Over at Whitespace there was a recent discussion about the communication breakdown between Movable Type and their users. I think that this could help inform my post about small changes. I use Movable Type to publish this blog and I’ve been pretty happy with it. However, their many loyal users were largely kept in the dark about the new licensing scheme for version 3.0. I don’t really want this to be about Movable Type. I want to think about what we can learn from their mistake. Anyone can learn from their mistakes, but a wise man learns from other people’s.
In this case Movable Type was planning a change to their licensing scheme that was potentially disruptive, confusing, and upsetting to their users. Any time you start to charge for something that was free this is bound to happen. However, they failed to adequately prepare their users before the change was made and they failed to explain the changes adequately afterward. This meant that users were both unprepared and confused when Movable Type launched their new product.
How could this have been handled better? They could have announced the change before launching version 3.0. This could have been done by engaging their users in a dialog that explained their reasons for considering the new licensing model (which does include a free version still), and asked users for input on the change. By making users a part of a potentially difficult change the trauma and providing them with adequate time to prepare both technically and mentally Movable Type could have eased the mental and technological transition for their many users.
After the launch information on what had changed, how it had changed, and why it had changed was scarce. This meant that those same users who were caught by surprise were left confused and frustrated when they tried to understand the new licensing model. This further compounded the users feelings of hurt and confusion during a time of transition. Change is hard for people, a lack of information leads to negative feelings and makes it harder.
I don’t mean for this to a be a post bashing Movable Type, I think they provide a fine product at a reasonable price and they deserve to be compensated by those using it for larger commercial applications. They are asking reasonable prices and still provide a free version for smaller blogs. However, during the transition they made a number of mistakes that we can learn from and hopefully not repeat in the future in our own projects.