Rhodri Marsden: Why we all hate website redesigns

Cyberclinic

We don't always react calmly when change is forced upon us. We draw comfort and solace from things staying as they are, but in a world populated by excitable human beings drunk on free will, sometimes we have to simply deal with it. "Turn and face the strain," advised David Bowie; his ability to deal with changes clearly eclipses that of most internet users who, rather than "face the strain" when a website is redesigned, prefer to draw up a furious petition. It's a curious symptom of life on the web; we spend a huge amount of time within online environments to source information, seek entertainment or socialise, but the look and feel of those environments can change without warning. We're utterly beholden to the designers. And it can leave us feeling disorientated, confused and unsettled – a bit like coming home from the shops to discover that all our furniture has been rearranged, and someone's stuck a load of Viagra adverts up in the hallway.

This year, major redesigns have taken place on sites such as the BBC, Flickr, Google News, ask.com, and Twitter, while others – Google, Facebook, Yahoo – are constantly tweaked. It's understandable; they have to keep up with web technology, and because they're aware of the way we're clicking and typing, they can make well-judged improvements. But the more popular a site is, the more likely it is that things will kick off when users suddenly can't find something. Last summer's big overhaul of Facebook was a perfect example; mantras such as "Why mess with something if it already works?" and "I preferred it the way it was before" appeared with monotonous regularity on Facebook groups set up in a desperate attempt to force the site to revert. A www.wordle.net analysis of posts on Facebook over that period showed that the words "Hate" and "Change" were the two most frequently occurring. Which says it all.

But of course, the complaints quickly subsided. They always do, because people simply get used to the new look. When the BBC News website had a revamp a few weeks ago, the online screeching was deafening; now, it just looks normal, and if the old one reappeared it would feel equally odd. We experience a sudden shock, we register that shock loudly and publicly, and then forget about it. As a result, it must be tough for websites to separate constructive feedback from childlike whining. But get it too wrong, and people leave in droves. The website digg.com, a user-driven news hub where stories and links from around the web are voted up and down by the community, has experienced a huge exodus – traffic from Britain down 34 per cent – since a substantial redesign about four weeks ago. Digg had good reasons for doing it; they rightly felt that too much power was held by too few users (the so-called Diggerati) and so, in the spirit of equality, they implemented a new system. But the Diggerati didn't like it, and they have largely decamped to a competing site, www.reddit.com. Digg made alterations in response to some of the criticisms, but the fiasco has been described as "a textbook example of how to alienate your users". Sometimes, though, you have nothing to lose. MySpace, a website so neglected by us that logging in feels like an archaeology dig, relaunches with a new look in a fortnight. The outcry will be minimal; whether it lures us back is another question.



***



The last few weeks have seen a number of high-profile cases where big companies exercise their legal might to prevent smaller ones using standard English words in their products. We've seen Stelios's Easygroup come down hard on EasyDate – an organisation that's been around for five years; Teachbook has incurred the wrath of Facebook, while Sky was revealed to have been embroiled in a lengthy battle with Skype, for obvious reasons. Now, Apple have a gripe with Sector Labs, an innovations company who, incidentally, produce a rather spiffy temperature-sensitive light for kitchen taps: red glowing water for hot, blue for cold. But they also produce a projection system called a Video Pod. Whoops. I'd just like to note that I own a guitar amp simulator called a Pod that predated the iPod by two years; there have also been unshelled peas for sale at my local market for decades. Just saying. So far, Apple haven't gone after a Californian Vietnamese restaurant called iPho, but it's surely only a matter of time.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
filmReview: Gyllenhaal, in one of his finest performances, is funny, engaging and sinister all at once
Life and Style
Taste the difference: Nell Frizzell tucks into a fry-up in Jesse's cafe in east London
food + drinkHow a bike accident left one woman living in a distorted world in which spices smell of old socks and muesli tastes like pork fat
Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington has been given a huge pay rise to extend his contract as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
filmThis Halloween, we ask what makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?
News
peopleFarage challenges 'liberally biased' comedians to 'call him a narcissist'
Arts and Entertainment
Liam and Zayn of One Direction play with a chimpanzee on the set of their new video for 'Steal My Girl'
music
Arts and Entertainment
Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
music
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

    £24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

    Marketing Account Manager / Client Liaison Manager

    £25 - 32k DOE: Guru Careers: A digital-savvy Marketing Account Manager / Clien...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Executive

    £23-30k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking bright Business Developmen...

    Inside Sales Manager – SaaS based solutions

    25-30k + Comms + Benefits: Sphere Digital Recruitment: A rapidly expanding tag...

    Day In a Page

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

    "I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"