Fark.com just rolled out a new design for their website. As Fark is about people making comments on various news stories of the day, this redesign has already generated two threads on user feedback to the redesign.
If you’ve ever wanted to get an idea how people react or perceive redesigns in different ways, this is the perfect place to study. Especially interesting to me are the comments that call the redesign “Web 2.0”. It’s not “Web 2.0”, but that’s the perception, and it appears to be a strong one.
The two columns on the right of the page use to be split, one on either side of the main column. Now people complain the change has unbalanced the layout. Another interesting perspective. We’re taught that top and left is where you should put your most important content on the web page. The old Fark didn’t adhere to that principle, the new one does, and people don’t like it.
A lot of this is also just knee-jerk reaction to being presented with something new and unexpected so suddenly. That kind of situation plays to various parts of human emotion responsible for fear, which is exactly the kind of reaction people are expressing.
A slower, more methodical migration would probably have quelled most of the initial complaints. Perhaps a style switcher to let people pick the new design but default to the old design. Give users a chance to test drive the layout before it officially goes live.
This isn’t so much a redesign as it is a re-skinning of the layout. The basic structure in which news articles are presented hasn’t changed. Nor has the color scheme. Nor has the logo or the basic manner in which elements on the page or grouped together. This makes the reactions of the site’s user base especially interesting.
What would be nice to see now is a mechanism for users to submit their own stylesheet for Fark.com and offer a style switcher containing the best designs submitted by users.
In any case, be sure to check out the user comments. If nothing else I think it will give you a basic idea of how your user base will react when you decide to redesign your website and don’t include them in the process.