In December, as most of you know, we launched a redesigned FlowReader. One of the things that doesn’t get talked about very often after a redesign is how the team feels about it. Change, every once in awhile, is a good thing (at least in our opinion).

As we continue to find out more about our users and FlowReader, we are constantly learning. And as we learn more, it gives us the ability to go back constantly and re-evaluate. Any online application, like many things in life, is far from permanent. It is constantly developing and evolving as new data and insights are revealed – the work is never finished. There is no such thing as a finished product.

Take a second look at the initial work you put in

A great place to start when evaluating a redesign is to look at the work you put in before your website or application got its new face.

After our initial public launch, we knew that FlowReader needed significant changes. We wanted to do RSS our own way, but we couldn’t ignore the fact that some things had to be changed immediately in order to deliver an experience compliant with the standards set by key industry players like Feedly and The Old Reader.

The design had to evolve accordingly as features were developed or added, and vice versa. This meant a lot of hard work on both the back and front end of the application. When I asked Deen, our designer, what his major inspiration was for our new design – he sent me this:

redesign mantra

Deen’s redesign mantra

Similarly, our UX designer/product owner Zee said her main goals with the redesign were to resolve some of the more clunky UX issues and simplify the service as much as possible. As a team, we hoped to deliver sound, user-proof solutions that would act as more than just patchy, temporary fixes.

If you’re curious, here are the steps we took to prepare for our redesign:

  1. Research –  Get inspired! We checked out what similar services were up to and listened to what our users had to say. To be honest, you can really never look at too many ideas or places for inspiration.
  2. Objectives –  The team decided what they wanted to change, what needed to be included, and set priorities. Knowing what you want before you start is a great way to help you keep pace and stay on track.
  3. Scrutinize – The harshest critics out there – our team. Every detail was checked by everyone and went through multiple rounds of feedback. Go over everything with a fine-tooth comb and be ready to do it again (and again).
  4. Take your time – We took our time to make sure that we were happy with the final result. If you have room to breathe on your deadline (or can stretch things a little longer) – give yourself time to get your site how you want it. Don’t rush if you don’t have to.

Consider where you are now

In general, our whole team feels the same way about the redesign:

 

festejo gif

#Success

Hey, we’re excited about what we’ve accomplished. But while the redesign launch may have gone off without a hitch (at least in our eyes), the work is far from over. Some might say, we’re just getting started.

It’s always important to evaluate your work after it’s finished to assess what is and isn’t working, what you’d like to change, and identify areas that need immediate attention or have potential to be expanded.

FlowReader’s redesign has been successful in respect to our team’s objectives. It’s satisfying to see the clarity of content and information in the service now as well as the improved navigation and quicker performance. These were all things that made us feel as though our foundation was shaky. Now that we’ve improved these issues and brought our product up to date, it’s easier for us to continue to set new goals and push forward.
Jason Fried gives some great advice about this part of the redesign process in a post on 37signals’ blog Signal vs. Noise. He explains that while your first instinct might be to compare your new design against your old, try to avoid doing this right off the bat. It’s more important to make sure you understand what you’re evaluating.

“…if the old design sets the tone about what’s important, then you may be losing out on an opportunity to make a significant leap forward. A design should never set the tone – ideas should set the tone. Ideas are independent of the design.”

In order to make sure you or your team conduct a thorough evaluation, you need to first understand what you’re looking for rather than simply looking at the changes from the old design. Your old design was created under different priorities, influenced by different goals, and dictated by different circumstances. What was important then, may not be important now. So, make sure you approach your redesign with fresh eyes and an open mind.

This may be easier said than done (we struggle with it), but this version objectivity is something to aspire to as a team. Being able to view your project within present constraints rather than against outdated standards can make a huge difference.

Don’t miss your leap forward

Obviously, evaluations will vary for between individual teams and projects. For some, redesigns will shed light and inspire new ideas that can be used to push products to the next level. Treat yours as a new jumping off point – a fresh point of view from which to evaluate your project and your development process.

In our case, FlowReader’s redesign brought us closer together and if anything, made the whole project more consistent with our strategy. It has revealed that all our different ideas and the features we have planned are actually in sync. One of the things we noticed when we first started was that as we added new functionality and features, it sometimes felt out of place. Zee refers to this as “hot gluing” new features to an old system of functionalities. Something didn’t quite feel right. The redesign has helped us to align old and new features, bringing our overall vision of a “social reader” to life.

As I said earlier in this post, there’s no such thing as a final product. There’s always room for improvement and accomplishment is closely linked with the capacity to respond to new insights and user needs. This month, we’ve noticed that the cleaner design change has helped re-focus our next steps. Instead of spending the majority of our time figuring out the look and feel of basic features, we have more time and space to design.

 How do you evaluate a redesign? What things do you like to focus on?

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