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UI redesigns are mostly a waste of time (debugandrelease.blogspot.com)
355 points by bobblywobbles 22 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 281 comments



> To preface the article, I primarily work on, and prefer, back-end code. I've been involved in both web and software development for over 4 years now

Cool, cool. To preface this comment, I'm a user experience designer, and I've been doing web software development and design for over 20 years.

In reality, your conjecture turns out to be largely untrue. Visual design quality does have an impact.

Main principle you want to look up: the Aesthetic Usability Effect. Basically, users perceive your product to be more usable if it's aesthetically pleasing.

> Summary: Users are more tolerant of minor usability issues when they find an interface visually appealing. This aesthetic-usability effect can mask UI problems and can prevent issue discovery during usability testing. Identify instances of the aesthetic-usability effect in your user research by watching what your users do, as well as listening to what they say.

From https://www.nngroup.com/articles/aesthetic-usability-effect/

See also: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/perceived-value/ (other ways users perceive value based on the UI)

Of course, this has limits. A rebrand or redesign that, all other things equal, is mostly the same quality as before probably won't get much benefit. I've seen many redesigns and that tends not to be something people do—there's usually a good bump in visual quality in the process.

So, regardless of whether you, personally notice the different functionality, many redesigns are actually a success at improving the perceived value, perceived usability, and overall evaluation of the brand, company, and product.

People aren't idiots. They don't do this work for no reason. Try to understand and respect the work outside your own department and specialty. Building respect across those boundaries is a rare and valuable thing.


>People aren't idiots. They don't do this work for no reason.

Citation absolutely needed. In my experience people are frequently idiots, and work gets done for no reason after someone with authority is convinced that it's a good idea by someone aching to do that sort of work.

If it happens in so many other cases, it does happen in UI/UX as well.


Job security, designers can only design, so that's what they do. And if there is nothing new to design, they will keep redesigning. Gotta keep up with the trends.


Coders can only code, so that's what they do. Even if there's no new features needed or the old software is working fine as is, they will keep refactoring. Gotta keep up with the trends.


I'd agree. Given the opportunity, programmers will often work without regard to business needs. For example, rewriting an old codebase using their favourite new stack.


Totally agree, and for managers who have programmers on staff they will keep making up features without thinking about whether it is a good idea. You start getting "features" crammed in because they have to pay the programmers to do _something_.


This is such a real thing that happens, yep.

It's really hard to get people together to make good software. I think that's something everyone can agree on.


> For example, rewriting an old codebase using their favourite new stack.

Sometimes that is a business need, but the rest of the business doesn't recognize it (or won't until it's too late). Yes, having your website running on coldfusion 5 isn't actually a problem - data comes in, data goes out, orders are filled (ecommerce, for example). If the actual business needs didn't change ever... there would not be a need to ever refactor/rebuild.

And yes, I've seen "needless" refactoring, without regard for business needs. But there are folks who do understand some of the needs of the business before the other business units may realize it themselves.


>Sometimes that _is_ a business need, but the rest of the business doesn't recognize it (or won't until it's too late).

This. I work for a big payment system company. They had to buy another Exadata, reaching the maximum plan offered by Oracle. The refactor was delayed so much that now we have little more than one year to rewrite everything. If we don't make it in due time no more transactions will be processed. Some devs who pointed the need for a refactor left the company in the last two years and said it feels like a time bomb ticking with every git commit.

Meanwhile the UI/UX guys are trying to create a design system whilst redesigning the internet banking system and app, backed by the CPO and CTO (!?). I mean, I'm not the one calling the shots, but neither a deisgn system nor redesign should be a priority for a least two years.


Yep. I can't say I've worked on data at that scale, but the 'every commit is a time bomb' - had that feeling on things.

What has bugged me in the past (and why I don't like being just a 'coder') is that... hey - people in my position have a perspective few others have. Sometimes we can see things that others can't, and generally we're smart enough to understand the business impact. If you're being asked to implement 'business logic' all day, for months or years, at some point, whether you want it or not, you can see how a business is being impacted by things that you can see. Raising a flag like "hey, xyz should probably be a priority..." and being dismissed because you're just a coder and don't understand the business - besides being insulting, sort of doesn't really jive with reality. In many cases, the software team are the only people that actually have a strong understanding of 'the business' - how many of the pieces fit together, etc.


>you can see how a business is being impacted by things that you can see

Strongly agree. The biggest barrier between devs and refactors with zero interface impact is AGILE mentality of always aiming to deliver value to the end user with every deploy. Business people just don't understand how much of an impact crappy implementations and error handling does have on the end user. We see 5~6% error rate, which represents hundreds of thousand of people daily, but shipping a new "feature" (that within months will be used by a few hundred people with a very high bounce rate) is always the top priority.

From time to time there is a meeting with the following subject: "why are users not using the basic features", and the business people's answer is always "the ui is outdated" or "the menu is confusing the user". Those answers are gathered by talking to some random users on the streets close to the company building (I'm not making this up).


> We see 5~6% error rate, which represents hundreds of thousand of people daily, but shipping a new "feature" (that within months will be used by a few hundred people with a very high bounce rate) is always the top priority.

seems to get back to "what gets measured" mantra. And, reminds me cell phone company churn. There's loads of things that could be done to improve service for existing customers, but companies spend budget chasing 'new' customers to 'switch' with low rates for X months, then jack up the price. "Loyal" customers get ignored.


And then you end up with brittle applications to support. Not fun for devs. Not happy times with management.


That does actually happen. Just look at the JS ecosystem.


As a JavaScript developer I can say that does happen, but its usually due to bad decisions from insecurity coupled with chasing trends rather than any overt act to justify thy existence.


I actually agree. In my experience though, since the design is more visible to business people, it's easier to convince them it's needed. Tech debt gets attention when development grinds to a halt and productivity takes a toll. The other thing in my experience is that usually the dev is last in line when it comes to decision making, unless you have a strong tech person who can take control of the product vision and push back. But those people are rare since they have to wear multiple hats. Usually I see that designers make the design first based on some use case or story and the devs then get to code it.


That's the beauty of free Open Source projects. Code is written when it's required. When the project does it's job, coders move on to other useful projects.


This is true for everyone from janitors to CEOs. The big question is, what jobs are harmless, which cause improvements being “over-worked”, and which have the greatest odds of causing substantial destruction?

UI / UX redesigns should be tested with small amounts of users, with all key metrics measured, and see what happens to those metrics and user retention after a few months. Otherwise, UI redesigns has a chance of causing a lot of destruction both by loss of users and bugs. Fortunately for software this isn’t that difficult to do. Other tasks, less so or impossible.


Absolutely, and testing with a diverse population with a sufficiently large sample size will yield the highest quality signal for measuring redesign success e.g. time on task, task completion, discoverability/usability, etc.


That's what happens in most of website redesigns.


Maybe I’m reading too much into this. But I think you’re conflating your contempt for negative workplace politics and the aftermath of decisions you’ve experienced, with the intentions of these companies that do these redesigns.

Some of these redesigns that don’t work out well could have been worked on by brilliant people that were very cautious about what kind of work they take on. But you don’t always hit it out of the park.


I’ll agree that people never do anything without a reason, with the caveat that “It’s my boss’s pet project and he signs my paycheck” is often a good enough reason to do something.


If it's your boss's pet project, then your boss probably has a reason for doing it, even if it isn't a good one.


That reason is often promotion and putting things in the resume.


Well, that’s a pretty good reason, for him.


"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it." -- Upton Sinclair


Very applicable in leadership and management in this time of disruption everywhere.


I'll concede "most people are of average idiocy" and cite core principles of statistics and the meanings of average and most.

But yes, you're right, happens all the time. Less so with most of the large scale more popular redesigns people tend to think of when writing articles like this about tools they actually use; the team at Atlassian, for example, is not made of idiots, neither at Slack, Google, Twitter, or other large companies with mostly significant design experience.

Smaller operations where we all likely work—yep, hit or miss.


I and almost everyone from my team loathes the new jira released a year+ ago. The menu drives me nuts still and makes no sense.

It's my understanding the use of the word "idiot" in this context implies someone who is primarily responsible for a significant amount of rework on anything that bears no real fruit, ui redesigns being one potential example. Pretty sure big companies make those mistakes just as much as small. Though I don't think its fair to call someone an idiot for this reason--I think its very challenging to do well.


Yeah, I specifically avoid using Atlassian as much as I can because of how tedious it is to wait ~6 seconds for every UI action to complete.


An idiot, in the original sense of the word, is someone who focuses on themselves, showing no interest in the common cause/politics. It's a bit heavy, but reapplied here it could mean someone who focuses completely on visual quality, while not putting their time into other important aspects of the product (almost all of which are more important that visual quality, at least according to OP).


This is how I would describe the noun of idiotic design if it existed.


Well, if it didn't exist before, you just created it.


Well, after the Google Cloud Console redesign of the Datastore UI, visual quality is great, but "Open in new Tab" is broken, the result tables abbreviate dates at the Month field, and in entity edits a timestamp can only be given with Minute resolution. So what should I make of that?


I loved the old app engine console, it was super fast, and dumped tons of the information you needed to analyze. The new one is slower, and has plenty of UI bugs like the one you mentioned (my pet peave is CTRL+click on many links no longer opens a new tab). On the other hand, look at all the stuff they added! There must be 30 dashboards you can jump into, and yet the new UI makes navigating all of them relatively easy. The old one was great for just app engine, but it would never be able to scale to all the services they currently offer.

Also, they are relatively responsive to developer demands, at least as far as the dashboard is concerned. Not that long ago, if you wanted to export a few seconds of logs, you had to setup a Cloud SQL sink that could suck in gigabytes of logs. Not too helpful if you want to analyze just a few hundred lines. People complained, and now you can export the current view to excel/csv. They've also speeded up load times significantly (it's still not snappy though).


I have the feeling they force some UI and especially icon redesign with every new Android version. Not because it's necessarily or actually looks better, but just to make it different. It's mildly annoying to me. Especially since some app icons now have ugly white boarders (galaxy s9 with android 8 and even worse in 9/oneui).


