English version of Wikipedia has recently gone through face-lifting. Now GUI is a bit smoother, a bit nicer. A thing I don’t really care about, but fine, people would like it.
At the same time they moved search box from the left sidebar to top right corner. What can I say, the new place is used on different sites to locate search box. On different sites, yes, but not on a freaking Wikipedia. On Wikipedia it is always on the left sidebar. Always. I mean it was until someone decided it to hide somewhere else.
As a comparison you can see Polish version of the site with the old design.
You may laugh at me but I spent like 20 seconds looking for search box. Why? Because I got used to the place where the control was and I expected it there. I would be as much confused if Google suddenly moved search box somewhere else.
I bet that if Wikipedia had left search boxes in the old place and in the new one vast majority of people, like 99%, would have used the old one.
Pretty much the same happened with Microsoft Office 2007 with redesigned menus. I use it for about 3 years already and it still happens I get frustrated trying to find one of these options you use once a couple of years. With the old Office it could be found in Options or other Settings. And now it is um… somewhere.
The problem is users get used to your design. And then, they expect there won’t be significant changes. And if there have to be a change people expect it will be done the way Google chose when face-lifting search. They polished graphic too, but the search box is exactly where it used to be for centuries.
If you decide to move important piece of your GUI somewhere else or, worse, redo the whole GUI just think about it once more. You will likely confuse your users.
I don’t say it has to be wrong automatically. Sometimes you just have to invite new design; otherwise we would still use command line interfaces. But if you took Windows 95 user sat him in front of Windows 7 he would feel familiar. Start menu, task bar and windows with the same elements: menus, status bars, title bars etc. And that’s not without a reason. It easier to switch people from one application to another when they know which function is where and they aren’t surprised with the way things work.
Personally I don’t really get the Wikipedia move. If I really wanted to move search box I would rather put it in the middle, Google-way, but most likely I would just leave it where it was. I don’t see how this change was needed but I do see how it confuses users. And that’s exactly the GUI redesign trap.