A Practical Guide for choosing the right time to Redesign Your App
The design never stands still. Trends, users’ tastes, and users’ needs change with time, and even a great UX design can become obsolete. Redesigning an application is one way your business can adjust to the ever-changing world.
It’s hard to find a technology company that hasn’t totally changed the UX and UI of their application(s) at least once. You may remember the total Facebook’s website redesign and witnessed the old skeuomorphic design of Instagram before it switched over to a simpler and flatter design.
We’ve thoroughly analyzed tech leaders’ redesign stories and added our own experience redesigning apps to create a detailed guide to app redesign. This guide will help you decide if you really need a new design and, if so, how to make the most out of the app redesign.
Benefits of a good app redesign
When done right, an app redesign brings a whole lot of benefits. Obviously, these include happier customers and increased sales. The cherry on top is that your happy customers can quickly become your brand ambassadors, spreading the word about your company, onboarding more users, and driving more sales. Let’s check out some benefits of redesigning an app in detail.
When your app provides users with a simple way to solve their challenges, they’ll gladly keep using it. When your app fails to do that, however, users will get frustrated and leave.
Neiman Marcus, a US luxury retailer, redesigned its app to fill holes in the user experience (UX). After thorough research, it was clear to Neiman Marcus that their app had an old and graceless UI and, most importantly, didn’t allow users to easily view and buy products. By redesigning your mobile app UX, you can end up not only with a higher conversion rate but with more satisfied customers.
Even if your app has advanced functionality, if it doesn’t have an intuitive and up-to-date design, at some point people won’t use it. Modern customers are aware of app design trends and tendencies, as they jump between dozens of digital products every day. This makes a beautiful design crucial for your business.
In 2018, Reddit rolled out a massive redesign with a card-based feed. A year after, the platform reported a 30% increase in monthly active users.
Users want to be heard. Sometimes, they come up with unexpected user flows or thoroughly dislike the design of your application. When this happens, a timely response to feedback is key for building long-lasting relationships with your customers.
After introducing the Live TV feature in 2017, Hulu received complaints from users about the app’s complexity. Many users felt it had become harder to discover shows and navigate the app. Hulu quickly responded to the negative feedback by introducing a grid-like guide for its Live TV service. In 2019, the streaming service rolled out a big redesign, simplifying the Hulu app’s top-level navigation and changing the app’s landing page. These changes were warmly welcomed by Hulu’s audience.
Is it the right time to restyle an app?
You may already be feeling excited about a whole set of changes you can make to perfect your application and get more money from it. Let’s just double-check that it’s actually time to give your application a new visual design.
Here are the first signs that an app needs UX and UI optimization:
Users complain about your app
While reading customer support emails and reviews on Google Play, the App Store, and your app’s community, you may see certain red flags:
- Low app ratings of 3 stars or fewer (or lower than your usual ratings)
- Multiple negative reviews from old (and especially new) users
- Definite problems that users tell you about in their reviews
- Angry comments on social networks
Carefully analyze negative comments to understand what elements of the UI/UX design should be changed and what features don’t need improvements.
Your conversion rate is low
You might be experiencing a classic scenario when you realize your sales aren’t that impressive, your users are rather unenthusiastic, and there’s weak growth of your user base. Clearly, your app’s UX requires urgent repair.
You’ve rebranded your company
If you’re rebranding your business, you have to redesign your app as well to stay consistent with your brand’s overall style. Even though you might not add new features, people have to be able to identify your new brand and associate it with your software. You may also develop a new concept that involves not only graphical changes but some serious functionality updates. For instance, DoubleClick, an ad tool acquired by Google, became Google Ad Manager. Along with this rebranding, Google updated the product’s UI and UX to match the style of all other Google products.
You’re looking for a new target audience
Once you make the huge decision to attract or focus on a new audience, you should prepare a new product vision and marketing strategy. These will inevitably involve specific design requirements that will likely differ from your current ones.
Flickr is an example of an app that switched to a different target audience. It first was an online role-playing game called Game Neverending where people could build items, buy them, and interact with other players. One of the game’s features as photo sharing, which got more and more popular. So Game Neverending chose to focus on photo lovers only and turned into Flickr, a community for photo sharing and inspiration.
Step-by-step app redesign
Once you understand that you have to redesign your app, there’s a set of precise steps you should take to ensure your redesign is victorious. Let’s take a Spotify-like app as an example. So here’s the redesign checklist for you:
Step 1. Check analytics
Analytics is the key to revealing your app’s problems, and you no doubt periodically analyze the current version of your app. Here are the key metrics to help you measure your app’s design performance.
- Goal completion. You need clear goals in your analytics tool (Google Analytics with Google Tag Manager or Firebase, for instance). These goals are usually conversions or micro-conversions. For example, say your goal is a subscription purchase (conversion) after users listen to songs with ads (micro-conversion). If your analytics tool shows that users can’t reach a particular goal, it’s often because of a tangled UI and UX.
