Friday, May 16, 2014

Either people ignore your brand refresh...or they pay attention to it

One of my local El Pollo Locos has been urging me to visit and see its new look.

If you are unfamiliar with El Pollo Loco, it is a Mexican-themed fast food restaurant that specializes in grilled chicken. (And El Pollo Loco lovers, if you object to my use of the term "fast food" to describe El Pollo Loco cuisine, remember that you have to stand in line for it, and you get the food in a bag. By definition, that's fast food.)

So anyways, the El Pollo Loco near the Montclair (California) Plaza has been posting signs and printing advertisements that talk about its new look. I had been resisting the urge to view the new look for several weeks, but when one of the printed requests was accompanied by a coupon, I relented.

One evening I drove to the Montclair Plaza and, trembling, I got out of my car and walked to the door of the completely redesigned El Pollo Loco. Was I about to be astounded? Was my life about to change? Would I subsequently measure all events in my lifetime as occurring either before or after my visit to the redesigned El Pollo Loco?

Then I walked in...and scanned the entire restaurant for any significant change. After a few moments, I saw the change.


False alarm - the salsa had been moved from a separate table to the counter. But other than that, and other than a possible reconfiguration of the seats, I didn't notice any breathtaking, life-changing redesigns.

That's probably a good thing, because sometimes people notice a new redesign - and they absolutely HATE it. I can guarantee that the next time Facebook redesigns its user interface, people will scream and yell and cry. In a bit of meta, back in 2011 someone set up a Facebook page called I Hate the New Profile Layout.

These things happen because of differences between the people who design things and the people who actually use them. On the design end, the designers want to earn their keep by redesigning something so that it is engaging and vibrant. As the designers know, studies suggest that certain color schemes and design choices make something more attractive to the user. Therefore, the designers conclude, a reworking of the page or product will bring a lot of love.

Unfortunately for the designers, the users are used to the page or product the way it is. They're not looking for something that is engaging and vibrant - they're looking for the button that used to be in the upper right corner and is now in the upper left corner and half the time they try to click on the button and instead click on an advertisement and WHY ARE THE DESIGNERS MESSING WITH MY BRAIN AND CHANGING SOMETHING THAT WAS PERFECTLY FINE INTO SOMETHING THAT IS NOW COMPLETELY UNUSABLE AND FORCING ME TO QUIT THIS SERVICE AND MOVE TO MYSPACE?

Of course, people eventually calm down. The "I Hate the New Profile Layout" page hasn't been updated since 2011. But perhaps someone will create a new page when Facebook redesigns again.

Anthony offers this advice:

Redesigns should never happen because the design team feels like their site needs a new look. They should happen because there are specific areas of the interface that have poor usability and need improvement.

Anthony also advocates testing, but frankly testing won't make much different. Even if Facebook beta-tests a new interface with 100,000 selected users, that's still a small portion of the total Facebook user base.

One has to remember that any user interface is a trade-off, with both positives and negatives. Many years ago, I was involved in an architectural redesign in which a client-server application (with data stored on the client) transitioned into a multi-tier architecture (with data stored on a web server and displayed when necessary). Normally this isn't an issue...but in this case, it was image data that was being stored and displayed. And despite the clear advantages of the new architecture, it was still a lot slower to bring images up in a web browser than it was to bring images up that are stored on a local computer. In this case, all that you can do is educate the users on the advantages of the new system, and try to mitigate the disadvantages as much as possible.

My local El Pollo Loco failed by simply proclaiming that I had to see their new look - without explaining what changed, why it changed, or why the whole thing even mattered.

But at least I got a coupon out of the deal.

Although it took three separate people to enter the coupon discount into the cash register. Perhaps the "new look" involved cash registers without discount buttons.
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