Home Resisting Change: iGoogle and Yahoo Profile Updates Shock Users

Resisting Change: iGoogle and Yahoo Profile Updates Shock Users

Our review of the new iGoogle homepage was generally positive. For a large number of users, however, the latest updates, including the stronger emphasis on the full-screen canvas view, were simply unacceptable. Just this weekend, the New York Times reported about the difficulties of making drastic changes to popular web sites without alienating users. Judging from the reaction of some of iGoogle’s users, Google’s switch to the new iGoogle layout is a textbook example for how not to update a popular product. If Google had made these changes incrementally instead of foisting a completely new version of iGoogle onto its users without warning, it could have surely prevented the current outrage.

User Reactions

In many ways, the reactions from Google’s users are quite typical. As Lou Cabron points out, since Google updated iGoogle, its users have started the obligatory online petition that urges Google to allow users to keep the old version of iGoogle, created Greasemonkey scripts to roll the layout back themselves, and started a Facebook group that protests ‘forced website redesigns’ in general.

On Google’s own discussion board, users posted the phone numbers and email addresses of a number of Google engineers and product mangers involved in the iGoogle project.

Most users especially disliked the move of the tabs from the top of the page into a sidebar on the left of the screen.

Not Just Google: Yahoo Profiles

Google was not the only company suffering from this over the weekend. While the New York Times lauded Yahoo for only making small, incremental changes to its homepage, Yahoo’s radical switch to a new profile page (while also resetting everybody’s profile at the same time) upset quite a few of its users. Yahoo’s own blog post about the switch has over 600 negative comments.

Give Users the Option to Go Back

Users, for many reasons, tend to resist change. Even though it is often only a very vocal minority that really takes issue with these changes, companies need to take these complaints seriously.

As more software moves into the cloud, one of the most lauded aspects of cloud computing – the fact that a company can quickly make updates to a product – can now also become a publicity nightmare.

Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google usually allow users to use the old version of their more popular online products for a while after a new version is released. Lately, however, we have spoken to quite a few product managers who were quite adamant that their new product was so far superior to their old offering that they were planning to release it to all of their users without a roll-back option. Judging from the user reactions both Google and Yahoo saw over the weekend, it would seem that they do so at their own peril.

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