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Change Blindness
UX Concepts


What is Change Blindness?

Change blindness is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when a change in a visual stimulus goes unnoticed by the observer. For example, an individual fails to notice a difference between two images that are identical except for one change. – Wikipedia

Why is this Important?

As products evolve to solve business and user needs they consume large amounts of resources and often things that feel important go unnoticed by users. When this happens discussions happen around what need to be changed and suggestions range from text and color to demands for making items large, flash or do something that makes the user notice.

So how do you “Make the User Notice”?

The simple answer is to use perceptual order triggers and giving the user “Value”.

Let’s look at how people process information based on perceptual order. Order of perception is from top to bottom.


So what does this mean?

Should we get attention by using large text, movement or color?  Using these tricks do make people notice however they can also create frustrate or cause a negative reaction in users.

Imagine any site you’ve been on that auto plays music, starts a video or has that ad with the dancing monkey.  You always notice them. But how do they make you feel?

So how do I use perceptual order to make user’s notice the things that are important or have been added to help them?

Application Guided Tours

Use a combination of these triggers via In Application Guided Tours within the application anytime a significant element or feature has been added.  The key here is “Significant”…  Don’t announce every minor change that has been added just those that improve the user’s experience or highlights a business need otherwise you run the risk of over stimulating the user and causing frustration.

Natural Workflow

Improvements/changes that happen naturally within the task based workflow of the user enhance the experience and will be noticed by the user more often.

Change the Expectation

Often users have access to functionality and features that they never see.

You can change the user’s expectation by:

  • Breaking up or changing the flow of a task
  • Visual redesign
  • Creating a value proposition
  • Clear communication

Avoid Small Iterative Changes

“You Only Get One Chance”.

User’s form their opinions quickly. If you release small changes that users don’t perceive as adding value, break up or enhance the workflow they will often be missed.

Small changes can also give users the perception and feeling that they are unable to learn or retain how to accomplish simple tasks thus leading to a sense of diminished “Value”.

Without reenforcing the “Value” proposition users will abandon a product overtime even in cases when they loved it initially.

Case Story

Recently a large company took a product which users loved and had not had any major changes to it for many years and redesigned it visually.  This company took every effort to inform users that they were visually updating the product.  But they went one step further and held back two new features for this design release to make sure that they were adding “Value”.

The expectation by the company was that users would have very mixed feelings.

When the product design updates were released their clients reaction was very positive.  Users liked the new features but something completely unexpected happened…

The users were pointing out and thanking the company for features that had been in the product for more than 2 years.  WHY?

The visual design changes and added features made people look past the tasks and look at the product differently. They broke the expectation thus adding “Value”.


Change blindness can cause users to not see features or add “Value” to a product. This is often caused by small changes outside of the normal tasks the user does.

You can add “Value” and increase perception by placing changes inline with user tasks, breaking expectation, highlighting changes or releasing complete features and always communicating the value to the user.

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About Me

I Design Stuff

My name is Brian Coy and I'm an award winning Visual Designer and User Experience Architect with a passion for designing creative interfaces that allow users to easily accomplish complex tasks.

Everyday I am thankful for how fortunate I have been. I am one of the lucky few; doing what I love. Read More »