Over the last two months, I’ve conducted a dozen interviews for my upcoming book on optimism and pessimism. I’m incredibly excited about the things I’m learning from psychologists, therapists, entrepreneurs, and near-death survivors. (Spoiler alert: People are amazing!)
That said, I’ve also wrestled with how much people can individually change. My heart and past experience recognize that change is possible. But it might be more incremental or slower than many of us hope for, which can be discouraging at the outset.
Nevertheless, one of my interviews produced a nuanced quote to drive this point home: “Change isn’t hard, but staying the same is much easier.” As Newton put it in his first law of motion (or inertia): “If a body is at rest or moving in a straight line, it will remain at rest or keep moving in a straight line unless it is acted upon by a force.”
So it is with change. It’s easer to stay at rest or in the same direction we’re heading. But we can also be the force for change. And this applies to logging off and fixing any offline imbalances as much as anything.
After failing to reverse the declining fortunes of the fourth largest company in the world, outgoing Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer teared up this week in his exit interview with WSJ.
“Maybe I’m an emblem of an old era, and I have to move on,” he said. “As much as I love what I’m doing, the best way for Microsoft to enter a new era is with a new leader.”
That must be an incredibly difficult thing to admit. I respect that. To ease his pain, Ballmer gets $18 billion in retirement. Pity him.
Every website should be updated regularly. Search engines like it. Readers like it. Your bottom line will like it.
But if you operate a working, established, or otherwise popular website (say at least 2,000 visitors per day), I would never recommend a major visual or mechanical overhaul. It pisses people off. And when that happens, loyal visitors flock to alternatives in mass exodus, as Digg users have done this month.
There are a couple of exceptions to this rule. If your website has a monopoly on information, you can do whatever you want, and readers will keep coming back. And if your website isn’t “working, established, or popular” to begin with, you only stand to gain from a major overhaul, provided it’s done by someone who knows what they’re doing (aka no flash, proper xhtml/css coding, a regular content plan, and most importantly, good usability).
What can you do then to improve or refresh established websites? My advice is to make subtle changes to your design and monitor your visitor’s behavior. If the change has no significant effect, or better, a measurable improvement, keep the change. If the change is off-puting to visitors, revert to the the previous version immediately and re-evaluate both your desire for change and your strategy.
I know this holds true on the few “popular” websites I publish. And if Digg is any indication, I know it holds true for mega websites as well.
May all your redesigns be well-received.