The emotional turmoil of UI changes – notes from our CEO
I know user interface changes can make you emotional, illustrated by this priceless iOS7 reaction video. For me personally, some supposed “upgrades” from software companies have made me crazy: The improvements that were introduced actually made my system worse and made me angry.
In my professional life, I’m in charge of product here at Conceptboard and that gives me a rough idea of what goes wrong in large software company departments: It’s complex and difficult to build and evolve software. You have your great vision, but you can adapt that on reality only step by step. And for each step you must ensure complete functionality – your product must align with what your users expect it to work, and also all corner cases have to be implemented. Nevertheless at some point, you must make a decision to release a certain product step or prolong development to rework the concept, not knowing how many iterations are needed to make it perfect. Of course it never gets perfect – you only can try to make the best out of your development restrictions.
We wanted to improve upon some outcomes caused by such development restrictions. So about 2 weeks ago, we released an update to Conceptboard’s main UI, the board interface, to fix some of the solutions that didn’t feel quite right to us. If you noticed these changes, you may have been wondering what happened, so I wanted to share my thoughts with you.
Conceptboard Old UI
The basis of the last update was a release some months ago in which we introduced three modes to work with your boards: “Browse”, “Discuss” and “Create”. The goal was to give all collaborators a smooth entry to a new board, and not to overwhelm them with too many options. That’s what we’ve seen several times, for example, when you invite guests who haven’t seen a Conceptboard before, or when you for yourself enter a large board the first time. Our solution: Every new participant starts with a focus on navigation (“Browse”), and then can e.g. switch to setting comments (“Discuss”). Only if the user is familiar with the system, will they probably start begin using the “create” or “insert” mode.
Unfortunately, it turned out that we reduced the tools in the different modes too much. By focusing on the core tasks in each mode, we also eliminated some functionality that a lot of users seemed to expect “intuitively”, for example the manipulation of existing objects. And that was a bummer for some people – and it reminded me a bit of what large software companies do. Their original vision probably went through a tough journey to be implemented into the system. They decided to prematurely release a product step, instead of prolonging development. We’ve seen this mistake from many large companies, and we feel like we made a bit of a mistake with our earlier release as well.
Conceptboard New UI
With our recent update, internally called UI 2.1, we wanted to provide a solution that is more reflective of the experience we originally intended. This update improved our tool handling so users can more intuitively find the tool they want. At the same time it is paving the way for future toolkit expansions as well. Also we realized an improved connection between an element and its editing tools as you can now edit elements without changing tools.
With these changes, 2.1 has received lots of great feedback. We believe we have solved some challenges that the interface had and also have created a navigation that will be able to handle an increase in new functions and tools.