So when I head over to Flickr this morning I get this tantalizing message in a little pink window, "We're introducing a new photo page, and you can check it out early. Take Me to the Future!" For it's frustratingly slow pace of functional enhancements Flickr sure does try to make up for it with entertaining copy:
Diving in I'm faced with two elements I didn't expect, both of which make me real happy. First, I'm given a very clear (and huge) tour-widget. I don't need to click on anything - simply rolling over these buttons (and huge means easy to target) reveals floating tooltips that point out new pieces of functionality:
Now that's rather nifty on it's own. But better yet I can close the tour-widget window and I'm left with the page in its future-functionality state. Furthermore I can browse the rest of my images in this mode and even interact with the new functionality (adding the photo to a map, etc).
Besides how easy to use and entertaining this Functionality Preview was, it points to a bigger fact: for websites with a high degree of customization and functionality (and arguably most sites fall into this camp), gone are the days of top-down redesigns that the user has to learn and contend with. Carefully eeked-out iterative redesign of key functional pages through clear AJAXY-widgets is the way to go.