The white borders was a gimmick to support some new transparency feature, but since Android half-does everything, it doesn't quite work. Android's openness saves the day, you can install 3rd party launcher with icon pack plugins


I absolutely love your comment on statistics.

But on the notion that large companies specifically don't have hit or miss design or redesigns: I'd argue there's more than enough evidence to the contrary. And, personally, I find Atlassian products to be a very good example of that.

Note: In this regard, I focus mainly on Don Norman's view on "design", which is largely orthogonal to aesthetics. It's cool for software to look nice. But if it's laid out in a non-intuitive way or doesn't prevent (or even provokes) user errors, it's not good design, period.


Absolutely, despite the best intentions of UX designers/researchers the PMs/POs (depending on org), directors and above get final say on business/technology/ final (re)design decisions, which is then broken down into the backlog for developers.

Proper (re)design initiatives need to born out of the intersection of "viability, (user) desirability, and feasibility."

Usability is only scratching the surface of how to quantify the impact of a redesign and the author doesn't acknowledge the convoluted nature of how design decisions actually get made in non design-led tech organizations. The best companies (i.e. FAANG) have data and are measuring the outcomes of design decisions before developers even get assigned the work.

From the author's vantage point and how they get assigned work, they are missing the forest for the trees.

Thoughts?


Yeah. It's a bit of column A and a bit of column B.


> In my experience people are frequently idiots, and work gets done for no reason after someone with authority is convinced that it's a good idea by someone aching to do that sort of work.

You're contradicting yourself here. If someone with authority is convinced that something is a good idea, then they have a reason for doing it. It might be a misguided reason, but it's not just randomness.


Distinguishing between badly chosen ideas and randomly chosen ones may be impossible if the authority figure provides no context.


I think you’ve identified one of the root causes here. :)


> In reality, your conjecture turns out to be largely untrue. Visual design quality does have an impact.

Did you read the article? The author specifically says, "Before all of the UI designers that read this go out and riot and champion against me for saying UI redesigns are a waste of time, let me say that I do value design. I think at the bare minimum, a product or website needs to be usable, and if you possess a good eye and steady hand, you should feel compelled to create something that looks pleasing."

He then goes on to say, "Just stop redesigning the UI all the time. UI redesigns, in my opinion, are a waste of time 95% of the time. Let me explain further."

That's not so contentious IMO. Redesigns can be too frequent and the purported purpose of redesigns is typically nebulous, and can be driven more by politics than any of the objective metrics that you describe.

> People aren't idiots. They don't do this work for no reason. Try to understand and respect the work outside your own department and specialty.

Of course they have reasons. That doesn't make those reasons objectively correct. Maybe you should try to understand and respect the point the article is trying to convey, that perhaps the pendulum on UI redesign has swung a little too far one way.


> That doesn't make those reasons objectively correct.

You don't even need to appeal to some 'objective correct' standard. You can just look more basically at "what is the purpose?" Usually, it's "increase sales". So... determine baseline metrics, perhaps implement some testing to see what changes have what effect, and then push forward a larger redesign effort if the tests moved towards the goal/purpose.

Perhaps the goal is 'reduce number of clicks'. Is that really important? Or is it 'reduce user frustration'? How will you measure that?

"Reduce page load time" - should be pretty easy to measure, but will it have an impact on other things (sales, support, etc)?

People may have 'good reasons' for a redesign. Without a measurable goal, they're a waste of time, imo, and I've often seen them do more harm than good (measurable harm, like reduced sales, customer drop off, etc). But hey - those front page pictures looked really nice in the photoshop mockups sent over...


> Did you read the article?

Please don’t do this.

> Maybe you should try to understand

Or this. Reminder: be civil, don’t be snarky.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Come on, literally the second paragraph of the article addresses exactly the OP's point. I also wasn't being snarky, I was applying the OP's exact argument to his own critique of the article. I'm fine with sensible moderation, but holding up a mirror on a bad comment isn't an uncivil or snarky reply.


HN guidelines specifically say:

> Please don't insinuate that someone hasn't read an article. "Did you even read the article? It mentions that" can be shortened to "The article mentions that."

Your first paragraph is just as strong with its opening sentence (“Did you read the article?”) removed.

The guidelines also say:

> Don't say things you wouldn't say face-to-face.

The final sentence of your last paragraph could have been phrased: “The point the article is trying to convey is that perhaps the pendulum on UI redesign has swung a little too far one way.”

I get that you were mocking the “try to understand” from the parent comment, but your comment would have been stronger by not doing so.

> holding up a mirror on a bad comment isn't an uncivil or snarky reply.

The bulk of your comment is polite and civil, but the opening and concluding sentences are attacking the the commenter, not the comment.

($0.02. Just trying to keep things polite around here.)


Edit: I've erased this because I'm not going to debate rhetorical methods since this is all pointless.

HN's guidelines also suggest avoiding unrelated tangents, so this will be my last post debating rhetoric and HN guidelines.


I really wish Gmail would stop changing so frequently. It probably objectively isn't that bad, but having to teach older, not so tech competent relatives where things moved to is a real pain.


You don’t think Google is running tests on the effects of every little UI change?

Remember, their goals aren’t the same as your goals. Your goal is to get the best email tool possible. Google’s goal is to extract as much money as possible from you and your data...while still being the best alternative to competitors.

Those goals are very very different. Most of these comments are so naive. It’s almost as if most people have never seen the amount of actionable data the average digital product throws off.

A smart default assumption, especially when it comes to the big guys like google/Facebook; the UI changed because it makes the company more money.


But that assumes that the new design does make more money. I, honestly, fail to see how, e.g., moving the account switch button in the new Gmail app from left to right increases ad views. On the other hand, from all we hear about Google's promotion process, it seems quite likely that the redesign happened "just because" and somebody gets to add a checkbox to the promotion list.


As a user, 9/10 if I notice the UI has changed, it's because I'm unhappy and feeling encumbered or lost.

It's very rare that a redesign had me saying, "Oh wow, that's so much better!"

So many UI fads have set usability back but get repeated with most redesigns... hamburger menus, login forms that hide password fields until you've entered the username, ultra minimal forms that leave the user guessing what is interactive, text fields with labels only approximated by gray text within that field, and on and on.

Many old UIs were uglier but more usable.


A lot of that isn’t the redesign itself, but the fact that almost no one designs for the change event itself. It’s a whole different problem to solve, and it’s usually just dropping you into something totally different without context.

Could write a whole blog post on designing for UX change. I think I’ll do that...


Note that there sadly also is a very strong effect that also can "ruin" (in principle) good redesigns for existing users: When all else fails (i.e. you are not able to guide your design by existing metaphors etc.), humans learn by repetition. That's why consistency with other products is usually not a bad idea: Search bars are usually to the top right, so when you put yours there, a new user will know where to look.

OTOH, this also means that for a user who has used your product for ten years, the fact that your search bar is, in fact, not in the top right, doesn't matter -- because they have learned where it is. If you move it, they will be upset, even if the new design might objectively be more intuitive (as in: new users have less trouble with it).

This effect can make it rather hard at times to judge if a redesign of a product you've used for a long time is in fact as bad as you believe it to be.


On phone apps, if I noticed the UI 9/10 of the times I notice a UI change it's because I opened it do do something, but all I can see is a tutorial on how to use the new UI.


> login forms that hide password fields until you've entered the username

I've been lead to believe that this is for websites that support authentication by multiple methods. If you submit your email address first they can look it up and see that you auth with SAML, or log you in through Google, or if you login with a password they can then render that form for you.


We do this with a single form, not necessary to have two steps


Explain why the hamburger menu is bad but the floppy disk icon is good.


The floppy disk icon does one thing: "Save". Everybody knows it does, because that's been its job for ages now. What it looks like is irrelevant.

The hamburger menu _replaced_ the style of menu we used to have, where all the options were under their own menus with titles ("File", and so on). That was lost. The only reason they were left behind was to make it work well on tiny screens. If you don't have a tiny screen, you just lost functionality that you were familiar with and that worked, for no reason.


I come bearing anecdata!

At my previous company, we did a minor visual design refresh of our ancient software because our sales data showed that one of the top objections cited by prospects was that the software looked old.

Although the visual design refresh did nothing for usability, it completely eliminated that objection and enabled our sales team to focus on how our software could improve our customers’ businesses and why it was better than our competitors’. The redesign improved conversion rates.

The redesign caused a bit of consternation among existing customers, but they got over it quickly. It had no observable effect on retention/churn.

If you were a PM on my team unable to substantiate why the work you’re scheduling helps the business (by making life better for customers or by reducing purchasing friction), you wouldn’t be on my team for long. These pointless redesigns are amateur-hour stuff.

Of course, there are other legitimate reasons to do a redesign, like maintainability and developer retention/happiness, but those are much riskier and even more difficult to justify.


What's the difference between a re-design and constant refinement of a design?

I believe in making products aesthetically pleasing. I spend a lot of time ensuring my products look good because I know that this is the first impression of any product. I'm constantly improving the design of my products in subtle (and sometimes not subtle) ways.

Full redesigns are the design equivalent of full software rewrites. They suffer from all the same issues: second system affect, loss of functionality, loss of knowledge, etc. And like software re-writes, sometimes they are necessary but often they are not.


Redesigns tend to happen because someone in management decides they want to remake the UI in a way that appeals to them, whether or not it makes sense to anyone else.

The MS ribbon was a classic redesign. It broke the standard menu metaphor and crashed productivity for no good reason.

Flat design was in a similar league, but not quite as bad. Is that a button or a text element? How can anyone tell?

Refinement is a much harder challenge. Improving the aesthetics of something while making it subtly easier to use is a really difficult thing to do.


I am guessing that only Office power users hated the MS ribbon.

I loved it, it's do much easier to find stuff if you already don't know where it is.

Great design for the casual Wordster.


There are two interesting factors to the Office Ribbon and its clones.

