Navigating Negative Feedback: Product Launches

Buzz Usborne
6 min readMar 28, 2023

In 2009 Facebook refreshed their UI, opting for a more real-time design that would set the tone for the site you see today. I’m guessing by the fact that the updates remained in place for the following 14 years that they were a success — much to the disspointment of the people who took to the streets to protest the change. That’s right, at least one actual protest occurred, and 94% of the participants to an opinion poll reacted negatively. The common sentiment was thoughtfully captured by joey_stevens140921

“Please give me the option to change it back to the way it was!”

Branding is a predictable source of negative reactions — just take the recent rebrands of Nokia or the WE ❤ ️NYC “flop”. Maybe you remember the extreme reaction to Instagram changing their app icon in 2016 — where 70% of reviewers reacted unfavorably to the change. Back in 2007 Wolff Olins were the recipients of similar sentiment for their 2012 Olympic branding, garnering such wonderful feedback as: “It’s a mess, the ugliest thing I’ve seen in ages!”.

Perhaps reactions to entire app refreshes are harder to swallow since they can involve the efforts of hundreds of people spanning years of work. Recently Google Docs stepped up to the firing squad with their UI refresh — much to the distaste of The Verge. And today Microsoft announced UI updates to Teams — which one happy shopper saying “…it still looks hideous and is still light years behind the competition in terms of user experience”.

You can’t please everyone, it seems.

But… sometimes the anger is justified

These make for fun examples, but sometimes well-intentioned updates are so poorly received they need to be immediately fixed or reverted entirely. Take the recent updates to Twitter Verification which was “condemned for making it easy to impersonate public figures and spread misinformation” (Forbes) and resulted in the responsible team being dismantled.

I myself instigated a UI change at Help Scout that needed to be instantly reverted because of the overwhelming volume of justifiably angry feedback. Sometimes, there’s signal in the noise.

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Buzz Usborne

Design Coach & Principal Designer. Sweary English dad, just trying to be useful 🫠🦀