One of my favourite examples of how people hate change was back when Apple still thought geeks were worth listening to and reinstated their 20th century style menu bar back to it’s previous look and feel in the initial release of OSX.
The Menu bar wasn’t actually causing problems, and the change made in the Public Beta wasn’t huge.
But following that backdown, 10 years later and after many iterations, they remain locked into the problem of last centuries usability constraints in software. Lion Launchpad bringing the iOS to MacOSX notwithstanding.
Obviously involving users and stakeholders in your product development cycle is a great one. But allowing them to dictate your decision making is flawed. This is especially true when you are attempting to re-imagine the behaviour of your products.
When newspapers translated their paper based user interfaces to online in a lemming like quest for irrelevance, they no doubt had 50 year newspaper men running or at least signing off on the projects.
I can just imagine the collaborative workshops where five million compromises too many were made by bright young things from this web thing. All so these change agents could get agreement from those key stakeholders who held the purse strings.
When the main outcome from a project to improve how you and your customer interact is a set of simplified designs and clearer imagery would you be satisfied? What about if that result, thanks to the input of your stakeholders, meant pretty much the same shoddy service for your customers as the current version? How about if the measurement is that slightly fewer of your customers tear their hair or gnash their teeth than before the improvement?
Do you think that on any day during or after these projects the wunderkinds who started these projects woke up and realised, as was put to me tonight:
They thought they wanted a new product, but what they really wanted was the current product with a fancy wrapper
So all I ask is, if today was another day where you felt like going up to your stakeholders and shaking them while shouting forget what you know, remember tomorrow is another day and it can still be done!
After all if you can’t bring the key stakeholders along your journey, at least you got to slap them around a little bit.