1) You can absolutely botch it. A good example of that is Sibelius: Their Ribbon does not make any sense at all (and is in multiple instances literally a waste of space). Personally, I find the ribbon design on MS Office to be much better, though; MS has clearly put much thought and experimentation (i.e. many studies) into the concept.

2) What I find to be extremely interesting: For MS Office, the ribbon introduced better shortcuts. Since Office products are totally overloaded with functionality, the parts you don't use often were usually left behind in terms of useful shortcuts. With the Ribbon, these functionalities are usually accessible via a Spacemacs-Style mnemonic keypresses. If you use a specific functionality over and over, it's now much easier to remember a not-so-bad way to trigger it from the keyboard.

On another note:

I also find the "new" formatting context menu that pops up in MS Word whenever you select some text to be a very clever idea. It remembers me much of an old Xerox demo[1][2] that was done with a mouse and a trackball simultaneously (featuring a palette you could place around where you were currently making changes with the mouse). I'm convinced that to this day, there's a lot of ignored potential in that concept.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpTFcItyE9w [2]: https://www.billbuxton.com/TGtaxonomy.html


yeah but it is software: ehy not serve both?


Because it's software. Additional options mean additional code, which leads to increased complexity and burden on maintenance. And it's not a linear increase.

It doesn't mean you can't add new features (or code), but doing so leads to trade-offs.


Only a specific set of grumpy people of a specific age give any shits about it.

The real difference with the ribbon is that computing shifted from professionals and workers to everyone. The audience that cares about old style windows menus is vocal and tiny. Users struggled to discover, locate and remember items in the old menus. Many users struggled to find the menu.

That said, the Mac menu system is the best implementation of that type of menu delivery.


> The MS ribbon was a classic redesign. It broke the standard menu metaphor and crashed productivity for no good reason.

I thought I'd eventually get used to it. Nope. It's still significantly less productive than a standard menu.


Why’s that? Aren’t there shortcuts for about everything?


I have office installed, but I'm not using it often, so I have no idea about its shortcuts and I'm not going to learn them. Menu allows discovery. If you're smart enough, usually you can find your way to required feature via discovery. Ribbons have less items than menu and they are not very well organized (there's only one level of hierarchy), so I'm often stuck not able to find something.


Everything is on the ribbon. Once you understand that, it actually becomes a lot easier to use.

If you think menu's promote discovery better, you haven't looked at the Visual Studio menus in a while.


Ribbon may have been a bad idea, but MS claimed they did a bunch of UX research around it. Why is the standard menu metaphor better? Hunting through a hundred menu items whose names I don't need is a pain, especially if I don't have years of experience learning the options.


But ribbon does not present those hundred items in a better way. It just presents most used items and rest are gone to some dark place. And those most used items already were present on toolbars.


Every option that was on the menu is in the ribbon, there is no dark place. In fact, the ribbon probably surfaces even more options.


I saw a presentation at Mix once where they went through the redesign process in detail. For myself, and many others, the end result wasn’t great—and not only because it was different—but there was study behind it.


Most redesigns I've dealt with are the result of someone wanting a promotion, which has nothing to do with whether or not they're an idiot. Many of those people ship bad or half-baked redesigns that waste everyone's time but get them a promotion, because you need achievements to point to in order to get promoted at companies like Google.

That aside, your post mostly fails to address the critiques in the OP. Yes, a pleasing UI tends to feel better to use, but most of these pretty redesigns throw away important other traits an old design had, or just simply lack them. It's hard to positively compare (for example) New Gmail with Old Gmail when they managed to make it slower and break the reply button, for example.


It is damn near amazing how fast old Gmail is did you know that you can still use it?

It uses like a mb of ram and loads instantly.


How do you use the old Gmail? I hate, hate, hate the new one.


They hide it behind this strange URL

https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/h/1pq68r75kzvdr/

You should see a banner with an option to 'set basic HTML as default view' across the top.

It's great. You see all the information - nothing hidden behind icons, and page loads between screens actually take less time than with a SPA.


Wow.


> Main principle you want to look up: the Aesthetic Usability Effect. Basically, users perceive your product to be more usable if it's aesthetically pleasing.

Well that explains a few things. Many a time have I experienced a UI remake looking great but being absolutely horrible to use.

Take for example Google+, where they tried a last ditch effort to make it more popular by doing a UI update. They made it look really slick, but in the process made it much, much worse to actually use. I used to be an active G+ user (yeah, I know) but after they forced me to use the new UI I stopped using it, it was that bad.

Another example is Acronis TrueImage, which completely redid their UI, making it much more visually pleasing and up-to-date. Initially I thought it was great, but then I noticed that certain processes were a lot more tedious to do, and they'd also removed a lot of functionally in the process.


> I've seen many redesigns and that tends not to be something people do—there's usually a good bump in visual quality in the process.

So really, the important point is that you can gain affordances for usability sins if you have a design that is appealing to people as modern or otherwise trendy.

By the same process: if you have a design that was 100% usable, then redesign and end up making usability mistakes, there's a good chance you'll see net-zero or negative from the prettier UI in your testing.

For the majority of companies that do not have focus groups, usability labs, and a design staff that can spend cycles on R&D, it seems you may be better off doing little more than reskinning existing UI controls to maintain trendiness than full-scale re-wires of your existing product at any time to maximize the aesthetic-usability effect for minimal design work. Examples you cite in a sibling comment have cash to burn on exactly this, however I think that is the exception rather than the norm for businesses at large.

Visual (aesthetic) design change buys goodwill, reinforces and differentiates brand image, but IMO is mostly a marketing tool at the end of the day. I see product design and visual design as sister disciplines that must communicate, similar to two people running a three-legged race, but it is easy to improve one or the other separately from the other in most iterative scenarios. Large-scale redesigns are usually risky, and Snapchat's a great high-profile example of a company that was able to hire talent and let that process go off the rails.


> People aren't idiots. They don't do this work for no reason. Try to understand and respect the work outside your own department and specialty. Building respect across those boundaries is a rare and valuable thing.

I wouldn't frame it this way, but there are many confounding things in measuring a change in the UI design.

I jumped from web consumer to operations, and the mindset is so different: in web, you have shallow actions that you want things to be easier and look aesthetically pleasing. In operations you want deep actions that require reliability or learning, and that require every or many users to do it, changing the UI is a nightmare for them. It has to be vastly better to compensate the change. And not only that, you need your operations to be more efficient than your competition: a bad ui can cause issues in an entire company.

In consumer-web, pages like reddit changes their entire UI to have posts read in the same page and its use-it or lose-it. Consumer web cruises along the monopolistic positions they have to spend resources without visible consequence. Who cares if reddit's ui is 10% snazzier or 10% snappier? It's not like the reddit user will stop using it because of it. That redesign happened in a company that raised half a billion dollars.


I have used a quite a lot of online retail sites, and for me, the thing that most distinguishes the good from the bad is the quality of their search features, in giving me the tools to focus on relevant results.

The most visible feature of many of the sites I visit are the attempts to get me to do something other than what I went to the site for.


I'd like to point out that the search and how the results are displayed are part of the design - and can be the major bit. UI design isn't only, often not even primarily, about aesthetics.


UI redesigns frequently are primarily about aesthetics. You don't have to completely redesign your site to redesign your search.


Sometimes, sure. And sometimes aesthetics are vital. That doesn't say anything about UI design in general though, only a subset of cases.

It's possible you may need to redo UI for new search. If I add faceted search or geo search, for example in my search update, I may well need to redo the UI in a way much more fundamental than aesthetics.


Bad UI design might cripple a good search capability, but UI design cannot fix a weak one.


True. But you might as well say the same about an umbrella not keeping mosquitoes away.

UI design doesn't involve BE design in any way. So?


So you are saying UI is not involved in the most important measure of quality of a retail site - that is the point, and the answer to your "so?" (though, personally, I would not make the distinction as stark as you have, here.)


The fundamental challenge I have with UX and UX people is that there's clearly a lot of really important, useful stuff in the discipline, mixed with a lot of nonsense. And I've been burned a few times by those who tell a good story to susceptible executives and utterly waste time and resources to justify their own existence.

I wish there were better resources for non UX people like me to learn how to tell the difference.


What you describe is true in any area, including software developers.

You could just start learning about UX. It’ll make you a better engineer!


I think you're partly right that it is true in any area. But I don't think it's equally true in every area, and I think that UX lends itself a bit more to subjective artsyness than software development.

But I generally agree with your sentiment; you can absolutely find "just trust me" in software development. You can also probably smell it out better by learning about it more.


If you do want to stay away from the “artsy” side, search for “usability engineering” and “interaction design”.

You’ll find a lot more about empirically driven methods to evaluate your UI, mostly from a productivity perspective. I personally find it fascinating!


> more to subjective artsyness than software development.

You would think so, but the amount of 'developer superstition' and and 'gut feeling' I've faced in development is quite high.


When UX veers away from research and data it gets nasty. I think the situation you're describing is something that happens when their isn't full buy in from the stake holders on the value of that research


I do, too. It’s a growing field, and it’s much more muddy than dev. Give us time.


In my experience, only about 40% of redesigns actually are a visual upgrade. All the others are just a visual change.

Visual changes are irrelevant at best, and actively harmful at worst.

By all means, improve the website and the design, but actually improve it.


> Visual design quality does have an impact.

A negative one, based on what you quote:

"This aesthetic-usability effect can mask UI problems and can prevent issue discovery during usability testing."

Which seems to be saying that the uglier you make your UI, the better your chances of having actual usability issues surface.


This is the reason design isn’t a simple concept. The non-aesthetic portions of the effort (contextual and ethnographic research, information architecture, general usability, workflows, requirement generation, etc.) need to be done just so those warts can be exposed.

After the fundamentals are solid it’s then important to apply appropriate aesthetic and interactive elements to polish the experience.

Simply jumping to visual design after skipping the fundamentals is nearly assuring a failure. It would be akin to worrying about performance and scaling of product’s database and API without first considering if the data schemas and underlying technology stack even meet the operational needs.

