About the uproar over the Snapchat redesign (updated)

You rarely see pieces like this in Variety in which the message is “clam down, carry on” after complaints over the recent Snapchat redesign:

Snapchat, Ignore the Haters: History Shows Freak-Outs Over Redesigns Subside

I would have expected the lede to instead be “Over 1 million people sign petition to force Snapchat to scrap the new design”. But Tom Spangler does a great job of putting this into perspective and provides some great examples of other the-sky-is-falling-but-it-didn’t changes of the recent past. Yes, some product redesigns go very badly but the reality is that most don’t. Having launched my share of them over the years, the same patterns tend to emerge:

People Don’t Like Change

I won’t link to the countless studies and top ten lists out there. Just Google the title of this thought to get it all. We all know change unnerves even the most open-minded of us. And yet we seem to forget this fact when we launch a new version of a website or app. I honestly can’t count how many times I’ve had people come to my door within the first 24 hours in a mild panic and seriously suggest we undo what we’ve done because users are angry. It took more than a few of those projects to start setting expectations early in the process with everyone up and down in the organization. “We’re going to hear from our users how they hate this and want to go back to the old thing…” And repeat. And repeat. And…

Sometimes You Need to Force Change

As a leader you need to often pull everyone — customers, team members, superiors — kicking and screaming through the storm to get to a better place on the other side. The more radical the change, the more this leadership is needed. We all have trouble envisioning what the new world will look like and how it will be better. It’s hard to see a place when you’ve never been there before. The only way to see it is to go yourself.

The Complaints Go Away (Sooner Then You Think)

Traffic is down! We’re getting killed on social media! Others in the industry are out there making fun of our “gaffe”! The flood is impossible to avoid in the early days and that’s the make-or-break window. Most redesigns I’ve done result in a drop in traffic immediately after. There are a dozen reasons why but none are as important as giving change the time it needs to settle down and find its way back. I often have to remind people of the onslaught during those early days/hours because they simply forget. Why do they forget? Because it was so short-lived.

As I said at the outset, sometimes you just get it wrong. Your customers/users will tell you and keep telling you and you’ll know when to retreat. But if you haven’t changed the underlying, fundamental benefit your users gets from your product, then hold your ground and see it through.

Update, Feb 21, 2017: Evan Spiegel tells the 1.2M users who signed the petition, “thanks for the feedback but we’re sticking to our plan” (paraphrased). Maybe the changes lead to growth or maybe everything falls apart. The point here is to give it time.