Baby duck syndrome: Why users hate change and what you can do about it

How many times have you heard people complaining because the updated version of Facebook is awful? Every time there’s a change, it all kicks off again… everyone becomes angry and adamant they’ll never use Facebook again but then they get used to the change and forget all about it until next time. There’s even been a timeline created of all the Facebook backlashes.

Facebook is just one example we can all relate to, but there are many across the internet including many ecommerce websites and apps. But why is it that people are so reluctant to changes within websites, software and apps? This reluctance that users have towards change is called ‘Baby duck syndrome’.

Baby duck syndrome

But what do baby ducks have to do with users behaviour?

Well, the name comes from psychology and ethology (the study of animal behaviour). Konrad Lorenz, studied animal behaviour and he observed how new born ducks that leave their nest early, instinctively bond and ‘imprint’ with the first moving object they see (in Konrad’s case this happened to be him).

The same thing happens to people when they’re online. Users get used to and learn how to interact with a website or software in a certain way, this can take some time to do so they’ve also invested effort into doing this. Once they are familiar with the platform and like it, they struggle to change their habits. In general, people perceive the familiar as easier and more efficient and the unfamiliar less so; they have a tendency to “imprint” in the first system they learn, then judge other systems by their similarity to the first. Changes to the existing system will be perceived as less easy to use (even if they do actually make it easier) because they require some learning and therefore effort on the users behalf to get used to the new functionality.

This is not isolated to the digital environment either. In the offline world people are also reluctant to change – they feel safer when they can maintain a routine and an instinctive inner strength motivates them to stick with what they’ve learnt, with what they know, because it feels safer for them.

When a radical change is made to something already viewed as useful, but does not fundamentally change the experience, people rebel – and they rebel quickly.

The dilemma for ux designers and product owners

So, your dilemma is this… if you keep the same interface, users will be happy and feel comfortable, but the risk is that you end up stuck with an interface that doesn’t change with the times and gets stuck in the past. It may well have issues to do with the UI and interaction that need to adapt to improve the user experience. However, if you change it significantly, even if it’s for the better, your users are likely to rebel against the change and deem the previous version as better (even if you’ve tested and proved that it was actually worse).

Keeping your product updated is important, but so is keeping your users happy and providing them with an interface that’s easy and pleasant to use. Angry users and social media aren’t a good combination!

How to make changes with minimal upset to users

  • People need to feel reassured and supported. You need to provide assistance and to guide them through the transition phase.
  • Be there for your users, support and explain the nature of the changes, reassure them about how to do it. Don’t make your users feel forced or imposed, let the interface communicate with them rather than instructing them to make the change.

If you take the risk to make changes to your website, app or software and if you are ready to upset you users, you should also be 100% sure that the changes you are introducing worth the risk.

  • Conduct user testing. Observe users using the new version of your website or software, take note of the feedback and keep the change process open and in continuous progression.
  • Lessen any fear of the change by making your users aware that these changes have been tested with them already and that you’re making the change for their benefit. Explain why.
  • Instead of changing everything at once, make a series of small incremental changes. This is what Facebook do now and for most users small changes go totally unnoticed, despite them leading to the same end result eventually.
  • Interact and listen to your users, tweeting, facebooking, reading forums and taking in their concerns and expectations.
  • Test your interface to gather concrete proof that your users will understand the improvement and finally embrace it.

Need help or advice?

Are you considering making changes to your website and are concerned about how your customers will react? We recommend

Other posts you may find interesting:

What is User Testing?
5 user tests every Product Manager should commission

Fascinating insights: E-commerce expo day 1

This week we attended the London e-commerce expo to discover the latest statistics, technology and importantly, what’s predicted to be big in 2015. Here’s our write-up of the sessions we attended on day 1 (day 2 to come soon). What’s very clear is that mobile will be massive in 2015! New technology enabling more advanced tracking of customers offline and online will also pave the way for advanced data, customer engagement and retargeting across channels (more of this in our next blog post: day 2).

Driving Sales in a connected world

Tracy Yaverbaun, Facebook

facebook mobile
Mobile was a key theme in Tracy’s presentation. There has been a huge change in devices and multi-device use, for marketers this is a huge challenge!

Mobile is where the growth is and where it will continue to be but brands aren’t moving as fast as consumers.

Only 4% of budgets go into mobile but it’s where 20% of consumers time is. Everything has to work on mobile for facebook now.

80% of Facebook’s users are mobile. 26m daily users on facebook, out of these 23m are mobile .

Mobile is disrupting commerce. Physical shop real estate is shrinking so e-commerce is more important than ever. Yet the screen size is smaller so marketers have to work harder on the small screen real estate.

Consumers want msgs relevant to them at the right place at the right time. You need to consider:

1. Discovery. People can find your brand. The Facebook newsfeed is one of the best places for consumers to discover products. Most people check their newsfeed a whopping 14 times every day!

2. Personalisation. Personalisation at scale. E.g. Amazon used Facebook to only target people who didn’t own kindles and were frequent flyers (using their CRM to filter out people who had kindles). It’s all about ‘good targeting’.

3. Measurement. ROI no matter which device consumers start or end their journey. Mobile has a huge amount of traffic but a lot of brands discount this. Marketers are obsessed with looking at clicks but they don’t matter, what matters is return on investment. Even if people don’t click, they’ve seen your message and taken in your brand. Facebook now has cross device measurement capability.