- Activation rate. If your app provides onboarding, you should set a goal to check how many users complete the onboarding process. To know the activation rate, you’ll have to compare the number of downloads with the number of people who keep using your app once onboarding is over. Is this rate dropping compared to the previous period of analysis? Then it’s time for a redesign (at least of the onboarding screens).
- Drop-off rate. When you see that a lot of people stop using your app, you have to find out where they get stuck, why they get stuck, and why they leave the app.
Let’s assume you see that people often leave your Spotify-like app on the playlist page. The problem could be that users find it too difficult to sort playlists or find a particular song or artist in a long playlist. Users might not know that the sort and search buttons are at the bottom of the tall menu. If that’s the case, why not make a separate search and filter button or put this functionality higher on the menu?
Step 2. Analyze user feedback
After you get your reports on user behavior and app performance, it’s time to directly check what your audience says. There are three basic sources of customer feedback: social media, reviews on app stores, and in-app surveys.
Reviews on the Play Store and App Store
Reviews on app stores will help you a lot in understanding your audience. App Store and Play Store functionality allow app owners and users to filter reviews based on ratings, sort apps by most relevant or most recent, and filter reviews for the latest versions of apps.
Remember the Neiman Marcus app we told you about earlier? The app’s expert designer did a user review analysis and created a diagram to see how dissatisfied users were and what problems they pointed out.
Don’t forget about conducting proper research to learn if your users are ready for a redesign. Surveys and user reviews will help you discover if it’s time for a big change or a minor refresh. There are lots of methods to gather user feedback and recommendations. We’ve listed the most effective in our recent guide on collecting user feedback for mobile apps. Here are some methods we mention in the guide:
- Link to online surveys. You can ask users to follow a link to a survey. Services like SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, Zoho Survey, and LoopSurvey can help you with creating custom surveys.
- Email. The old-school method of asking for user feedback through email still works. For this method to be effective, create a friendly email copy with a strong subject line.
- In-app pop-up. Pop-ups are one of the most commonly used — but also one of the trickiest — ways to collect feedback. The main problem with this method is that instead of giving users a choice, pop-ups require interaction and interrupt the user experience. This may result in negative reviews and a poor rating. That’s why you should be careful with the frequency of such pop-ups.
Spotify went further and created a dedicated platform for user feedback called Spotify Community. On the Ideas page of Spotify Community, users can share their ideas for app improvements and discuss other users’ ideas. Each month, website moderators pick the top user ideas.
Don’t forget to check what users say about your company and your app on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. They can leave feedback under your posts or on the Facebook Reviews page.
Step 3. Conduct competitor research
Don’t be shy to download a competitor’s app and see why it’s popular. Check the UI and UX against your software and think about what your app is missing. Don’t worry: it’s okay if competitors provide a better user experience and more advanced features. Get inspired by them, learn from their mistakes, and implement new features with a style of your own.
Just remember Snapchat’s Stories. With the traditional feed format, people picked their best pictures and polished them to perfection. But Stories changed that: they were more casual and only lasted for 24 hours.
People could simply narrate what happened to them during the day and still get pleasing reactions from their audiences. As a result, Stories soon became a popular format in other social apps like Instagram and Facebook, causing billions of people to use them and turning Stories into a trend.
Step 4. Understand the user journey
One of the crucial steps in redesigning an app is understanding your users and their journey. At Claritus, we usually create customer journey maps before a redesign based on analytics and user feedback.
A customer journey map is a diagram that visually illustrates the user flow through your app. It helps you define where in your app there are bottlenecks that scare away users or don’t deliver the desired conversion results.
Step 5. Define the list of improvements
The next step in your redesign strategy is to define which steps of the user journey need repairs and improvements. Then define what business challenges you want to solve with a redesign.
With their app redesign in 2019, Spotify wanted to encourage users to listen to more podcasts. The company introduced a new version of the Your Library section for paying subscribers. The main goal of the redesign was to make it easier to move between music and podcasts and find new podcasts.
Also, the company has heard users’ complaints about complicated navigation and has made a few improvements in the app’s UX.
Step 6. Redesign!
Finally, it’s time to design a brand-new look for your app! We recommend taking the following steps:
- Select a design pattern for each business problem you want to solve (even if the pattern never existed before).
- Compare it to other patterns to solve the same problem.
- Check how many of the top 10 apps in your industry are using this pattern and see if it really works for them.
- Create wireframes, then create high-fidelity design screens.
- Prototype an app with the chosen design pattern and test it with users.
It’s okay if all this makes you feel dizzy. Implementing a new design pattern is something you can leave for a design and development team.
Step 7. Test the new mobile app UI design
Before updating firmware on all devices, Google sends a new version to a limited number of people to see if everything works fine for them. If it doesn’t, Google rolls back the update to fix bugs and ensure the app is functioning stably. Not only Google does this. A lot of apps have a testing community that allows users to check out new versions and give feedback. Beta tests help businesses decide if they actually should update their apps.
