Redesigning a Web site is an enormous risk. Companies spend time and money, only to watch users revolt, as Digg found out the hard way. Why do some designs fail and some work?
The poster child for failed redesigns has got to be Digg, the news aggregator that is in a race to the bottom with MySpace for how many members it can lose. In the case of Digg, the problem began before the redesign. According to Website Magazine, it became clear that the site was essentially in the hands of a small, active clique who controlled what appeared on the front page and what didn’t.
The new design was intended to stem some of the abuses noted in the Website Magazine article. Instead, they made it worse. SearchEngineLand detailed the long list of changes for the bad, which all boiled down to one thing: users lost power.
“Digg was created as a power-to-the-people type of thing. When you strip away the power, of course there will be a backlash,” said Jim Elliston, president and co-founder of Clover, which offers professional site development for businesses and individuals.
The other mistake they made was just dropping the redesign on people. One day people went to the Digg they thought they knew and this new one was staring them in the face. This was the mistake of several other recent redesigns as well.
“Whether a site was fantastic or very utilitarian design, everyone got used to the design. Then they went and changed it and they made harsh changes. They didn’t bring audiences in through beta releases. The perception they gave off was we don’t care about our users, we have to make money,” said Giovanni Calabro, vice president of user experience for Siteworx, a site design company.