Addendum: “Evolutionary design” instead of “revolutionary design” is typically preferred if one would like to keep a connection between how something was done before and the (hopefully) improved version.


I do tend to avoid sites that look too old. But I also avoid sites that are too slow. I'm no longer a Gmail user for this reason, for example, and I'm only a Reddit user because (thank God) there's still old.reddit.com. Can I just advocate for one thing? Make performance the #1 priority of any redesign (or at least a very, very high priority).


When designers try to justify themselves, they commit many sins, but performance problems are usually due to programmers trying to justify themselves.


> Users are more tolerant of __minor__ usability issues

Let's be honest, aesthetic-usability effect is too insignificant to ever prioritize aesthetics over usability and pretty much no company in the world can benefit from it. It's just a justification for producing pretty looking interfaces with awful UX, because UX is hard, a typical designer on the market likely can't even do it and eye candy is more easily sellable in hierarchical organizations, where everyone can impress their bosses all the way to the top.


> Basically, users perceive your product to be more usable if it's aesthetically pleasing.

On the other side, it will be less usable while i have to relearn how to use it. This is not an issue if it happens from time to time, you pay upfront a decrease of productivity and will be rewarded greatly later on. But in the era of SaaS we are constantly subject to a stream of redesigns, sometimes small, other times global. You cannot finish adapting to a change that another comes.

I don't know about others, but for me is deeply frustrating.


I don't mind functional UI updates (e.g., adding a search bar, when previously you had to scroll). But design changes are made simply for design purposes by big-tech companies are frustrating because when they do an update, it puts pressure on everyone else to follow their design to avoid looking out of date.

For example, just a few months ago, Google used square rectangles for the search bar, and advocated "cards" with sharp corners in their material design standards. However, just recently, they updated gmail and google search to use rounded rectangles in the search bar instead of rectangles. Are rectangles better or worse than rounded rectangles? Yes? No? The answer is, it doesn't matter for usability. But because Google is so big and has such influence, now, if your site uses a rectangular search bar with sharp corners users will perceive it as "dated".

There are many similar examples of this. Microsoft's metro UI was cool and popular for maybe a full 6 months. Clean Helvetica font was everyone's aspiration, then Google pushed Lato, and now it's Robato, until they change their mind again. Small 11pt font used to be the norm, then very large readable 14pt font was the norm, and now we're back to something like 12pt. Single page applications a while ago were avoided, then became so popular they were effectively a pre-requisite, and now they should only be used "where appropriate".

I think Google make these changes not to make their site look good and refreshing, but to make everyone else's look old and dated.


Round rects are better. Apple established that 30 years ago. Sharp corners are a fad that Microsoft(!) started with Windows Phone/10 just to be different from Apple (their chronic problem of trying to compete by doing randomly different things) and the Googlee going for it with cards, before they realized rounded rects are preferred for a reason. (And cards, what an innovation, copying the original desktop application GUI language from cascading/tiling window systems and HyperCard


> Round rects are better. Apple established that 30 years ago.

They did? Their iPhones went from rounded corners, to sharp corners, back to rounded corners again. Apple design is impressive, but I don't see any timeless consistency.


Why is it better? What is the reason it's preferred?


It’s less visually jarring and doesn’t feel malleable.

Find another human interface that consists of sharp edged shapes. That design aesthetic is like brutalist UI. Pretty for the architect, but few others are moved.


It's not at all obvious that rounded rectangles are superior to sharp edges.

Sharp edges convey precision, rounded edges convey approximation. Many mechanical knobs and buttons have clear notches and clicks to make clear to the user they are in control of the machine.


Uh? The reasons you're giving don't feel very convincing.. (I have no opinion on what is better)


Please provide proof.


"users perceive your product to be more usable if it's aesthetically pleasing."

Of course, in the first 10 seconds or few minutes, but I suspect strongly this effect fades over time.

Most UI redesigns are bad because they focus on the wrong things and throw out a lot of good things, or change for the sake of change.


At a previous job I would see the process of films getting made. After a year of keeping the same joke they'd swap it out with a less funny joke. It's not because the new joke is better, the old joke got tired to them and the new joke was fresh.

I see the same thing happen all over the place--branding and UI are very common victims.


That's a very interesting insight.

Music editing has the same issues as well. Even in the short term - over the course of a day your ears can get tired of a specific set of sounds and you don't hear with 'fresh ears'.


That’s a cool example. In terms of UI redesigns though, changing things up is definitely more costly in this realm.

I probably don’t mind a new skit because I’m just looking to be entertained. But I’m mostly looking to get shit done with something that had an actual UI to it, so freshness can be more hit-or-miss.


> Of course, in the first 10 seconds or few minutes, but I suspect strongly this effect fades over time.

This is part of the general phenomenon of looking for your keys under the lamppost.

It's easy to do an experiment that tests how people feel about your new design after looking at it for a minute and a half. Want to compare how people feel about the old and new designs after six months of getting used to them? That will take at least six months.


You are confusing aesthetics with usability. Useful tests are not designed to find out how people feel about a design, but whether those people can complete task(s) they need to do with the design. The latter is usually apparent within an hour, and most of the problems surface once you have tested about 5-6 people.


I'm not confusing anything. Whether people can complete tasks they need to perform is a major influence on how they feel about a design. And where they prefer an approach that makes the task harder rather than easier, that is still valuable information, and the appropriate response can easily be to give them the approach they prefer.

But I'm going to disagree that an hour is enough to reveal any advantages and disadvantages that may be present.


You are confusing the first time experience with usability.

And unless the software is quite simplistic, 5-6 people is just enough to falsely validate the preconceptions of the UX designer.


if your product is a website, the average time on page is 4.6 seconds [1] (a lot of people bounce immediately, lowering the average)

the first 10 seconds of ux is extremely important, since it's basically the top of your funnel.

[1] https://www.weidert.com/whole_brain_marketing_blog/bid/11696...


Yes, fully agree.

However, as people start to actually use the site, I think they care a lot less about a lot of cosmetic things.


> as people start to actually use the site, I think they care a lot less about a lot of cosmetic things

That's definitely true, _if_ they start to actually use the site. You need something to hook them in the first few seconds.


Funny thing about AUE is that it hides usability issues. People get dazzled by the look, and feel it's better than it is.

This means the OP is correct. New paint doesn't make it more useful. To really help users, optimize for usable design, not just aesthetics.


Why not both?


Limited time and resources


There is a balance. If aesthetics are a limiting factor, as determined by research, then they’re worth improving.


You sparked a lot of comments in this post.

Thank you for explaining these concepts to me, I have not heard of the aesthetic usability effect. I will read into this as I am curious what it is now.

To be clear, I do value design. I think design is important and I write that out in the article that I value design. What I struggle to value are redesigns, that is, complete redesigns of a UI - instead preferring incremental updates of the UX that is necessary to use the product or application.

Thank you for the work that you've done, as I'm sure you have had a great impact on the customers you've directly and indirectly served. Continue to do design, because if it were up to me, nothing would look good at all.

Cheers.


> Basically, users perceive your product to be more usable if it's aesthetically pleasing.

Of course perception and reality are different things. And I imagine that effect is only really true for, at best, some slight statistical majority. Certainly I know a lot of people who've stuck with older versions of software because it looks and works like they've come to expect, and I myself tend to judge the usability of new software by how much it looks like a Win95 application.

The thing I love most about only developing software for in-house use (because my company doesn't sell software) is that nobody really cares what it looks like.


How does the Aesthetic Usability Effect account for the success of websites like Amazon, Wikipedia, Craigslist, Hacker News, classic Reddit, and LinkedIn, to name a few? There seems to be no correlation between aesthetic quality and use of these sites. I'm not sure what that indicates about the "usability" of these sites. If the goal is to maximize the number of users, it would seem that there is some evidence that a sense of usability determined by aesthetic quality is not that important.


I know this will never happen, but it would be interesting to see the percentage of Reddit users who took the time to opt out of the new "improved" interface. I suspect that number is small, because most people have learned to just quietly sigh and accept random UI changes, but larger than the Reddit UI team would care to admit.


If you are a moderator of a reasonably popular subreddit, you can find out by checking the traffic statistics which breaks out old vs new! For example, for my little link-sharing subreddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/gwern/) : https://imgur.com/a/sUcEQeQ

You can see a large fraction of the users have taken the time to optout, perhaps as much as a third (!) of those who can. Considering how passive most users are, this tells me that the new & expensive Reddit design is indeed loathed.


Reddit tries pretty hard to force you back onto the new design, too. When not using old.reddit.com it "forgets" that I opted out of the redesign on a regular basis, and even old.reddit.com occasionally redirects to the new design.


I think that might be a bug. That was happening to me on a daily or more frequent basis for a while, but I don't think I've had to redo the opt-out in like a week.


Thanks! 1/3 opting out is indeed damning. I'm surprised they made those stats public. Hopefully a moderator of /r/programming, /r/news, /r/politics, or some other mega-popular subreddit will post their stats.


People aren't using those sites because of their UIs, but because of the content they offer. UI isn't the only factor, but it is a necessary factor.


> UI isn't the only factor, but it is a necessary factor.

Necessary for what (or for whom)?


A UI is necessary for users to use your product. That doesn't mean the UI is your product.


Ive done this for more than 20 years too and i dont think the article is as wrong as you seem to think. In general designers seem to think that design is a much more important aapect than it actually is. Sucessful redesigns arent about improving the percieved value or respect the work outside your own department. They are about solving specific problems that hinder business to be optimal. When you start asking people to respect your work as a blanket statement, you lose mine.


People aren’t idiots, but reinventing the front end is like starting over and needs to be done in one fell swoop.

Usually that means redesign on the quick which always equals missed features. The classic example is when everyone jumped on responsive web design. Many applications and sites ended up including 80% of the elements of the desktop page and dropping other elements. Like my bank, who eliminated the ability to see your routing number and account number.


