Where's your head at? Basement Jaxx
Most people don't like change - especially changes to an app, Web site or product. Changes can't be controlled. They are made and you need to accept it, whether you want to or not.
Look at what happens when Facebook makes a change. Usually we'll see a number of posts from friends complaining about the change along with claims that they will stop using it because of these new features.
And then that same person makes another 5 posts about politics, friends, family, cats, or other people's silly children.
Recently, Apple announced the iPhone 7 and how they are removing the phone jack to support a wired headset device. Their perspective is that people need to move to Bluetooth/wireless devices already. I think that's a fair assessment in general given that Bluetooth has been around for a long long time and overall works pretty well. However, there's a catch - Bluetooth headsets work fairly well some of the time. They don't work 100% of the time like wireless keyboards. I know of 2 headsets that work pretty well; but most just don't. I have been on too many calls with people using Bluetooth headsets where they sound like they are 3 continents away.
Technically, are we really ready?
No. And Apple should have researched that more before making it's big decision (I would be surprised if they did research that before making the decision because historically, Apple rarely does user research. I have heard Apple employees say that innovation doesn't come from users and research. Horrified me a bit. I guess they hang out with Frog Design kids too often. But onwards!).
The issue I have with this phone jack change is the maturity of the technology. Does it mean I won't buy an Apple phone? Probably not. Does it mean I'll need to get a better headset? Sigh. Yes.
I'll accept the change unwillingly because I still want to use Apple products. But in a weird way, it's fun to complain about it, criticize them, and say how they should know better.
Does all change come with complaining? No.
I have witnessed UX changes that resulted in no user complains; if anything, people have used it more! In fact, I have worked on projects where we made a signficant UX change that results in increased revenue Day One of launch. Or people adopted it quickly at pre-launch from a tiny link on a page.
So what's the differences between the 2 types changes: the Apple type where I'm unhappy about the change and need a workaround vs the other types that people adopt and love?
Before we address that, remember: people change because they want to change. You can't force people to change anything or decide to do any action. If your users don't want to do something in a new way - it won't happen. They will complain and find reasons not to do it. The drive to use your product needs to be stronger than the drive to not use it (the Facebook example - the drive to be connected is stronger than confusion about the new feature.).
But there is a silver lining regarding change. When people complain about a change, it's usually not about the change. It's about a related issue: transparency, insecurity, loss of control, etc. It is regarding something about them and their outlook on their own life. There are a number of articles about change and why it may not work and often, it's for personal reasons. It's where their heads are at regarding the change.
I complain about the phone jack because of the technology of it - or more accurately because I am too lazy to find a new headset. Which is true!
Why are some changes successful? It meets these three criteria:
- The feature added was something that the customer wanted already. This is often the case for fast acceptance. If a customer has a particular feature or business fix in mind, he more easily accepts its implementation. It doesn't take long for that customer to jump right in and start using it. The new feature is a win for the customer.
- The feature was familiar (intuitive) to use. No training was necessary. This is also key for fast adoption. Someone can start using a tool right away because he doesn't need training for how to use it.
- Users are already thinking differently about how to use a feature or app. Sometimes people are using an app in a new way already. Or they have already thought about that feature and are counting the days for it to be implemented. The company is catching up to what the users need.
These are the traits that exist for every successful change I have observed. And by success, I mean seamless adoption and increased usage Day One and beyond.
Yes, this can and does happen frequently.
Why would people push back on a change?
This has nothing to do with training or an explanation for the changes. Rejection of change is never about the actual change. It's about issues surrounding the change. People blame the feature or other reasons as to why it didn't work, but that's not the reason why someone isn't using a tool. People say they hate Facebook and still use it. People say they are sick of Apple but still buy the phone.
- Loss of control. People had an understanding of how things worked before (or thought they did, which is a different problem for a different day) and now they don't. That's a scary place to be. Their world has shattered.
- Fear. This includes fear or failure, success, unknown, looking stupid, more work, unexpected impact, something new. Fear is a key factor for rejecting anything. And we're not talking about technology rejection because the technology simply isn't there. We are talking about a change that is valid and makes sense and it being rejected because...great question! There is no reason for the rejection. What is FEAR again? False Evidence Appearing Real. Yes.
- Unprepared to think in a different way. Change always requires a new way to think about the world. It sounds severe, but it's true. A change may include a different way to think about a product and how it works - and if you aren't ready to think about a product that way, then this new view won't happen and change is rejected.
What are signs of rejecting an app or feature beyond the obvious of not using the new solution?
- Making fun of the new solution - who created it, who is managing it, what it does. Making fun of something is a coping mechanism to make it seem lesser and you greater so your ego can accept the circumstances. It's psychology.
- Raising constant excuses and roadblocks as to why a feature is a bad idea. And each roadblock is a reason that can be easily cured or resolved with a conversation or other item. This is about finding reasons not to do something, not trying to improve a situation.
- Blaming an individual for the change. I would blame Steve Jobs for features I didn't like on an Apple product. Or Bill Gates for Microsoft. Or Mark Zuckerberg for Facebook. Is that realistic? NO! A team created and implemented a feature. Not just one person wanted it - many people agreed with it and made it happen. Thinking that many people wanted a feature makes you feel small and insignifiant and possibly wrong. And who wants to be wrong? It's easier to blame one person for a change.
How can you reduce these challenges if you have a public app?
Usability testing and monitoring metrics. Get the feedback directly and fix the problem. A fairly straightforward approach. Users will be honest with you and let you know where their head is at with the change.
If you are implementing an internal tool and there is change how can you reduce this? There really isn't any predictor. Sure, there are things you can do - bring people along during the change management process, show them what you are doing, keep them involved. But even that doesn't guarantee that change will be accepted. People have emotions. Even if everyone agreed that the change was a great idea in the first place doesn't mean that when it is implemented that everyone will feel great about it. There may be insecurities, fears, loss. Those emotions need to be addressed during the process. It is less about the change itself and more how people feel about that change.
To sum up, change only happens when people (users) want the change as much as you do. And they may not want the change because of fear, they don't want to think about the situation in a new way, or they want to keep control over their own world. Change happens when people have made up their mind that a new feature or idea makes sense - or they have already made a decision that the feature or idea needs to be implemented now for them to be successful.
Successful change is about where someone's head is at.