Provide guides and announcements when removing key product features

Recently the Tables dropdown menu was taken out of Google Docs with no warning, and no user survey was issued to me to discover my work preferences. There’s a better way to make changes.

Corporate blog announcements just don’t cut it.

“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”

— Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Let users know about upcoming changes, unless your business philosophy is to expect users to gobble up your changes and “just live with them.” If so, you can probably get away with damaging your brand for the low-revenue portion of your user base, since the opinions of users in the companies in the top 20% of your organization’s revenue streams will be more heavily weighted.

For small user bases, a blog update will do. After a certain size, companies need to use in-app notifications in addition to release notes on the product website.

Large corporations do not get a free pass from criticism when they make bad design choices simply because of their great branding. Neither should you consistently model your app or UX on the actions of large corporations because “Hey, Company X did it, that makes it okay.” No, it doesn’t. Stick to sound design principles and respect human design factors, even if what’s making money doesn’t.

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