As a user I have not come across any good 'visual' redesign. On the contrary, it annoys me. Immensely; when the fking redesign replaces my known problems for unknown ones.

As an example, as contractors, we fill up timesheets very often. Our company decided to move to another 'aesthetically pleasing' platform which to me as a user is same as a redesign. Now the click - tab - 8 - tab - space - cmd+w ritual is taken away. It now goes like this : load page - login - click link - click a drop down - wait for it to timeout (dont even ask me why) - click again and wait for the dropdown to populate and close itself - click again - select - click - 8 - click save - find the mini'x' - click - select another dropdown - click submit (no, space no longer works on this form).

This new platform has more options, more whitespace, more corporate colors. Agreed. No colors, whitespace your redesign could add will soothe the agony of poor usability.


UI !== UX, without the research side it is kinda pointless. I'm not sure if the point of the article was to say that but it's what I read


Thank goodness someone has chimed in with this. The original article has no mention of UX.

UI developers are getting marched out the door at a well known publisher right now, their services no longer needed. UX is a different story with this mystery publisher, they now get to call a lot of the shots.

There is a bigger discussion to be had regarding the whole visual design process. In 2006 when you could have your navigation in any corner of the screen with any design for the search icon it made sense to have UI designers add their special flourishes. Now we know where the navigation goes and what the icon is for search, that has all been settled. User experience still needs some people to take care of it as we can't leave that up to the programmers, can we?


> Cool, cool. To preface this comment, I'm a user experience designer, and I've been doing web software development and design for over 20 years.

Cool, cool. To preface this comment, I'm a guy who owns a computer and uses software.

Most GUI redesigns I've seen in the past 10 years make the interface prettier, but LESS usable. The new design usually incoroporates three categories of changes:

1. Lists of items are rendered in a larger font with more spacing between items, leading to lower information density, thus requiring more scrolling. (For bonus points, often a window that has a scrollable area isn't resizable, so you're stuck with whatever arbitrary viewport size the designer decided was large enough.)

2. Controls that used to always be visible are now hidden until you hover or click the right spot. This is done to reduce "clutter", as though controls are somehow graffiti.

3. A bunch of convenient shortcuts enjoyed by long-time power users weren't reimplimented in the new design, because the designer didn't know about them, or simply didn't think they mattered.

I have a WordPress blog. WordPress recently overhauled their entire editing UI, and I hate it. When I started the blog several years ago, I was able to figure out how to use WordPress by exploring the UI. The new UI is an extreme example of #2; when you go to write a new post, the page is entirely blank. You have to click somewhere to get a text cursor, and there isn't even a visually delineated text area before you do so. There are a couple of features I had to hunt around for, and I wouldn't have even known those features existed if I hadn't learned them from the old UI, which presented them front and center.

My company uses JIRA for bug tracking. They switched to a new GUI a while back, and I hate it. It's harder to find things that used to be presented front and center. And as an example of #3: It used to be possible to just type an issue number like "392" in the search box, hit Enter, and be brought immediately to that issue page. Not anymore; if you do that quickly, you get a "no results found" page. If you type the number and then wait a couple of seconds, you get a list of search results, which you can then click on. Pressing Enter then takes you to the first one, but often that is NOT issue #392, it's just some issue that happens to have the text "392" somewhere in it. So you have to eyeball the search results, and then click the right one. The old way was more convenient. Fortunately, I eventually found the preference to switch back to the old GUI, which they helpfully give you because they apparently realize that the new GUI sucks. (I don't know offhand if it reverts the search behavior, because I've already changed my habits to not use it anymore.)


Last place I worked did a skunkworks redesign project in their primary e-commerce site and A/B tested it against the existing site (which was perfectly decent) and recorded a consistently higher conversion rate. They could easily put an 8-figure value on the redesign which cost in the high 6-figures to design and implement.


I bet you have ruined several designs that were perfectly fine


> Cool, cool. To preface this comment, I'm a user experience designer, and I've been doing web software development and design for over 20 years.

This seems like a call to seniority. Just because you've been there for X more years doesn't make your input automatically more valid. I get his disclaimer i.e. 'I am not a designer', but yours just feels a bit like bragging.


I've noticed that it's a commonly accepted fact in most other areas of software development that mass rewriting of large and extensively-used pieces of code is a bad idea precisely because it'll probably introduce plenty of new bugs that were either never a problem in the existing code, or was noticed and already fixed there in the past. Yet when it comes to UI, those introduced bugs --- breakages of users' existing workflows --- are often dismissed with "sorry, you can't do that anymore" or "here's a (longer and more cumbersome) workaround to do it".

I'm sorry, but besides fixing the UI where it impacts the usability of your application, no one is raving about how a redesign makes the application any better.

This brings up a great point: if you examine user's comments on redesigns that didn't really fix things, you'll find that the positive ones are all about how it looks or feels and tend to be vague, while the negative ones will almost all be very specific criticisms about precisely which part of their workflows got broken. In any other context the latter would be treated as bug reports --- very clear ones at that --- to be investigated and fixed; but it seems a lot of designers are inclined to simply "close"/ignore them all as "they don't like/understand what I did, maybe they just hate me."


Many creative professionals (that includes programmers) will go and do the thing they like instead of doing the thing that is needed. For architects that could be a ron of glass and open spaces while the people who use this space would rather have a space with lots of cosy private corners and spots, for programmers it is insisting on certain frameworks, languages or patterns despite hurting the project. For sounddesigners it is usign to most ober the top emotional sonic sledgehammer they find. For designers it can be worshipping the latest style, wrongly understood minimalism etc.

All of these things usually mean the person at hand might be able to produce something, but they are essentially the wrong person for the wrong job.

And let’s face it: these kind of redesigns are often something the new CEO wants to sbow to everybody how much change he embodies. The designer is underpaid and unfamilsr with the product, the project not well organized and the deadline soon.

Any designer worth their money should be able to redesign a UI while improving it. Understanding the value of what is already there and how it maps to user tasks, daily routines and understanding the relevant assumptions, is the main part of the job.

So whst you describe is not good design it is bad design or design that never got the chance to be good.


> Many creative professionals (that includes programmers) will go and do the thing they like instead of doing the thing that is needed.

I'll add to your list of examples: lawyers representing their clients often want to make new precedent with the court and the direction of the law, rather than just getting their client our of a burdensome lawsuit.


On the flip side, you could see a person selling their labour as having some right/stake in doing something which interests them.

These outcomes are then compromises which give something to the producer, as well as to the customer.


I completely agree. This is exactly why I said, if this happens you didn’t choose the right person for the job.

The same person who butchers your UI might be very good for creating print designs that above all need to sell the company CI.

For critical redesigns you need a designer who is mostly about analyzing and rethinking the user experience behind it. Better even, split it in two: one entity should only do the analytical part and guide the direction, the other should implement it with a little bit of wiggle room. Make sure there is some overlap between the two


I think I agree with you, but how are you supposed to assess designers to choose the right person?

The main difference I've found between bad/good designers is flexibility and willingness to ask for help. There's typically a lot of organizational knowledge about where pain points are. If a designer addresses those, then people are generally happy.

Maybe splitting the job is a good idea, but it seems like you shouldn't need a split if the designer is listening to the whole team.

Also, sometimes the designer is fine, but they've been explicitly told by management what to do, so no designer would have been able to fill the position and do a good job. Even on my failed projects, I really couldn't tell you if it was the management or the designer that caused the resulting design issues.


> you didn’t choose the right person for the job

This is, however, the state of the entire economy, when organic individuals are cribbed into roles defined by firms with abstract goals. A good counterexample might be the Montessori system.


I agree with all that. But I'll add this. If the CEO is in any way involved with design, then you're already fucked. At every company I've every worked for either a) the company is big enough that the CEO doesn't even know there's a UX specialist, or b) the CEO defers to the UX specialist.


> will go and do the thing they like instead of doing the thing that is needed

You know, it's funny. Just this morning I was thinking about how companies are often cheats and liars, and how the capital growth motive often discourages innovation after a certain point--ie, directing workers to do the thing the company likes, rather than what's useful to users.

A trivial example would be Spotify's music genealogy and recommendations. How good does it have to be, for users to keep paying? Not very. So perhaps there's a lot of room to improve it, but because the profit margins are so slim, it won't get done--even if a Spotify engineer is personally motivated.


Technical rewrites break functionality all the time. Raymond Chen's blog The Old New Thing is famous because Microsoft are one of the few companies who devote significant effort to backwards compatibility of APIs. Keeping things the same has a huge opportunity cost.

The reason people don't compliment a redesign of a user experience because the upsides are not immediately obvious. They benefits might be subconscious or change the product in a way that an existing user will take time to understand. The Facebook feed was a classic example of this. At the time Facebook was a directory of profiles and the feed introduced something users weren't explicitly asking for (aggregation of updates from friends). It was was seen as a regression, but it was built off a deep understanding of how the people were engaging with the product. You can hate Facebook for what they've become, but from a business and product perspective that change was enormously successful.


Good designers will improve visual systems, usability, task efficiency, consistency, symbolism, brand perception, and more concrete things with a redesign. If they don't, they're artists, not UX designers. FWIW, most redesigns I see in the wild are doing most or some part of these very real improvements.

That said, qualitative value is still value. Just because user feedback on the visual quality is vague doesn't mean that broader goals weren't achieved—users don't know how to evaluate visual quality, but it can still impact their behavior and perception. Good user researchers will look at outcomes and downstream impact in other behavior after a redesign, and those are often positively impacted.

Even if the result is just "users feel our company is more professional and mature," that could be extremely important for company strategy and may very well have been a limiting factor beforehand.


Yep, not everything that counts can be counted. I see a lot of things got treated as unimportant just because it cannot be measured in number (or we don't know how, yet)


Great point.

If feature X stops working because a back end developer broke the code, that's treated as a bug.

If feature X can't be used because a UX developer obscured it, that should be treated as a bug, too.


Predictably, the title alone is crack to HNers. If only stakeholders and designers would ask our opinion first, we'd save them the trouble!

