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Preparing Customers for User Interface Updates

Strategically Speaking
Dec 16, 2015
Jennie_Ebbing.jpg Author: Jennie Ebbing, 


I don’t know about you, but I go on auto-pilot when I’m in a place that I visit regularly. A good example is my local grocery store. I go there with a list of things that I need, and I usually know just where to find them. Sure, the store is showing its age, and maybe the bakery doesn’t offer much, but it’s my store! I’m used to it – both its good and bad attributes. This past weekend my world was rocked because they closed the old store and opened a new and improved superstore! I’m sure everything I need is in the new place, but how the heck will I find it?

Changing the look and feel of an application or website can make for a similarly jarring experience for customers. What was once familiar is now different. Actions that didn’t take too much effort from the user now require a higher level of focus in order to get the job done. If new features have been added, will the user understand their value? Will they know how to use them? How can you help your customers prepare for and adapt to a user interface (UI) change? Here are some tips:

Communicate - Tell your customers what’s coming. Outline the changes, provide timelines, training options, and support information. Be prepared to repeat communications frequently with a ramp-up of those efforts closer to the date the changes will be available.

Promote Improvements – Talk about the good stuff! Change is hard. Even when it’s a change for the better, the overall perception from a user can be negative. Be sure to tout the benefits of the changes. Call out exciting new functionality, especially features that allow the user to be more efficient.

Documentation – Empower your users to help themselves by providing solid documentation that will help them understand how to get around in the new UI. While it’s true that many users can navigate an intuitive UI without assistance, documentation is an important part of any update. Remember that documentation doesn’t always mean a lengthy manual. Workflow mapping, a recap of the changes, and how-to sheets are all valuable documentation tools.

Training – Whether it is on-the-job training on the day of the release or a series of training sessions in advance, be sure you provide training opportunities for your users. Short tutorials that focus on how to use the new system are invaluable. The more comfortable the users feel with the new technology, the easier it will be for them to make the switch.

Support – Prepare your support staff for the upcoming changes by making sure they know the new features and navigation flows inside and out. Compile a list of the most common questions and circulate it throughout they organization so that those who wouldn’t normally answer support questions can pitch in. Consider expanding support temporarily if you feel the call volume will exceed capacity. Make it easy for your customers to reach you and make sure your support representatives are confident in the subject matter and are ready to assist.

Related: The Time is Now for Redesigning a User Interface

Planning ahead and preparing for changes will make the process easier for both you and your customers. Taking care to promote the positive impact of an improved user interface, as well as providing plenty of training opportunities will ensure that the transition is a smooth one for everyone involved.

One final note: I went back to the grocery store last night. Thanks to the signage and helpful employees, I found everything I needed…and then some! And I have to admit the new store is nice. Now that they’ve helped me make it past the initial change, I think I may really learn to like it there.

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