Bank of America Iconification Revisited

My friend Ben doesn’t like the new Bank of America Online Banking icons and interface that I wrote about yesterday. In his comment, he wrote, “i actually hate them and wanted to turn them off, but that's not an option.”

Now this post isn’t about whether he’s right or I’m right, because something like this is very much a matter of personal taste, but his comment brought to mind something I think is pretty important.

Change is scary.
Change is inconvenient.
Change isn’t always a good thing (or at least it doesn’t always feel that way).

If you are a company as large as Bank of America, it’s important to let users of your website know that change is on the way. Give them clues, tell them why (beforehand!), add new things incrementally, and, as Ben mentioned, give them the option to change back to the old design (at least for a little while). Rather than force users to learn a new interface, however similar it may be, use a redesign as an opportunity to teach them something new, to show them how to do something cool they’ve never done before. Take it slow. Don’t ambush us.

Google does a great job of this, with recent changes to Blogger, Google Analytics, and iGoogle all offering the opportunity to use the previous version. In fact, the old Blogger interface and templates were available for months before Google started making all new folks use the Beta version, and even now, there is a way to revert to what they call the Classic Blogger. For the most part, users could see that the new was better - that it offered them more functionality, was easier to customize - and they made the switch on their own time.

Bank of America’s changes weren’t so drastic as Blogger (or even the new Google Analytics), but the fact remains that people get used to looking at their data in certain ways. They have to train themselves to read it, and even the slightest change can trip them up. Sure, eventually it’ll be faster and give them more information, but for the time being, it’s an inconvenience at best, and a major annoyance at worst.

Trick your users into thinking it was their idea.