If you have several new ideas for your app’s re-design, you can do A/B testing to see which alternative is most welcomed by people.
What famous brands can teach you
Throughout their history, many famous applications have undergone one or more major redesigns, some of which was done successfully and driven thousands of new users. Meanwhile, others have become the root of user complaints and even the object of petitions.
Luckily, you can get a lot of useful lessons from brands’ redesign stories. We’ve created a list of the most valuable best practices, tips, and tricks for app redesign.
Communicate your graphic updates
Users care about changes in the apps they love. They might be waiting for you to fix some bugs, for new features to come out, or for fresh looks to bring more diversity to your app. If you properly explain the value of your updates, you’ll see better engagement in your app (DAU and MAU can help you measure that).
Provide well-structured release notes. Check out how Slack supplies these in its app (under the little gift box icon), giving information on what’s been added, changed, and fixed with each version.
Be creative in release notes. Privat24, a Ukrainian banking app, tells funny stories about their designers and mixes notes with their updates and bug fix information. Tumblr also provides a great example of creative release notes:
Explain new features where they appear in the app. For instance, Instagram demonstrated threaded replies… a threaded reply! How clever. And every new Instagram feature is introduced in a walkthrough guide in Stories, making sure everyone learns about it and tries it ASAP.
Implement changes gradually
Studies prove that users don’t like changes. Especially if you change a lot at once. This is why we recommend performing web or mobile app redesigns step by step so users have time to get used to the updates. Take a look at the Google Ads redesign, which lasted for a year and a half!
Google spent a lot of effort to properly conduct this big change to their ad tool:
- Carefully analyzed user feedback and looked for the main user problems (complexity, unintuitive navigation, outdated design, and a user experience that was centered around the product and features rather than advertisers’ and marketers’ needs)
- Checked the ad tool market along with current design trends (Material Design at the time)
- Announced the Google Ads redesign and its approximate duration (12 to 18 months)
- Explained what was going to change (huge UI and UX updates, mainly to fix the issues mentioned above)
- Updated certain elements and selected active advertisers for testing and feedback
- Informed users when the redesign was complete and added a walkthrough guide to show what was different
- Allowed users to switch between the old and new versions and report problems with the new redesign interface
- Fixed all bugs and problems that appeared after refreshing the design
- Gave users some time to get used to the new interface and then announced the date when Google would stop supporting the old version
Now that’s gradual, isn’t it? As a result, users stayed loyal to Google Ads and the tool got many new users, helping Google’s ad revenue rise from $79.38 to $116.32 billion.
Don’t be afraid to experiment
A redesign is a great chance to bring new technologies to amaze your users and serve them more effectively. These days, you can hardly make your audience say “wow!” at seeing an Uber-like app that doesn’t let them schedule rides in advance or track their location, a messenger that doesn’t let them send real-time audio and video messages, or a social network with a feed that doesn’t adjust to their interests.
Today, these and many other features are necessities. To stay afloat, you should keep up with changes in users’ demands and make good use of advanced technology to cater to ever-growing user appetites. After all, trends are dictated by needs.
A quick example: everybody knows IKEA and its high-quality affordable furniture. Back when augmented reality had just started developing, IKEA was the first store to implement AR in its app to let users virtually fill their homes with furniture from the IKEA catalog.
Within just a couple of weeks, IKEA’s AR app became the second most downloaded app on the Google Play Store, with a rating of 4.7 stars, while the company itself was listed among the 50 most innovative businesses according to Fast Company.
Respond to your audience’s feedback…
Sometimes, an app design may go totally wrong. Users may get frustrated and even angry about the new design, leading to thousands of complaints that may grow into a backlash against your app. In this case, you should respond to users’ complaints and think about making some changes with a new design.
Snapchat’s major redesign at the end of 2017 wasn’t received well by users. First, the company received lots of complaints on social media and on the app stores. Then crestfallen users went further and created a petition on Change.org demanding to bring the old design back. The petition was signed by more than 1.2 million people, and Snap Inc. promised to make changes in a new design. In May 2018, the company stood by its word and rolled out a new update.
…. but wait for things to settle down
On the other hand, according to the redesign experiences of YouTube, Tumblr, and Medium, it’s common for users to hate a change right when it happens. Later, app reviews restore to normal.
Appbot conducted some interesting research that proves this. Take the Instagram redesign as an example. Sometime after the UI redesign, the rating of the Instagram app returned to normal, while the number of negative mentions went even lower than it had been before the redesign.
So when you start getting complaints after a redesign, don’t jump to conclusions. Wait for users to become accustomed to the new design. But if you see that the situation is getting out of hand, you should give a prompt response to angry users.
A redesign journey can be either an undue risk or a big success depending on how you approach it. If it’s an upgrade decision resulting from careful consideration, there’s a high chance the redesign will bring better app performance, a higher retention rate, and more sales. Have you considered partnering with a UI/UX designing agency or a software development company to carry out your redesign? At Claritus, we have solid experience redesigning applications. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need experts to redesign and rethink your app.