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

10 psychology techniques to drive behaviour

If you want to increase your engagement metrics, increase page views, increase the amount of enquiries and much more then follow these simple techniques.

1. Know your audience

Know your users

If you don’t know who your audience is then you won’t know what makes them tickYou can’t persuade people if you don’t know much about them. Knowing your audience helps you to shape your message in a way that’s most likely to gain their acceptance. That’s all the more important when your goal is to persuade, and not simply to inform.

2. Speak the same language

Speak the same language

Once you know who your audience is, you need to make sure you communicate with them in an effective manner. This involves speaking their language, using phrases and expressions they’re familiar with, limiting unfamiliar words where possible. The tone of voice and content should match the level and knowledge of your audience. If it’s too technical or not technical enough you will lose the user.

3. Stay concise

Stay concise

People will actually read more your text, the less text you write. Why? People are busy, they’re bombarded by text and adverts all day every day and there’s an internet full of content for them to sift through for answers. Long paragraphs of text drive people away so make sure you keep your content short and snappy, full of content, not waffle.

4. Use good layout

Eye tracking

People scan content for things that stand out to them. If nothing interests them they’ll head off somewhere else. To make sure they’re able to get a good overview of your content within a few seconds, make sure that content is sectioned with good headings, that key words visually stand out (i.e. bold them or use colour), make use of bullets, use white space to draw attention to things and let content breathe, and of course use good imagery leads us nicely to our next point.

5. Use engaging imagery

Whirlpool toaster

People are drawn to imagery over text. In eye tracking studies, people are instantly drawn to photographs on a page. Our brains are wired to prefer visuals, they are processed faster and enable us to draw quicker conclusions. In short, people prefer them. However, it isn’t quite as simple as that. You need to ensure any images you use appeal to your target audience. They also need to feel real so don’t be tempted to use stock imagery (unless it’s really good). People see through stock imagery, they know you’ve paid for the images and they aren’t authentic, this reflects on you as a business. Where possible, use real photos that do a great job of appealing to your audience and reflecting your purpose for the imagery.

6. Make use of video

If you want to get your message across and have it remembered, video has the advantage (over just reading text) of communicating social and emotional information, not just facts. If the video shows your company, products, testimonials… it can give your business instant credibility and authenticity. The human brain is drawn to moving imagery, sounds, emotion which is why video can be a powerful tool for increasing audience engagement.

7. Cats

Keep It Usable Cats

The Keep It Usable cats! Bowie and Ramos.

Cats are one of the most searched terms on the internet right now. We’re not really suggesting you use cats (unless your target audience enjoy them) but it can be a clever technique to make use of trends, what’s fashionable and popular right now. You need to use content that engages with your end users. You’ve heard of the Harlem Shake? You’ve seen all the youtube memes? If your business appeals to that audience then why not jump onboard and produce your own version!

8. Use stories

Once upon a time

From as far back as history takes us, humans have used stories to pass on knowledge. Why did they do this? We remember stories. When stories are told, the recipient recreates the feelings inside themselves. We can’t help it. Inside all of our brains we have mirror neurons and these literally mirror what we’re seeing or hearing. This is why when we watch a sad film, we feel sad too, the brain lives it it for the first time, as if it’s our own experience. Because stories use so many of our senses, we are also able to remember them easily.

 

9. Use real people

UX books

This is me. You’ll make instant judgements within milliseconds of looking at this photo. A picture really does speak a thousand words.

Do you know what fascinates people? People. Do you know who people trust the most? People like them. Use content and imagery that is yours. This could be testimonials from your customers or photographs of real people (not models or stock imagery) using your product. Show images of you, your employees, your workplace, etc too. The more real your company feels, the more honest and trustworthy it will appear to be. In the photo above you’ll see me pointing at our vast collection of UX related books. What instant judgements did you make? Have another look and see if you were right.

You’d be right if you thought that I… love reading, I love learning, I prefer physical books as opposed to digital. You will also have made assumptions about me as a person and my lifestyle. There’s a lot you will gather from a photo or image that is subconscious and conscious. An image really does speak a thousand words.

 

10. Clear call-to-action

Clear call to action

FileShare HQ have a clear call-to-action. They know what they want users to do.

Give the user a place to go next. Too often, we see website pages and software that doesn’t clearly guide the user to the next step you wish them to take. For every page, decide what you want the user to do next and make sure there is a clear path to take them there. If you want them to call you then show your telephone number and tell them to call you. If you want them to buy from you then ensure your call-to-action is a nice visual button that stands out on the page.

