Refresh trends to end 2011

In what looks to be a trend that appears to be ramping by business up as traffic patterns typically decline as the year ends. A product relaunch can be at times risky if users love your existing design/functionality or if you take away or hide popular features within a new interface.

Twitter Relaunch #letsfly
Twitter relaunched its platform with a new version of twitter “Fly” which is designed for a more common experience across Twitter.com and mobile devices. Their relaunch was focused on bringing everything under 4 new tabs but not everyone has responded positively to the radical change to the interface. Their new interface seems to bring them closer to a Facebook style interface but even with an improved search function the new interface has been found confusing by a number of their users.

YouTube interface Refresh
In what was an expected move YouTube finally flicked the switch and rolled out its interface across all its users bringing the interface closer to the other Google properties. The rollout was unusual for Google as it was not progressively rolled out but was done in a single update which was fairly risky for the company considering the size of the audience that could be impacted. The new interface brings the platform up to scratch with a new look and feel but also seems to make it easier for Channels and Google to maximise both their advertising revenue but also the branding and visitor experience as YouTube chases higher quality content.

Path upgrades to 2.0
One of the big upsets to the idea that a refresh could hurt your growth or revenues was Path, who after upgrading their platform saw a reported 30 fold increase in user sign ups. Their personal journal style platform offered new and improved lenses; greater privacy and less noise for their users which was a successful and welcomed refresh ending 2011.

WordPress goes Sonny
While it only appeared to be a minor update going from WordPress 3.2 to WordPress 3.3, the actual admin interface refresh too a large step forward. The new more responsive admin design offers better functionality for adoption to smaller screens such as tablets. The new liquid layouts and scaling media seemed focused on the growing audience of Mobile users that WordPress needs to cater for if it’s platform is to continue to grow. The media support gets a welcome boost as does the co-editing functionality and is certainly worth the update even with the increased number of sometimes annoying notification tips.

Google Toolbar relaunched
Google just recently rolled out a consistent black Google toolbar across a number of its platforms which made navigation more consistent for users across Google properties.

Google Black Toolbar

Google Black Toolbar

Google Toolbar relaunched (again)
Just as most users had started to see and accept the new Google black bar at the top of Google pages they introduced another Google bar within a few months. The new interface has now moved the navigation to under the Google icon and centralised the search panel across Google properties. The new Google menu is a bit more confusing way to navigate Google products and the quick links are surely going to be missed by most users and will change how you navigate within Google properties.

Gmail refreshes
Gmail has been one of the slowest adopters of new Google features over the past few years but there has been a number of recent improvements including the overhaul started in July. While the navigation had a big upgrade the search functionality is still below expectations. The biggest issue for users is to get used to the new streamlined conversation view which strips out much of what was previously shown meaning searching an email thread can be more time-consuming. The biggest benefit for the mobile users is the elastic density which allows easy changing of display to suit any device automatically.

Blogger refreshed
While it happened a few months ago Google’s blog platform got an update as part of the overall Google product refresh. The biggest elements to get updated was around streamlining the blogging experience but also improving the audience analytics and insights information for admins. Recently there has been the addition of the ability to publish your Blogger posts straight to your Google+ circles. There is certainly a fair bit more work needed across the Blogger network to match WordPress or Tumblr but it’s a good start to finish off 2011.

Color 2.0 tries again
Following on from what was a slightly disastrous launch, Color decided it was time to start again following on from the success of Instagram. The new app updates focus around a “visit” which also now allows for sharing of 30 second movie clips but also offers a visual timeline similar to the new Twitter/Facebook streams. The question is it all too little and too late with the new website being far too forceful to remind users to login to interact, and their mobile app does not work on a majority of Android devices.

Facebook Timeline rollout
Based on the growing amount of media its users are sharing online Facebook has finally rolled out its timeline feature for all accounts. This is not yet enabled on all accounts but is available if you want to upgrade your profile globally. Finally Facebook is learning its a global platform and not limiting features to it’s US users. Learning from its privacy failures in the past it now offers a 7-day review period before anything that appears in your timeline is made public. It will be interesting to see how many users fill in the blank spots in their timeline as more accounts enable Timeline. There has already been so many complaints about Facebook interface refreshes it will be interesting how warmly this overshare functionality might be accepted.

Watch the Facebook Timeline (download video)

Ending 2011…
So it seems that a number of platforms have taken the time to allocate resources to updating their interfaces, how many will rollback functionality after user riots during 2012? Mostly it seems the interface updates revolve around making them more usable on mobile devices so will desktop users benefit from this continuous update process or will it led to more resentment and drop off?

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2 comments

  1. Peter Mead says:

    Thanks for helping me get an idea of this stuff. Could be refresh overkill?

    I just have not been able to really get into the Facebook Timeline thing much. I like the idea, but it seems to be a large departure from what people are used to. Over time I am sure more people will jump onto it too.

    We shall see.
    Peter Mead

    • David says:

      Hello Peter,

      Ah yes certainly a bit of overkill as it appears Google has refreshed it’s toolbar already and rolled back to a Hybrid model of the black toolbar it just replaced!

      David