each Windows update looks dramatically different from the last one.
Like Windows XP and Vista.
So, how does this apply to web redesigns?
It’s simple: Prefer incremental visual change to a complete redesign, ceteris paribus.
The less you do to change an interface that’s been around long enough for everyone to get familiar with and comfortably use, the less resistance you’ll encounter that’s associated with learning something new.
I think people look for their favorite visual cues when they browse, and retaining as many of these cues, while improving the functionality and usability of a website, is the key to creating a redesign that people won’t resist.
Common sense, no?