But the collective freakout the internet experienced in the wake of the recent Instagram logo change demonstrated just how significant is the emotional ‘ownership’ people place on the virtual things they use.
" The challenge is to not let complexity stall growth."
Guy Thompson, Contributing editor, BlueNotes
Instagram resolutely stuck with the change and everyone calmed down about a week later. But the lesson for business was clear: customers have touch points and habits they hold on to which offer confidence and comfort – even in a digital world.
As a digital system grows in complexity, users will latch onto features like they are tangible things. It becomes ‘theirs’.
Facebook learned this lesson and now rolls out changes to its user interface gradually. In fact, New Zealand is the lead country to experience UX and UI changes to Facebook before the rest of the world. The reasoning is NZ is a digitally first-world country with a swift and vocal response to digital changes but only a small population of digital citizens to upset. So the risk of a full-scale revolt is small.
Building enterprise digital technology is fraught as these examples show. In many ways it is like constructing a virtual city – complete with idealists, protestors and vested interests. In every industry from financial services, retail, education and medicine, there is a mountain of data being built around the digital city workers inhabit.
This digital city can be reconfigured quickly and entire sections can be switched off or upgraded with the bulldozer of digital disruption.
This is where simplification can cause problems. When streamlining and reducing the complexity of a digital landscape a company can quickly upset its digital citizens. No one likes to see their neighbourhood turned into a construction zone.