USA Today introduced a completely new website complete with lots of social network features like comments, reader rankings, blogs, photos, and better search. Reader reaction? 92% don't like it. I read all 130 comments (at the time of this post) from readers and they were brutal; "hate it", "what were you thinking", "awful", are just a few of the comments. Only 10 out of 130 had anything positive to say. Wow!
For every person who complains there are 10 more who feel the same but don't bother to complain. It takes a lot of time to register, confirm via email, log onto the site, and post a comment that someone else hasn't already made. In the customer service business they know the multiplier effect of unhappy customers. When 92% take the time to say they hate it...you have got a big problem.
Mathew Ingram, a newspaper writer for The Globe and Mail likes the changes and thinks all newspapers should have interactive features. Stowe Boyd thinks its a start but they should have gone much further to make it easier for bloggers to interact. Ryan Sholin likes the new features but doesn't like the design...too much white space.
My Take? I like the social features such as the ability to comment on any news story, the voting for good stories, seeing stories in order of ranking, most commented, etc. They also have introduced AJAX into the design so the page is more responsive to changes, mouse rollovers, photo selections, etc. The old layout and page design was better in my opinion. So, I would have introduced the new features, but applied them to the existing layout and design. I think the 92% of readers with negative comments were reacting to the layout changes, not the feature enhancements.
The lessons for entrepreneurs? -
- Test changes carefully with a test group of users before implementing a design.
- Don't change features and UI design at the same time. Do one or the other, not both.
- Communicate with your users well in advance about coming changes
- Listen to user feedback and respond immediately
I think USA Today will eventually get this right, and users will eventually like it. They could have saved themselves a lot of aggravation if they had followed the four suggestions above.