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Change Is Not For The Weak, And It’s Hard Too

Change is HardAfter speaking to a distressed website owner this morning about how some people are leaving the website after a massive upgrade, I decided to write about the topic of change. She told me about a woman who wrote to her and said she was done and that she hated the new website. Then told me about several conversations she had with others about how it’s about time they got something new and were in love with the change.

The simple fact is, change is hard. It’s not just hard for the website admin. It’s hard for everyone involved. Worlds get flipped upside-down easily with something as simple as a facebook redesign or a new shopping platform. If you think about it, we all get comfortable with the 3-5 websites we visit daily. Maybe for you it’s the repetitive clothing choices we have in our woredrobe. I have my routines and I wouldn’t like it very much if I had to change them, even if it was to a benefit. This is one of the biggest reasons I have not joined new amazing websites that organize my life or automate functions. I barely enjoy using my bank’s Bill Pay.

Everything changes, eventually. I accept that, but I don’t go out of my way to make it happen either. As a developer, web admin, end-user, or whatever your position is in the process, change is hard and you have to prepare for it. That means giving people time to digest the proposed change, and telling them the pro’s and con’s of the change.

When I created a new community using a newer forum script, people freaked out. They wanted the old script back, even though the new one was more secure, faster, and had a host of new features. Those comfort creatures needed reassurance that everything was going to be ok. They need confirmation that it’s a bump in the road. The more you communicate, the less people stress.

The flipside of this change is timing. If you take too long in doing the switch you stand to lose people forever. However, if you do it too fast you stand to create animosity. You have to find the right balance and transition pace for everyone involved. Not everyone drives 80 MPH, and that is what a developer has to keep in mind. We need timelines, expectations, and even some comfort. It takes a strong heart to initiate change, and it takes a great listener to let your users vent about it to you. Don’t ignore them either. They need to know you are in this with them.

Dealing with Change

Being prepared for change is what will make you a rockstar. If you don’t plan and you have a botched roll out, you will probably pay dearly for it. Make sure what you are opting for makes sense, has major benefits, and can reasonably be implemented. TAKE BACKUPS! Don’t do a thing until you have backups of everything. I could repeat this about 100 more times, but it’s serious. You don’t want to lose anything during a change.

Here is 5 Ways to Counter Change Issues

  • Offer support videos or podcasts
  • Give a warning and road map well ahead of time
  • Run the upgrade side-by-side with the old platform so people can see it in action
  • Offer as much support as possible to even include phone calls.
  • Let time do it’s job. Sometimes, people just need time.

Sometimes change is not necessary. How do you know if it is or not though? Sometimes you know because it’s a law like PCI compliance for ecommerce. Sometimes it just feels right because your competition has changed and your numbers are dropping because you have not. Sometimes it’s for security or other added benefits. Often though, it’s to make your site new and shiny and that is NOT a reason to change. If the change doesn’t offer a substantial benefit then the answer is look elsewhere for upgrades like better content.

Either way, you need to be ready for the magnitude of what change brings. If you have doubt, then look up Kevin Rose’s mistake by change to Digg’s version 4. He destroyed a wildly popular website because change was not needed. In fact it was worth millions and when it finally sold afterwards, it went for a mere $500,000. Then again change can make big impacts. The success of change can be seen in websites like when Yahoo changed their layout so their content would shine, it increased how long people stayed and engaged with their content. It was a huge uptick for Yahoo and why I think they are still around and a strong competitor.

If you are thinking about change then write a plan, take a week and then reread the plan. Then come back about 1 week later and see if you still feel the same way and if you do then start implementing it. Remember, change is hard for EVERYONE!

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