UI redesigns are mostly a waste of time


To preface the article, I primarily work on, and prefer, back-end code. I've been involved in both web and software development for over 4 years now and worked with many front-end and back-end frameworks.
A new UI for twitter (credit to https://newmicrosoft.com/twitter-for-desktop-now-has-a-new-ui/)
New Twitter UI

Before all of the UI designers that read this go out and riot and champion against me for saying UI redesigns are a waste of time, let me say that I do value design. I think at the bare minimum, a product or website needs to be usable, and if you possess a good eye and steady hand, you should feel compelled to create something that looks pleasing.

David by Michelangelo
David

Just stop redesigning the UI all the time.

UI redesigns, in my opinion, are a waste of time 95% of the time. Let me explain further.

No one cares

People use applications because of their purpose, not because it is pleasing to the eye.
You don't use Google maps because it looks nice, you use it because it tells you where to go to get good tacos. You don't use Facebook because the UI is nice, you use it to talk to your friends and share photos. You don't shop on gamestop.com because you like navigating the mess of drop downs and advertisements, you shop because you want to pick up Anthem.
A picture of gamestop.com
A little much, eh?

The only time a UI should be updated is if it impacts the ability of a user to actually use your application. 
If you find users aren't able to navigate to page x because it's hidden in the menu, by all means move the link. Call out the page. Reposition the logout button so it makes sense to everyone. Be clear how your forms are laid out. This is not a redesign, but good design (and should reflect the needs of the business and your users).

It hurts retention

I loathe every time I need to re-learn a new UI. This is especially when the UI redesign gets too ambitious. The fact of the matter folks, is when you redesign your UI, it takes extra effort to learn where the updates have been made.
The people who use your application, don't like change. They like to go on autopilot after they've learned something, it's just plain easier for them. The more you change things up, the more effort it requires to use.
The new homepage of BMO Harris (credit to https://www1.bmoharris.com)
The new redesign of BMO Harris's online portal

No - that is not my real balance. I'm not rich.
Please stop changing everything, stop making it more work for us to relearn the applications we like to use.

It's smoke and mirrors

Upper management loves to hear that you are making "big changes" with "fresh new looks", it's like being Charlie Bucket and knowing you'll win that big prize because now you have that golden ticket.
Willie wonka golden ticket (credit to https://icandywrap.com/product/193A2E19A4CD4D02B96C4D26462751D7/willy-wonka-golden-tickets-movie-replica.html)
My winning ticket

Especially if your company is public, you have investors throwing money at you to turn a profit, which in turn returns the money to them. There is pressure to advance, and an easy way to do that is with the word "redesign". Everyone likes to hear of that big new design you are rolling out, better marketing, sleek logo, easier interface... All of these phrases bring great praise and potential dollar signs. 
Does it really add up, or are you just giving designers busywork that doesn't amount to anything in the end?
Do we have concrete evidence that what we are doing will provide benefit to the company or users, or just feel that it would be better if the UI was redesigned? Take a minute, think about that one.

It contributes to our worse nature

We are already addicted to that burst of dopamine, something new. Do we really need another redesign or is it something that gives us our temporary fix until we move on to something new?

Sometimes, if we are able to do it does not mean we should.


I feel we need to dial-back on our UI redesigns and consider where we actually should be spending our time. Let's tackle something important like tech debt instead.

Comments

What are your thoughts on this issue? I'd be curious to know and hear opinions from both sides.
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