What's in a redesign?

In this blog, we take a look at the considerations involved in redesigning and releasing an existing application.

Published by Hamish Kerry

Sonos recently unveiled the latest version of their flagship app, complementing their array of wireless speakers and home sound systems. If you haven't encountered Sonos yet, they occupy the premium segment of the mid-market for home audio. With speakers ranging from £249 to £2000, they've garnered a dedicated fanbase, adorning their living spaces with a symphony of sound.

I've dabbled with Sonos speakers myself and find them nothing short of brilliant. Admittedly, I wouldn't label myself a hardcore fanboy, but my setup serves me well, primarily for streaming music via Bluetooth rather than constructing a full-blown home cinema. Nevertheless, like countless others, I appreciate the product's quality in both sound and aesthetics.

What truly sets Sonos apart is its seamless integration. You can gradually build your Sonos ecosystem, connecting speakers in various configurations throughout your home. Central to this experience is the Sonos app—a hub for managing everything from music sources to room settings and speaker linkage.

However, even highly polished brands aren't immune to missteps.

Introducing a new iteration to a loyal fanbase is bound to stir waves, especially when it's pivotal to the core offering. The stakes are high, particularly when the app isn't a standalone product but a vital companion to the hardware.

Sonos got many things right with the new app, but it has drawn comments for its accessibility issues, particularly from visually impaired users. Unlabeled buttons leave screen readers struggling to convey functionality, and some user journeys have become extended with extra steps not found in the previous version.

Redesigning and releasing an existing application is a really exciting process! It's an opportunity to enhance the user experience and introduce new features, but it's so important to get it spot on to reduce unexpected issues.

So, if you're contemplating a redesign and release of your own application, here are some vital considerations:

User Research:

Delving into user research is not a one-time task but a continuous process throughout the redesign journey. Initially, it's crucial to gather insights from the existing user base to understand their needs, preferences, and pain points. This can be achieved through surveys, interviews, and usability testing sessions.

However, it's also important to expand the scope of user research to include diverse user pools, ensuring representation from different demographics, including those with disabilities. Incorporating accessibility testing early in the research phase allows for the proactive identification of potential barriers and ensures that the redesigned app is inclusive from the outset.

Accessibility should be a foundational principle guiding every stage of the redesign process. As such, accessibility considerations should be integrated into the design and development workflow from the outset.

Maintain Familiarity:

While innovation is important for keeping the app fresh and competitive, it's equally important to maintain a sense of familiarity for existing users. Abrupt changes to the user interface or functionality can lead to confusion and frustration among loyal users.

To strike the right balance between innovation and continuity, involve existing users in the redesign process from the early stages. Solicit feedback on proposed changes and prototypes to gauge user reactions and ensure that the redesigned app meets their expectations while also introducing new features and improvements.

Beta Testing:

Beta testing serves as a critical phase in the redesign process, providing an opportunity to gather feedback from real users before the official release. It's important to involve a diverse group of beta testers, including both existing users and new users, to ensure comprehensive feedback.

Beta testing should be conducted at multiple stages of the redesign process, starting with initial prototypes and continuing through iterative iterations. This allows for early identification of usability issues, bugs, and other concerns, enabling the team to address them before the final release.

Clear Communication:

Transparent communication with users is essential throughout the redesign process to manage expectations and foster trust. Keep users informed about upcoming changes, the reasons behind them, and any actions they need to take to adapt to the new version.

Provide clear instructions and support resources to help users navigate the transition to the redesigned app smoothly. Consider leveraging multiple communication channels, such as email newsletters, in-app notifications, and social media updates, to reach users effectively and ensure that they are well-informed.

Iterative Improvement:

The release of the redesigned app should not be seen as the end of the process but rather as the beginning of a continuous cycle of improvement. Monitor user feedback and analytics closely to identify areas for enhancement and prioritise them based on user needs and preferences.

Iterate on the design iteratively, rolling out regular updates and bug fixes to address user feedback and improve the overall user experience. By embracing an iterative approach to improvement, you can demonstrate your commitment to providing a quality user experience and ensure that the app continues to evolve in response to user feedback and changing market trends.

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