Some companies have learned the hard way that their customers prefer more subtle evolution in their user experience. For example, when eBay wanted to change the original iconic yellow website background in favor of the more typical white, they received so many complaints they felt compelled to change it back.
Now, did those customers really have some intrinsic problem with white backgrounds? Doubtful. White is by far the most common background of web pages. What eBay heard from its customers is that they like the eBay site and they don’t want anyone mucking around with it. It’s an emotional connection with customers any marketer would envy.
So, eBay did something very clever—gradually removing the yellow one shade at a time until eventually they had that white background they wanted. This evolutionary approach went unnoticed by customers.
Could eBay apply what it learned to other kinds of changes? Yes. When eBay discovered improvements they could make to the forms on their site based on user testing, they had a dilemma. If customers complained about something as innocuous as a color change, what would they say about modifying the forms that were used millions of times each month?
The folks at eBay decided to leave it up to their customers. They introduced a new form link on their page that showed each customer the improved version and allowed customers to adopt the new form for themselves. When eBay saw how many people chose the new ones, they developed the confidence to replace the old forms site-wide.
Why does this work? Think of it as the “right turn theory.” In countries where traffic stays on the right side of the road, studies show that far more accidents occur when drivers make left turns in front of oncoming traffic than when they make right turns.
Big changes in your Web site are left turns. Yes, you get where you are going faster, but left turns are riskier. Instead, make three right turns. You get to the same place, but you’ve taken in a bit more scenery along the way and it’s much safer. So remember, two wrongs don’t make a right, but three rights make a left.
Use a gradual approach when making changes. You can offer new experiences as “beta”—giving your customers the choice of what they want.
Click NEXT to learn why even big companies can think small.