What's That? There's A New Interface? It's Terrible!

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 7.236% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

I can’t believe they changed the old, user-friendly version to this new crappy look.  It’s ugly, it’s nonfunctional, and it’s sure to drive the old users away.  How could they sift through all the available options and choose this awful look?
…what site am I talking about?  All of them.  Doesn’t matter.  Every time Facebook twitches, every time Gmail has a new look, it sends a spill of vomitous hate out to my Twitter-feed.  (God forbid Twitter actually changes its look.)  People fricking hate site redesigns, program redesigns, you name it.
I ignore them, because I remember two things:
1)  Back in the first days of Windows, when nobody was quite sure how to turn a complicated word processor into a GUI look and three titans battled for control of the market, they did a study.  Which word processor was easiest for people to use?  And so they did hundreds of tests putting the then-tiny Microsoft Word up against the juggernaut of Wordperfect for Windows, and Lotus’ well-reviewed-but-never-well-selling AmiPro.
They found that 90% – that’s 90%! – of the people agreed that one word processor was easiest to use.  That word processor?
The one they were familiar with.
That’s right, the user interface didn’t matter – what mattered was that you’d already done the hard work of parsing the user interface.  Once you knew how to save a document and how to print to an envelope, the program you used magically became “good” – even if you’d forgotten how ridiculous it was to learn in the beginning.  What people hated, it seemed, was the effort of relearning things.
2)  When I first redesigned StarCityGames.com (back when I still had significant input into the design process), I premiered a mostly red-and-yellow version of the site, to try to differentiate it from all the other blue-and-black Magic sites out there.  I got a lot of hate mail from people telling me the new design was awful, why did I go with those colors, how dare you fuck it up?  I saved them all in a folder.
Nine months later, I did another redesign, this time switching to the “classic” colors of green and yellow, since I though the red-and-yellow was a little eye-searing.  I also got a tide of hate mail.  But I compared.  Of the people who complained violently, discussing how the old look was better, about 10% were the people who’d emailed to bitch how terrible the old new look was.
That’s when I decided that most people just hate change.
This isn’t to say there aren’t terrible user interfaces out there – Windows 8 is a major misfire to me, and Facebook’s thankfully-aborted two-column content made it impossible to know where a given news item might fall.  But mostly, when I hear people whining that this new look is awful and unusable and clunky, I mentally substitute “I have to learn things again.”  And realize that once they’ve learned it, 90% of those people will settle down and be content.
Until the next change, of course.  Then they’ll hate it all over again.

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