Meditations On Software And UI Updates

As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, your favorite application, software, or website is going to eventually (and periodically) be redesigned. Odds are, at first, that you aren’t going to initially be a fan of the new design. It’s like when your local grocery store rearranges all the products on the shelves… why isn’t everything exactly where I want it to be?!

The simple answer is: because. But there is a much larger answer at play here as well; let’s discuss it!

What Are Software And UI Updates, Exactly?

We all know that software is (well, fundamentally code, but ultimately) an application that we utilize on a device of some sort that accomplishes some task for, or provides some value to, us. Software is what does the thing on the computer or the smartphone. It can be characterized by the functionality it provides, which can be upgraded, downgraded, or otherwise changed over time.

UI is the acronym for “User Interface” which is the largest contributor to the User Experience (UX) that takes place when we interact with software. As an oversimplification for our purposes here, Facebook is software and the Facebook app on your phone is the UI. They work in tandem to provide us the experience of Facebooking.

Sometimes the software is updated, adding new functionality (like does anyone remember when the Like button first appeared?), and sometimes the UI is updated just to change the experience (infinite scroll wasn’t always a thing, after all). The line between these two things can sometimes become fuzzy, but the software can be updated without changing the UI and the UI can be updated without any changes to the backend software, though often they can (and do) go hand-in-hand.

If It’s Not Broke, Why Fix It?

There’s just no way around it. Nothing stays the same, and the only guarantee is that change is inevitable; it’s going to happen. So really the question isn’t “when,” it’s “why.” The reasons why a company or developer may decide to update their product are vast, but include:

  • Feedback from the user base specifically requesting new (or different) features.
  • Updates to correct any bugs, security vulnerabilities, or other known issues.
  • Analytic feedback based on actual use, intended to improve the overall experience.
  • For guerrilla marketing purposes, a change to stir the pot and get people talking about the product (it does happen).
  • Overall optimization.

Forester Research determined that every dollar invested in UX brings $100 in return, or a 9,900% ROI. That alone can actually very much help explain the why.

Yes, Software and UI Updates Can Be Frustrating

Just like walking into your local grocery store only to find that everything has been rearranged, opening a newly-updated app on your phone and finding an unfamiliar interface can initially be bothersome. Some people even get mad. And some people even threaten to no longer use the app.

As humans, we aren’t always immediately accepting of change. Rest assured though, these updates are designed with you in mind and aim to make the given application more user-friendly and/or powerful and intuitive. A ton of research (and money) goes into these updates, and no business is in the business of losing its customers. So, next time you open that app and are greeted with something unfamiliar, just take a moment to understand that change is there to better serve you. Remember, change is inevitable.

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