Between the author patting himself on the back for coming up with "don't do things for no reason" and "don't make things worse," he provides this criteria:

> The only time a UI should be updated is if it impacts the ability of a user to actually use your application.

This criteria can be rewritten "only change to make improvements," but this is an eternal challenge with anything.

The previous UI wasn't handed down by god. It, too, was designed, and the only thing it has going for it compared to the global optimum is that it at least exists. And like any other system, it was built under different requirements with different unknowns. It accumulates debt and falls into the same traps of any other rewrite. Most importantly, it has to interface with actual humans.

I can sympathize with their rant over grating redesigns, but it's too easy to lambast things that go wrong and then plant your flag of "Yep, don't do this. You're welcome." It contributes to the toxic cynicism rife in our field.


I think that's a deliberately uncharitable interpretation.

If you're admitting there are problems in the previous redesign (and you are), then why not fix those pieces rather than redesigning the colors, icons, and entire rest of the interface?

It's not so different from an engineer who rewrites a whole service because it has 3 bugs. Almost never worth.


I expected to at least be entertained by the article but it's so full of faulty reasoning I stopped reading about three quarters of the way through. It's full of platitudes and has little critical reasoning to support such a broad statement as its title.

>> "If you possess a good eye and steady hand, you should feel compelled to create something that looks pleasing"

Okay.. Goes on to include a big picture of Michelangelo's "David" to suggest that designers should strive to create masterpieces in the same vein...?

>> "People use applications because of their purpose, not because it is pleasing to the eye."

Another baseless generality. The first part is obviously true, but it doesn't follow that people don't care about appearance.

>> "The only time a UI should be updated is if it impacts the ability of a user to actually use your application."

Another unsupported opinion phrased as an absolute.

>> "It hurts retention"

This would have been a natural point to include actual data. Nonetheless the article falls back on making generalizations about people's behavior.

>> "Does it really add up, or are you just giving designers busywork that doesn't amount to anything in the end? Do we have concrete evidence that what we are doing will provide benefit to the company or users, or just feel that it would be better if the UI was redesigned? Take a minute, think about that one."

There's not a single piece of concrete evidence in this entire article.


Congratulations on writing the only reasonable comment in this dumpster-fire of a thread


> You don't use Google maps because it looks nice, you use it because it tells you where to go to get good tacos. You don't use Facebook because the UI is nice, you use it to talk to your friends and share photos.

I actually don't use Google Maps -- because it's a crazy mess of buttons and menus that get in my way of trying to navigate. I actually don't use Facebook -- because it's a horrible dog's breakfast of inscrutable icons and I can't figure out its mental model to save my life. And there are many more sites/apps that frustrate me so much that I abandon them for better-designed choices, or even for nothing at all, because at least doing nothing doesn't make me angry.

This function-over-form attitude bugs the hell out of me. People (especially designers) who think that design doesn't really matter as long as the function is okay may not notice the mass of former users who simply throw up their hands and refuse to use their product at all.


I agree with you about Facebook’s garbage interface, but Google Maps could be so, so much worse. At least you can just type an address all on one line.

If you want to see real garbage map apps, look to car navigation. My Mazda 3 requires around 20+ taps (plus typing) to get navigation to an address. The city, street name, and house number are all separate input fields. You have to confirm each one, then confirm the whole address, then confirm what it thinks the address is, then pick the route, then confirm the route, and then finally start the route.

Total nightmare, and that’s if you actually know the address. Address lookup is a whole different problem.


I mean... I get what you are saying, but you are going to have to offer an alternative. Preferrably one that isn't complete garbage.

What do you use over Google Maps and Facebook?

For Maps, I really don't know of any alternative. And I now make some mapbox-gl applications for the office. There just doesn't seem to be any real alternative.

For Facebook? I can actually almost completely unplug. That said, it is the easiest way to get pictures of the kids to family. I could setup a website, but I can't imagine it would be as easy or as effective. With the emphasis on effective.

edit:s/primarily/preferrably/


I have an iPhone, so Apple Maps is right there as an alternative (and better, since it's more integrated into things like the Contacts app and auto-recognized addresses). I find its design to be much calmer and smoother, which makes me happier. And it doesn't keep asking me to login to the Googleverse...

There are many reasons I don't use Facebook, most of which are enumerated in countless HN posts, but a big reason is that I get totally frustrated with the interface. I don't know how to say this strongly enough, but the UI literally disgusts me, to the point where I just give up and close it down. True!

Maybe I'm weird this way. But I've been computing since about 1976, and using the web since '93, and I've got no patience anymore for crappy sites/apps.


> And it doesn't keep asking me to login to the Googleverse...

is that because you are always logged in to Apple's Garden?


Oddly, to me, Apple Maps and Google Maps are basically the same, just on different devices. Neither is enough to make me want to purchase the device they are on, but both are indispensable on the device.


With all respect, people over age 50 are not the target demographic for general purpose mass market products. Even simple things like supporting large fonts or color contrast for weaker eyes is beyond the capability of tech giants (in large part because of the tyranny of pixel perfect UI designers over simple auto-flow/layout algorithms


No disrespect taken. Thanks for raising this point — one that I’m often frustrated by. (Yes, I’m over 50.) I’ve resorted to using Safari’s Reader mode on the vast majority of the sites I visit because the respective designer’s idea of type face, size, and contrast is so unreadable to me. Obviously this doesn’t work for interactive sites like maps, though.


I've begun to question how "effective" the sharing of pictures of my family needs to be. I now think that my pictures only being seen by people explicitly trying to see them is preferable - I'm not marketing my family.


You can set it so that you only share with your direct friends.

I'm convinced most of my family doesn't know how to do much more than login to their machine. Without a password, no less. To that end, if I want them to see pictures, I put them there.

There is a chance I could email everyone. I'm honestly not convinced that is in any way more secure. Maybe. Maybe if my family had gpg setup. They don't. And never will. :(


For Maps "Here Maps" is a great alternative IMO


>I actually don't use Google Maps -- because it's a crazy mess of buttons and menus that get in my way of trying to navigate. I actually don't use Facebook -- because it's a horrible dog's breakfast of inscrutable icons and I can't figure out its mental model to save my life.

probably because of unnecessary redesigns.


> I actually don't use Google Maps -- because it's a crazy mess of buttons and menus that get in my way of trying to navigate.

I've found the actual map part of Google Maps to be the best designed online map. Compared to Bing or Mapquest, I find it much easier to get a sense of an area using Google Maps.


What some people will think:

"Improving your UI is a waste of time"

"UI is pointless"

What the author is actually saying (imo): "UI redesigns create costs that should warrant them. There are a lot of times when a website makes radical redesigns for comparatively marginal improvements. These improvements are not always worth it for reasons like existing userbase having to relearn the new ui."

This is a fair point and I think a lot of times places rebrand because they want to look like they're doing something even if it comes at the cost of overall usability.


Yes there is an echo chamber of design, that leads to a lot of "FOMO" and "Keeping up with the Joneses". Of course you can have a perfectly functional social network, for instance, running on vanilla Bootstrap. Nothing wrong with that, but you'll never attract more customers than the cool company with the slick design.

Of course that's how it always has been.


There is also a lot unnecessary fear of change when it comes to design and UI.

I used to have the same fears, but after working with analytics and AB testing, I realize that they are mostly unfounded.

90% of the time the changes are not going to have much of an impact either way outside of superficial user behavior that doesn't impact the bottom line.

It doesn't matter nearly as much as you think in most cases. A lot of design is BS but there is even more BS coming from those fearing change.


Yes. And redesigns are specifically the issue.

Q: What gesture should be used for answering a call on a touchscreen phone: tapping a button, or swiping?

A: I don't know, but once you've picked one and users have learned it, don't suddenly change it without explanation and make your users panic because they can't answer calls.


Its a fair point because its a generic point.

Changing something that already works well enough introduces risk. You might make some things better, you might make some things worse. If things are already pretty good, making changes might result in making more things worse than better.

True with most things. UI/UX, art, software, architecture, writing, etc etc


This is how I felt when Meetup.com completely redesigned their site and logo.


I hate UI redesigns, absolutely hate them; From the end user point of view, and from 15+ years of webdesign, if its working why the hell are we fixing it?

Well I'll tell you why, since i asked; And its neither for the end user or designers benefit. Its for the non-user, or the not-yet-user, the people who were put off by the old design. We are like fish, that have been caught, wondering why the fisherman is throwing nets into other parts of the sea..

Michelangelo's David; Trying not to read too much into the cropping, it may be innocent enough.. Though sometimes i think we've reverted back to the dark ages catholic cleansing (chopping off of stone penises) mentality about such things.


I was a bit of that mindset until I worked close to a team that worked on such a redesign for a consumer product with hundreds of millions of users.

The really amazing thing to me was that even though the redesign didn't add any new functionality, and there weren't really any glaring usability problems with the previous one, users would still blog about some cool "new feature of the redesign" that had in fact been in product for years.

Basically, changing the skin of the product caused users to poke about and try new things.

Now the flip side of this is the design upset their routines, and there was certainly an element of that, but it was managed ok by giving people the option to switch back to the old design for a while.

On the whole, the redesign caused increased feature awareness and usage, which definitely wouldn't have been my guess going in.


Entirely on-point.

When I think of the major apps I use today that I do like and ask What new UI do they need, the answer is none (gmail, hn, venmo). In fact, some UIs would do well to hide the noise and look more like HN than Yahoo (e.g. github)

When I think of the major apps I use today but dislike, the reason is usually performance, not pretty icons (slack, uber). Sometimes the redesign itself is an obstacle (reddit).

When I think of apps that COULD be redesigned (e.g. AWS) I'd want it to happen once, be engineer-focused, and entirely about logical layout rather than graphics.


This is a good point to make. I think the author has just had bad experiences with designers, as have I. Gmail, venmo, etc. don't need a redesign because they were thoughtfully designed through a good process in the first place.

