When Should You Change UI Copy?

Have you ever worked on a product that has poor UI copy or design? Of course. What about poor UI copy or design that’s been around a long time and is now the standard way of doing things for that product?

When do we force the issue and change it?

For professional reasons, I can’t share the exact thing I saw recently. But here’s a similar imaginary example:

There’s a screen giving you information about a pen. On the screen, next to the type of ink the pen uses, is a button with a question mark symbol.

Something like this:

I thought I should click the ? button to get help about which ink to choose.

But actually, when I click the ? button, I get a long list of different inks. The ? button is for switching inks, not for learning more about them. The same button is used throughout the program for lists of all kinds of things.

I think this situation is… not ideal. (Excuse me while I take ten deep breaths…)

So I should change it, right?

The problem is that this software is used by hardcore techies. They LIVE in this software. They’re used to the ? button meaning “show a list of this type of thing.”

So changing it would screw them up fairly well.

It’s a smaller version of QWERTY vs. DVORAK keyboards. The better solution would cause too much headache, so new generations of keyboard (or software) customers learn the worse method.

Is there an industry standard here? A best practice? Some data to help me make a decision? I guess I’m looking for something like:

If we assume that you’ll acquire X new customers over the next Y years, divided by your current users, times a variable representing how much anyone cares, etc.

And at the end, I get something that says, “most experts agree that in your case, you shouldn’t bother changing. Or you should. Or it’s a gray area.”

Does anyone have any thoughts about this?

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