The future of ecommerce is personalised discovery across devices and that you can measure every step along the way.

The future of mobile on the high street

Andrew McClelland and Matt Norbury

Future of mobile on the high street
What was very clear in this keynote, was that mobile is a huge, growing market and the key takeaway was that if you’re not focussed on mobile you are already getting left behind. Here are some of the key points:

Mobile growth is larger than tablet. 186% average growth in sales via mobile compared to 131% in tablet e-cmmerce. Average mobile conversion last year was 1.1%, this year 1.4%.

Basket size on mobiles is almost equal to desktop. £76 average basket value for mobile, average for desktop is £80.

8 in 10 smartphone users will use their smartphone at some point during the purchase process.

Mobile is critical to retail in the coming years. You have got to give people a real reason to engage – games and fun stuff. Add sufficient value that people keep coming back.

Don’t fear ‘showrooming’. Although people are using their mobiles inshore, most are actually just checking their email and social networks, not comparing prices.

Provide wifi. Wifi in-store is becoming a requisite – people expect it. Some people will leave a store if it doesn’t have wifi. Good for the guys whilst the girlfriend is shopping – keeps the boyfriend happier, keeps the girlfriend in the store for longer, everyones happy and the girlfriend has spent more.

Personalisation is big. 70% of people will give personal information and preferences to get something valuable in return such as offers.

Use beacons to measure footfall. Can measure uplift of message and conversion from a voucher you sent them. See the full end-to-end conversion, starting online, ending offline.

Five tips to make sure that customers transact with your app

David Pope, Jumio

Mobile commerce transactions

25% of downloaded apps are NEVER used.

Nearly 66% of consumers making purchases on a tablet or phone, regularly abandon their purchases during the payment process.

David explained his top five tips to get customers using and buying from your mobile app:

1. Be aware which operating system or platform will deliver the best return for your app. Interestingly, although Google Plays market share is way more than Apple’s, Apple’s users actually spend more – almost five times as much! ios users display 6 times the engagement of android users and tablets drive about 20% more spending on avg. Avg spending is 89 eur for tablets, 67 for pcs, 66 for smartphones. Although this isn’t the same in every industry and he specifically excluded travel and gaming as not applicable.

2. Be sensitive to data privacy concerns that may inhibit app usage. Trust is the number  barrier to growth of mobile content and commerce. 99% of users will not share their contact information. Less is more. Don’t ask for location, don’t ask how old the user is, don’t ask to access their contacts – greed for data gets in the way of transactions.

3. Reduce payment friction. This is all about your User Experience. David specifically talked about the keystroke level model – timing how long it will take customer to type data into your forms and working to reduce this number. And the gestalt laws of grouping (this is a more general design rule). Quite rightly, he pointed out that lots of apps still show alphanumeric keyboards for numeric data input – this is really frustrating and time consuming for your users. He also spoke of form length as important for reducing friction and gave the example of one change reduced to just 4 fields that resulted in 160% increase in conversions.

4. Balance functionality with speed and performance. There is a direct link between the performance of an app, number of downloads and its rankings in the app store. Tagman widget for calculating performance optimisation for your app. David recommends taking an MVP approach.

5. Build customer retention into your app. Integrate social features e.g. Sephora. Create a sense of community and use timely reminders, e.g. Map my run. Promote the benefits of your app, e.g. Swiftkey, tells you how much time you saved compare to normal keyboard. Personalise your customers experience.

Jumio
David’s aim in describing the above, was in promoting his product, Jumio. Basically instead of typing in their details, your customer would use Jumio on their mobile to scan their credit card and all the fields on your form would be populated automatically (Fastfill). Apparently this aids validation and reduces fraud. Note, legally, the customer still needs to manually enter their CVC number. It’s claimed that the average increase in form completion rate is 18-33%, coupled with less data entry errors.

Watch the video:

The customer journey report 2014

Dave Chaffey, Smart Insights

Dave’s slides can be viewed below. He placed focus on the customer journey and how wide it actually is – you need to focus on all channels, both online and offline and how people interact with / switch between them. It’s also important to use the right language for each of your personas to appeal to them in the words they use.

It was fairly disappointing to see that only 33% of respondents in the survey make use of usability studies but I’d be willing to bet that these 33% are the more successful companies. Clearly, there are a lot of companies that need to make greater use of user research methods as opposed to just analysing numbers.

Beware of the box: Don’t let your commerce software dictate how your business works

David Winterbottom

David’s presentation was from  a more technical viewpoint, being from a developer background originally. I loved his approach to writing software requirements which is called YAGNI (You ain’t gonna need it). We often experience feature / scope creep in our UX world and we’re always battling against it, so YAGNI is definitely an acronym I’m going to be using! Quite rightly, David also advised that companies shouldn’t write a long list of software requirements at the RFP phase as this should be open at this stage to allow the company you work with to come up with the best solution, otherwise you’re already limiting them and telling them the solution.

I also liked the example that in Korea, customers can now scan QR codes to purchase things in the store. Soon, you’ll also be able to have your items delivered so that they’re waiting for you when you get back home (very cool).

David spoke briefly about an open source platform they’ve created called ‘Oscar‘. It’s totally free, designer friendly (apparently), and mobile by default. It’s built in Django and quick for prototyping which David said can be done in just a few days.

Read part 2 : More fascinating e-commerce insights for 2015!