To speak to your AWS example; right now I'm in the process of redesigning an incredibly complex product from the ground up because is was so poorly designed the first time around. The users complain all day, the field engineers complain every day. A total redesign is our only hope to make it as a company longer-term.

The original engineers chose Material as the component style, which is terrible for a data-dense app. So as a part of all this, we're transitioning to a new design system that increases data density, readability, and has more component options to make actions absolutely clear and make space usage more efficient. We're also including in-app terminal support for those that prefer to use it that way. Also, certain parts of the FE will be metadata driven, where it makes sense for business logic.

TL;DR - This is a very broad topic that the author covers very superficially from their limited experience, but I absolutely loathe bad designers and poorly thought out redesigns.


> Gmail, venmo, etc. don't need a redesign because they were thoughtfully designed through a good process in the first place.

Eh. Gmail is redesigned from time to time.


Completely disagree with the OP.

I have enough scar tissue to believe bad UI or even the one that's not pleasing or inspiring receives lot lower engagement from users than having a clean, snappy and beautiful UI.

The OP's claims can be easily disproved by contradiction. If UI improvements didn't make a difference, A/B testing on designs wouldn't have resulted in massive improvements.

Making design more accessible, and attractive often helps beat the asymptotes in user consumption of a lot of products.


UI improvements are good, and fixes when the UI is lacking is encouraged. What I am championing against is redesigns, total redesigns. I feel that improvements should be made in incremental changes.


I think the article misses the point that many design modifications are micro-optimizations. The entire goal is that the user doesn't notice (cognitively) but is modified in their behavior none the less. These sorts of micro-optimizations frequently made Travelocity hundreds of thousands of dollars when I was their A/B test developer. Adding a phone number to one page added an estimated $3 million in revenue.


I don’t think that really qualifies as a redesign on the scale the article describes. It sounds like the author is describing a total UI overhaul, not simply modifying one element on one page of the design.


The way I read the article, it said that none of this stuff was worth doing -- just get it barely usable and then stop making changes. But it clearly is worth doing based on A/B testing and real, measured results. When millions of people are using your site, even micro-optimizations are worth doing.


They specifically mention repositioning the logout button to make it more accessible. That sounds like a micro-optimization.


Like I pointed out, I am all in favor of micro-optimizations, it is complete UI redesigns that have no merit or basis to derive their change upon that I'm against.

Adding a phone number is good, yes if it adds $3 million dollars, go ahead and do it!


I think the author is mostly saying that, unless you site is horridly designed, that incremental updates where required can have just as much impact on the bottom line as complete sitewide redesigns, especially when the point of new design is often misguided, i.e. simply trying to keep up with the latest design trends.


Couldn't agree more. Jira, bitbucket, outlook, gmail and the list goes on and on. The really jarring redesigns are literally maddening and make me angry. They are so shitty. The other designs are basically the same design with more whitespace. Either way, the app doesn't benefit and at best, you're angering users. If I could stop using jira or Bitbucket, I would just for their shitty UIs. Things that used to be one click or two now take many clicks or are simply no longer doable. The UIs are not intuitive. The shitty designers never design things properly so when I have two windows side by side, they still put two or three menu bars on the left side, leaving no space for the actual content. The redesigns are shit and clearly, they are done too appeal to some dumb ass hipster aesthetic of the designers who clearly don't understand anything about user experience or usability. Just fucking stop before all your users leave.


All the ones you named are websites, and user stylesheets are a thing, so if you're sufficiently incensed by a site you're forced to use, you can apply your own CSS to fix what can be fixed relatively easily; increasing contrast, changing colours, and adding borders/delimiting lines is what I most often use it for.

Chances are you're not the only one hating the changes, so sharing your CSS with coworkers (or even the Internet if it's a public site) is also a good idea. I've "converted"/educated a few coworkers just by them noticing "how did you get it to look like that?"

(Sending my CSS back to the original site's owners has resulted in everything from threats of legal action to some actual changes in the right direction.)


CSS will bring back the missing buttons? It'll magically show the information that was there before? What is this CSS you speak of? The user experience can't be fixed by CSS. Maybe I can hide that annoying menu, true. Then I can't do any of the common activities within it. I'm not sure you understand what user experience is or the limitations of CSS.


I did imply not everything could be fixed by CSS, but it is very useful for adjusting font sizes, spacing, and colours to something more sane.


None of those things are actual UX problems.


Most of the brain damage these days is JS, not CSS. Substantially harder to work around.


My main objection would be to the 95% number which was pulled out of nowhere. Redesigns for a redesigns case are bad (Dropbox), sometimes they are done not-so-well but for very good reasons (Slack) and sometimes they are pretty much necessary to keep people in (Apple Watch UI between 1.0 and 3.0).

> People use applications because of their purpose, not because it is pleasing to the eye.

Maaybe? But people will definitely avoid your application if it is too ugly. Many Mac users will generally avoid applications that are not well integrated in the OS. Personally I spent quite some time finding alternatives to applications that were very useful that I did not find pleasing to the eye (Audacity, PS3 Media Server, GIMP). If you need to work with something a lot, you absolutely prefer for it to be pleasing to look at.


I tend to agree. Google supposedly has an army of good designers, with their constant redesigns, my first thoughts are always that I wish the redesign never happens, but later because I stick to it, I get used to it so that I dislike it a little less until next redesign happens.

Let’s face it. People aren’t really that welcoming towards redesign, if given a choice, they probably would choose to have the business as usual. And aesthetics matters only to certain degree, and if it stands out it becomes distracting. I wish people consider that familiarity should be an important factor in considering whether to change UI or not, UI can be good if they choose to look unimpressive, for utilities it might be better that way.

And real world appliance really changes the design so dracstically as software, a micro-oven looks like a micro-oven, a Coca-Cola can looks like the same like forever. A car always has 4 wheels. Why on earth software just changes the information flow randomly just because they can? This doesn’t make sense.


This happened to me with the recent change with Gmail. I was quite sad to see the loss of UI simplicity when they tweaked the layout and aesthetics.

I loved their previous iteration because things moved quickly. I'm surprised with the redesign since, when you log in, there's a bit of a loading delay. But what am I going to do? I reminisce about the old version and adapt.


The OP article is criticism-lite, but the topic is never more important with multi-platform phone, tablet, and web development. I believe we're post App-Gold-Rush era. You're not so excited anymore to run off and join a startup and leave a good paying job at a steady corporate gig. In that setting who's going to rock the boat? Who's going to stand up and question, Is this really the right direction? Everyone is getting paid.

Currently my own whipping post example is the smart phone app, Transit [1]. A redesign last fall hobbled several key features,

- transit line on-time status only shows when there is a problem, but it's reassuring to see the status has updated and is OK.

- map scrolling is key for wayfinding, now only half of the screen real estate is scrollable before you accidentally cancel your line selection, and exit the screen.

These fracking UI changes are worse than useless, and just the few that come to mind. What they should have done was tackle real issues,

- Chaining transfers--How long is the wait for my next connection at a future destination? Currently, the future destination shows the connection clock from _now_, and now when I get there. I can think of at least 3 reasons why this is important.

- In a loop line, you can't see the next bus when you're at the start/end. During commute times on the busiest lines delays have a ripple effect. The schedule is blown. How long is the wait? Can I do something else while I wait?

I was an avid evangelist for Transit. Now, I just wish a competitor would hit the scene and bury that turd.

[1]: https://transitapp.com/


Do you think they prioritized the newest users/prospects versus power users?


I don't imagine excuses for bad business decisions--There's really no point to adding a layer of rationality on top of an all too common failure.

This isn't a "game". I don't believe there are different levels of 'user'. This platform brings together your real-time geo-position, published maps, published transit schedules, multiple transit systems, and real-time system updates together. It's all there and all useful for every user from the very start.

The failure in the redesign is to leave the 'page' or 'modal' UX behind in favor of this hybrid/gesture controlled marble on maze UX.

They hit a home run from the beginning, and fracked it up. What's the 'nature' of a map? It's to be as big as possible, and yet they've layerd the schedule and took 50% of the screen away from the map.

If there's a difference among users, it's found when you live in a transit-rich community, like I do in NYC Metro (and you need a good app like Transit was). If you live in the sticks and there's only one line, then you open the app, check the schedule and you're done.

This is why I believe this _criticism_ is so important. I think we need to have a way to articulate these choices. Maybe a critical voice asking _Should we make this UX change at all?_, _Are we staring at our navel?_ Which is to say, in our own little bubble? Are these changes going to improve the software? Or, are we only showing off so we can justify our employment?

If they wanted to do such a radical redesign, why not fork the project? They could capture 'new users' with the Transit Marble Maze app.


I wasn't trying to excuse their choices, but learn a bit about this case.

> If there's a difference among users, it's found when you live in a transit-rich community, like I do in NYC Metro

Thanks, this is the context I was interested in.


> UI redesigns, in my opinion, are a waste of time 95% of the time.

Probably 90% of everything is a waste of time, the trick is knowing in advance which 10% won't be. I don't really disagree with the overall premise of the article though.


UI - or any other design is not primarily about aesthetics. Where the author says, "You don't use Google maps because it looks nice, you use it because it tells you where to go", he's right, but it took good design to make you be able to use maps and to get value from the increasing amount and level of complexity of info therein.

That all said, I agree with him that many UI redesigns are pointless and expensive. Those tend to be the ones that don't bring new value to the user - just try to do the same old thing in a "modern" or (yikes - I hate this word) "fresh" way.

Good design of anything is hard, UI's are no exception. When you go beyond UI to uX, you enter the world of motivation, intent, expectations, and other emotional fuzziness. The design job gets harder by 10 or 100x. But it's there that you find the good reasons to consider a UI redesign.


> ... no one is raving about how a redesign makes the application any better.

Let's invert that then. Go and grab a ten year old copy of Gmail, Google maps or Facebook from the Wayback machine and tell users that's what they are going to get. All of a sudden they will be really appreciative of those incremental design changes.


Those three choices are interesting because I would absolutely take the designs of those sites from 10 years ago over the current ones.


