The avast! 8 User Interface: A study of change
Everyone knows that change is not easy. When a decision is difficult, people tend to go with the status quo or choose to do nothing. So when we decided to update the look of Avast for version 8, we first had to get through the challenge of change.
One of the most important aspects of our software is how it looks and how user-friendly it is. When our designers started working on the new look, they were met with some skepticism. I mean, how do you completely overhaul a design that 170 million users and hard-nosed critics alike publically admired? You start by putting it out there and seeing what comes back.
Beta testers get creeped out
When we had the private beta for our new avast! 8, the conversation was mostly focused on technical issues, but there was some discussion regarding the look of the user interface (the UI is part of the application where the user interacts with the software). Interestingly, the big smiley face drew attention early on in the conversation.
“These ear-to-ear mouths look totally creepy. This includes the smiley in main avast! 8 interface and also in the installer. “
“How about getting rid of the smiley completely.”
“The smiley is very childish . . . I vote to go back to the green checkmark.”
“there are some who like it...”
Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken
After taking the feedback of our beta-testers, our designers did some tweaks, including the smiley face, then asked Avast employees to take a look at a few designs including these:
Because change is so hard to make, especially when you like the old ways so much, we had a difficult time switching our vision from the previous familiar version of avast! to the new modern, simplified version. The comments skewed on the negative side at first:
“Both are ugly, but the first one is brighter, so the tiles are more separated from the background.”
“I don't like them either. The second is a little better in terms it looks like rings or a snake...”
“Better no background than this. No offense but it looks like someone's yesterday’s dinner. =)”
“I like the design, but I don't understand the background.”
Several choices were given for the paid-for products, including this one, and again, we were struggling with change, but starting to adjust our vision.
These dark backgrounds stirred imaginations, and from the comments, you can tell that we have some SciFi fans among us.
“Background design je jak z nejake Sci-fi filmu. Uz si jen domyslet ty vetrelce uvnitr lodi..(Background design is both from a Sci-fi movie. Uz can just imagine the intruder inside the ship ..)”
“Sorry, but all of them look somehow like the walls of a wraith starship in StarGate Atlantis. Probably pure colors or a very simple pattern would be better.”
“To me they are indeed too dark and scary. The art is nice though, but suitable more into the Alien/Prometheus starship control panel.”
“Current themes look pretty scary. On the other hand I really like the idea of bringing in some 'natural beauty'.”
Repeated exposure to the new look was prompting us to think about it – we thoguht about what was best for our users, we asked questions and wondered out loud how to improve the design. One commenter noted,
“I think all of them are good because they started this long discussion. ;-) So they raise emotions, which is good.”
Suggestions started coming in:
“Probably pure colors or a very simple pattern would be better.”
“Is the background going to be user-customizable?”
“I also don't like that mixture of fonts used, especially that tall and wide fonts are combined.”
Dimmer switch not included
Finally, avast! 8 was released to the public, and a whole new set of eyes got to see it for the first time, arguably the most important eyes - our users. Many comments reflected that same reluctance to change that we noticed internally.
“The free UI really does need more contrast, but would I go back to avast 7 over aesthetics no, but avast 8 free hurts my eyes.”
“Big childish blocks that look like it belongs in a baby's play pen. I love Avast and have been using it for over 5 years, the guts and glory have always been robust but this 2013 windows 8 look makes me want to barf!”
“I had to clean out my eyes with Scotch Whiskey, twice!”
“I wish the Free GUI had a dimmer switch.”
“Slowly becoming accustomed to the new GUI, otherwise it is the quality I have come to expect”
At least one person gave up completely and complained,
“I had come to know where everything was located and could get what I needed done very quickly. Now there's a whole new GUI and I have to relearn where everything is. I'M DONE WITH AVAST AND WONT EVER USE IT AGAIN, free or otherwise.”
Others were more practical:
“It's always disconcerting when old friends change - like Avast. I am not fond of the Windows 8 look but suppose I will adjust.”
“User Interface, who really cares, it's hardly ever looked at except in screenshots or, when you first install avast!.”
“So who cares about the GUI. Just keep my machine clean :)”
And some were fans right away.
“I just love the new UI, it's much more compact ^^”
“I think avast! 8 is amazing. I for one love the new GUI of the free version.”
“i like the new interface......have to change every so often......as long as it's avast-it's the best”
“I absolutely love avast! pro v8. Great looking GUI. Great protection. It has everything I need and use. Nothing goes to waste.”
One member of the forum summed it up by saying,
“Some people just don't like change but I think the new version is the best yet! Well done!”