RealEstate.co.nz, New Zealand’s national real estate search site, learned a tough lesson this week. After flipping the switch on a brand new redesign of their website, users revolted and demanded the old site back. After much deliberation, the search portal capitulated and decided to reestablish the former version of the site.
If you’ve ever gone through a major site overall, I’m sure you can sympathize.
Change is hard. Repeat visitors are likely going to react viscerally to a new look and feel. Traffic might even drop as users stomp off to their corners like petulant children.
Emails, tweets, and blog comments can amplify the discontent. The noise can become overwhelming.
As a site owner, all of this can be petrifying. So what can you to do mitigate this?
1. Establish a beta period
Inman reported last week that Move.com was launching new a Realtor.com in Beta in the next few weeks. If you’re planning a major redesign, this is the way to do it. Hold a closed beta and let a select group of users take your new baby for test ride. Slowly open up the sample size.
2. Test, test, test
Google’s redesigned UI went live last week. But it wasn’t really a surprise. Variations of the new look had been visible to many for months leading up to the launch. During this testing phase, the search giant was presumably gathering all kinds data on users’ interactions and making subtle tweaks to ensure the best results.
3. Real people, real feedback
In last week’s 1000watt Spotlight newsletter we highlighted UserTesting.com – a service that lets you solicit feedback from real users.
This is an often overlooked and critically important step. None of us can function in a bubble. Listening to feedback during the first two steps is all-important and pretty easy to do these days. Services like KissInsights or 4q can help you quickly and easily gather the necessary intelligence to make the right decisions.
Yet you’ll still going run into roadblocks.
So sometimes you just have to lead. Just ask Facebook, which has undergone more facelifts than Heidi Montag in the last few years. If you believe in your work, keep marching forward.
Eventually, your users will catch up with you. The critiques level off. People adjust as they learn the new site.
Life gets back to normal.
And then it’s time to start planning for the next version.