Google Maps I can't agree with you on...but Gmail and Facebook, certainly.


I do absolutely agree on Maps. The first maps website was an interactive map that was blazing fast and you could search.

The current version of maps is slow, buggy on anything bug chrome, jarringly slow and almost hides the map in some situations.


If Facebook shipped this [1] tomorrow, you don't think people would be up in arms?

1: https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn%3AANd9GcSNUb...


... which one's supposed to be bad? If the website'd[0] had a UI similar to the left back when I briefly tried it in ~2010, I might've stuck around. I stopped using it after a couple weeks because I couldn't figure out where anything was, or where anything I posted was going to "go".

In terms of mobile UI, left looks like it'd let me answer the question "why's my badge have a number on it?" very efficiently, and to prioritize badge-number-dropping activities by category, which is great.

[EDIT] [0] Yes I know this is a mobile UI, not the desktop website, I'm saying left is clearer than the website was and, from what I see of it on other people's screens, is.

[EDIT AGAIN] I'd buy the argument that right has higher "engagement", though.

[ONE MORE TIME] man I shouldn't post pre-coffee. I initially took this to be old-left-new-right which is obviously wrong. Basic point stands, I don't get what's wrong with this as a user though it may well make metrics worse.


Perhaps, but I was just talking about myself. I definitely prefer that UI (maybe stylistically updated but not as far arrangement/placement and what's available).


Agree 3/3


This reminds me of the old cliché about advertising. 95% of advertising doesn't work, but the problem is knowing which 95%…

Similarly, even granting the author's point that most UI redesigns are misguided, the fact remains that we do want the products we use to somehow improve over time…


Something that I've been thinking about, perhaps because I'm a long time Reddit user, is how often when it comes to redesigns the motivations of those people funding and making the decisions do not actually have the interests of the existing users as their focus.


this reads like someone who hasn't done a lot of front end work, which to his credit, he admits upfront. design should be like all other forms of code development: iterative and agile.


I try not to stir trouble and be honest as I write :)


Great UI is extremely valuable. The challenge is that one of the qualities of a great UI is that it's stable.

The UI is the interface between your app and the customer. It's like an API. No one arbitrarily changes APIs and expects it to go well. But, perhaps because people are slightly more adaptable than code, UI gets changed without warning or choice all the time. This is a unilateral break in the implicit contract that we make with users. Of course people complain!


When considering UI changes, it's worth thinking how people use your app. Some apps are used only occasionally, so that effectively everyone is a beginner every time. In this case, there's room for rapid UI evolution and improvement.

Other apps are deeper and more feature rich and will be used by a given person for hours each day. You'll have to be very careful in changing these apps if you don't want irate users.


> The UI is the interface between your app and the customer. It's like an API. No one arbitrarily changes APIs

Love it . I’m stealing this one.


Despite my negative comment in another top level post, I actually resonate really well with this. I just got the "try the new twitter" icon. It immediately made me groan. Amusingly, if they hadn't asked, I probably wouldn't have really noticed.

Which is kind of the point. If you notice the modernization of something under you, it will annoy you. We have grown to not trust things that change. To the point that the appearance of stability is actually hugely important.


gimp has a horrible UI. If someone tweaks it to act more like Photoshop, I would use it as a PS replacement.

The blur filter in GIMP is almost indistinguishable from the blur filter in PS.


I started with Gimp and then moved on to other programs. I was actually mad when Gimp 2.x came out, as it changed the UI and most importantly all the keybindings in incompatible ways.

For me it's exactly the opposite, and I get pissed every time I hear that. Want PS? Keep using it.

I actually found Photoshop one of the worst UIs I ever tried circa ~2005 (I no longer do a lot of photo editing).

It reminds me so much of Autodesk's "Autocad" popularity and market penetration it's saddening (hint: autocad is shit too).



Did you try Krita?


> The people who use your application, don't like change. They like to go on autopilot after they've learned something, it's just plain easier for them.

This oft repeated quote. The thing is if this was the case we wouldn't have moved beyond command line interface. That was hands down the most performant user interface design for the people who were in the know.

But not so for new users and when new commands needed to be introduced.


A redesign should be never about yourself but about your users only. The raison d'être of the UI is not representation.

If you're still eager to do a periodical redesign, keep it to your error pages. So did I, just today [0]. This way, the web may also stay a fun place, full of potential discoveries.

[0] https://www.masswerk.at/404


Redesigns usually improve the "wow"-factor - great for sales demos. They are often detrimental to actual use of N hours per week.


It does seem like most of the UI books I read (I'm UI tone deaf) seem to suggest that I should always assume my users are 10x stupider than I think they are. I think "Don't make me think" had a lot of that. Then there are articles about how flat design is awful and we should all stick to what users already know and make sure that when they see a button they know it's a button and stuff.

This seems counter to my experience, which is that a redesign is usually like christmas morning. designs just get so stale after awhile, and good UX is literally like art you can touch (virtually). I find myself wanting to go to websites and use products simply because they have good UIs. That's one reason why I HATE AWS. They have the worst UI (and it's gotten a LOT better since I started using it). Google's consistent material design is so clean and fresh. Digital Ocean's is like next level for me.


Ironic that you mention material design and DO as prime examples of good UI when any UX designer who has to deal with the blunders of those two things will tell you that both are examples of horrible UX/UI.

I call this me-ism. Because I think it's good, it must be good. Because the company I like is doing it, it must be doing it right. What most people who gripe about design & UI do not seem to understand is that those decisions were made for a reason - usually to bring some sort of value to the table not for the sake of making things look clean and fresh.

Another comment here shows some ignorance too by saying that "I was lead to believe that its best to assume users are dumb, but my experience is on the contrary". This comment completely misses the point that users of one app/website will behave differently from users of another app/website and what works for one may not work for the other. At the end of the day there is a business being ran and money being made - the design decisions they make typically impacts their bottom line (for the better) or the design would have been reverted.


Worst thing is coupling UI redesign with changing the set of features.

First, you lose a familiar interface and you don't know where to find even the existing features. Then you realise that the feature you're looking for is no longer there. Maybe it will be brought back online later or will be replaced by another, "better", feature later.

UI redesigns are sometimes just plain unavoidable but they should be done separately from other changes. Much like you want to commit the code reformatting change separate from functional changes so you know you're just changing whitespace basically and there's nothing that should break your codebase.

As a user I can only absorb a certain amount of change at a time: I can learn a new UI if I know I'll find the familiar pieces somewhere in there. And I can accept new features or old ones being changed to different ones if I know the UI will still be the same.


There's so much this article misses: - most large companies a/b test their redesigns. If your company isn't big enough (for the tools or traffic needed to a/b test), then yeah, you're left to judgment calls. Really good a/b tests will actually capture things like "existing users initially hate it but eventually end up using the product more" - a lot of UI redesigns are driven by effect on new users, which might be more important to the company. Think about it, if you're already using the product, you probably don't care what it looks like too much (and might be annoyed if it changes). For new users, anesthetics leave a lasting first impression.

Yes, at many small companies without data, redesigns can be a waste of time and even harmful. But that doesn't mean they should always be avoided.


Bad design choices are a waste of time. Good ones are necessary. from an article about TOR as a great example:

Tor needs a lot of users to create anonymity, if Tor was hard to use new users wouldn't adopt it so quickly. Because new users won't adopt it, Tor becomes less anonymous. By this reasoning it is easy to see that usability isn't just a design choice of Tor but a security requirement to make Tor more secure. https://skerritt.blog/how-does-tor-really-work/


Most redesigns make things worse because anything re-designed in the last 10 years has been redesigned for computer interfaces that are small, have bad mechanical user interfaces, and can't even hold open a TCP connection. If it isn't clear, I'm talking about smart phones.


I don't think Instagram, one of the most used software user interfaces think redesigns are a waste of time, they redesigned to be similar to Snapchat and was able to create a new user experience that engaged users and was able to be monetized efficiently through advertisements


I have some sympathy with this article. I work in enterprise systems, and nice looking UI helps people learn the first time... Then they really want it to stay exactly the same for years in end. Same tab order, same menus, exactly the same.


Maybe they're a waste of time with apps, as the screen/window is small (ie, what's there to change?). On the other hand, people become bored by stale/outdated interfaces and move on. Also, times/trends change and there's usually a need to keep up. Enterprise software and other gluts of sh*t may not need the same updates and are usually terrible from the beginning.

If a redesign is done without attention to what's necessary, then it could also be a waste of time. It's especially bad if the newer design is worse and/or more alienating, as that tends to results in a loss of users.


Redesign is not just about visuals. If you change a few gradients/hues and add/remove rounded corners depending on the latest web fashion, then definitely you're wasting time and money - unfortunately, that's very common patter with companies, specially larger brands. However improving usability of the UI based on some actual metrics and research is definitely never a waste of time. In my experience absolutely every new app needs at least a few UX upgrades after some time, since it's impossible to get every detail of the UI design right from the first go.


I'm in favor of UX upgrades as you say, but not total redesigns. Incremental improvements are best in my opinion.

Most redesigns have a goal. More ads, more cross-selling, better engagement are common metrics. Redesigns are very rarely done just to make a site "look better", they're done with some other goal in mind.


I don't know about the designers, they are surely a big waste of my time as a user. Google is particularly guilty of this (or i just use their products more). Every new UI feels slower, and i m particularly aggravated by the sloppily animated "cards" and esp. the progress bars that are not even progressing, they re just looping. Adsense is much much worse than it used to be, buttons are not even responsive (because wait, animations haven't finished yet). I don't know why everybody is doing it, but it seems like a casualty of an echo chamber .


If you think that design/redesign is a waste of time, a good exercise would be to try and understand why fashion constantly evolves, ie why you no longer see people in bellbottoms and corsets.


I value design, like I pointed out earlier. What I find lacking in value are total redesigns where there isn't concrete reasons why the redesign should take place. For what basis is the redesign on? It "feels" better?

I'd be more comfortable with a more complete reason.


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