You might also like:

The Psychology of choice: How we make decisions
5 benefits of observing UX research in person
7 Tips to Craft Compelling Call-to-action Copy

Consumer behaviour insights: Smartphone vs tablet

With the increasing growth of tablet devices it’s important to understand how people are using these devices and what they’re using them for so we can design the best user experience for them which will convert higher.

In the past few years, mobile has been the primary focus for many businesses but as we’ve discussed previously, tablet use is growing phenomenally and it’s important to think about your tablet strategy right now.

To design anything for a smartphone or tablet it’s firstly incredibly important to understand the user(s) and their behaviour. Recent research by Flurry provides useful insights into how people are currently using these devices.

Smartpones vs Tablets Age Distribution

We can see from the above chart that there’s a clear tendency for tablet users to be older than smartphone users. In this case the difference averages 4 years. How old is your target market? If they’re older, in particular 55+ you definitely need to have a great tablet strategy in place.

Smartpones vs Tablets Usage by Hour

Interestingly, tablets are used much more than smartphones in the evenings. This provides evidence that tablets are being used as a fun, entertainment device within the home. This would indicate that tablets are more often used alongside, or instead of television. Let’s look further into how people use smartphones and tablets…

Smartphones vs Tablets Category Usage

It’s clear to see why tablets beat smartphones for evening usage; the primary thing people are doing in the evening is playing games. Consumers spend 71% more of their time playing games on tablets than on smartphones. With their larger screens, tablets provide the better gaming user experience.

Consumers spend more time using tablets for media and entertainment whereas smartphones are predominantly being used for communication and task-oriented activities.

Smartphones vs Tablets App Engagement

Finally, when we check the engagement metrics, tablets win hands down. This stands to reason when people are using tablets for higher media consumption like gaming. Smartphones still have the highest frequency of use, with people dipping into their mobile apps throughout the day. As mobiles are the device most people have with them all the time we would expect it to be the most frequently used.

If you’d like to know more about designing for mobile or tablet user experience, or if you’d like us to conduct research into your current user experience with your target market, get in touch using our contact form.

How customers REALLY shop using Smartphones

Mobile on the goGoing mobile has become a business imperative.

New research has unveiled the way customers really use devices and highlights the importance Smartphones play in researching and purchasing may have previously been underrated.

The research shows that context and the user’s aims play a major role in the choice of device. Convenience is also an important factor. Understandably, the Smartphone is the device users reach for time and time again, even if the experience is better on a PC or tablet – their mobile is always within reach.

 

Many times we turn to the screen that is closest

 

Context drives device choice

 

Smartphones have by far the highest usage for daily interactions with digital media. However, the interaction doesn’t end there. People now use different devices either at the same time or sequentially in what we call ‘multi-screening’.

 

There are two modes of multi screening

 

So how does this effect online shopping behaviour? It is not as straight forward as a simple path from browse to purchase. Consumers flick between devices, using them for different purposes, depending on the context they’re in as well as the time they have available.

We often move from one screen to another when shopping

 

Most consumers (by a large majority) actually begin their shopping experience on their smartphone. They then continue the same shopping experience on their PC/laptop.

 

Consumers take a multi-device path to purchase

 

Why would so many users not continue to purchase your product on their phone?

– Context. If they’re on the bus or on-the-go it may just be inconvenient.

– Time. When people are bored and want to kill some time they’ll start browsing using their phone. This ‘pecking’ behaviour is often done in short bursts.

– Content. Most mobile sites are slimmed down versions of the PC version. Users know this and may postpone their purchase until they can get to a PC to read more about the product and see larger images, read reviews, etc.

– Ease of purchasing. Many sites still have overly long and complex checkout processes, requiring registration and card payment details. These forms are easier and faster to complete on a PC with less frustrating input errors.

– Trust. Some people are still wary of purchasing through a mobile device.


Smartphones are the most frequent companion devices during simultaneous usage

 

The user’s purpose has a large part to play in which device they use. Think about your business. Does it drive users to interact with your website via a particular device? Looking at the following slide we can see that for activities such as searching for information and browsing the web, users prefer to reach for their Smartphone. However, if they are planning a holiday they are less likely to use their phone. If you think about, planning a holiday takes a fair amount of time and research. It is a more complex use case that involves looking at multiple sites, information search, reading reviews, sharing details with friends and looking at large images.

 

Smartphones are the most common starting place for online activities

In summary, smartphones are the backbone of our daily media interactions. They have the highest number of user interactions per day and serve as the most common starting point for activities across multiple screens.

Businesses need to consider:

– Adjusting conversion goals to account for the differences in end user goals when using each device.

– Tailoring the user experience to each device to account for the differences in how users shop.

Going mobile has become a business imperative.

Read the original research by Google