Broken trust

Within a year or two of joining Automattic, I was part of a small team that was tasked to design and build an improved way of writing posts and pages on The deadline was super fast but as the only designer on the team, I was excited to make this happen! As we were nearing the launch date, there was a tiny issue that came up: the editor was a bit slow to load, so one of the developers suggested we introduce a loading indicator. I designed one and he implemented it. It was good, but I wanted it to be a bit more fun so I went in and committed a change to the text: from Loading... to Beep beep boop because I thought it was more fun.

Several days later, we shipped it! Exciting, right? Turns out, no one shared our enthusiasm. People flooded the support forum, some thinking it was a bug, but most wanted to know how they could get their old editor back. They were angry. Countless blog posts were written on how to get past the new editor we made and back to their old editor. Someone even went to Quora to ask why we did it.  Needless to say, I felt responsible for breaking the trust of so many people.

As you can imagine, I learned a few lessons:

Consistency builds trust. Products change. This may be exciting as the person who gets to make products but don’t forget that change is hard for the people who actually use your product. When you improve something, don’t just communicate the change, talk to your customers before you even start. Listen to them. Focus on fixing the right thing instead of only making sure you fix it the right way. They are the reason you get to keep making products!

Speed builds trust. No one wants a new product that feels slower than the one they were used to before. If its truly unavoidable, use that time to introduce them to the changes, point out consistencies between the two, and highlight new features that will surprise and delight them. Use progressive loading techniques. There’s many options, but it boils down to this: Make it fast! And if you can’t do that, make it feel fast.

Simplicity builds trust. Even complicated products can be described as “easy to use” and “simple” once your customers have mastered them. What you as a product person may think is a dramatic upgrade to your customer’s experience may actually break their flow. Again, talk to your customers!


By Kelly Hoffman

Design @ Automattic