Who moved the cheese?

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Flickr photo by fraggy

Our local grocery store recently remodeled and rearranged its inventory. In the process, it caused a bit of a stir among frequent patrons. Scores of shoppers could be seen wandering the aisles, with the glassy-eyed countenance of zombies or sporting looks of utter bewilderment, shaking their heads at the shelves as if to say, “It was right here. I know it was!” Of course, changes are necessary from time to time, and may even result in more efficiency; but in the interim, there were a good many unhappy shoppers at this store.

It can be that way with your website too – even when you replace a poorly designed site with one that better meets your users’ needs; there can always be a period of dissatisfaction involved, especially with those who have taught themselves to navigate around byzantine structures to find those hidden online treasures. Being the adaptable creatures we are, humans are able to train ourselves to navigate even the most bizarre terrain – that is, if sufficiently motivated.

So, who moved the cheese and why didn’t they tell me? Or, more to the point, why didn’t they anticipate that I would be confused and need some ready, identifiable direction? You see, the supermarket, in fact, posted a temporary sign that showed where things were during the switcheroo – but it was too little, too late when I spotted the sign while exiting the store.

Here’s my takeaway: if you do plan to make changes, let people know in advance – better yet, let them know why you are making the changes and how that will make their lives easier. Take the time to think about marketing the new site – not just in terms of making a big splash, but also by explaining what’s going on and maybe even re-routing users to the most popular content items.

Trust me, your site visitors will thank you!