Background: we have recently made a significant change to the UI of our software. All previous versions used a MDI interface (windows floating around inside a parent window.) The new version uses a docked interface (windows snap next to each other, fill all available space, and can be tabbed on top of each other, and can be dragged out to another screen.) We thought - and still think - this is a great improvement. However, feedback from our alpha testers is wildly varying. Some love it, some say they find it hard to use and want to use the old system. Many of our users have been using the software for well over a decade and are very used to its old UI behaviour.
Generic situation: I'm sure other software houses have encountered similar problems, ie I think this is a widely applicable problem we will probably all encounter at some point: you make a change (especially a significant change) that you think will be greatly beneficial for the users of your software, and you don't receive universal acclaim.
How can you be certain that your change really is better for the user, instead of just a change you happen to like?
In my experience, change is usually liked more when it's voluntary or sought out, not forced. How do you enthuse your users so that it is voluntary? Should you even try? How do you handle this situation?
I have tagged this question 'delphi' because there is an interesting specific parallel: a decade or so ago the Delphi & C++Builder IDE (which we use!) changed from floating windows to a docked UI - exactly the same as us. A small, very vocal group of people complained loudly and some still do to this day. As far as I know, the majority think it was a great change. If there happen to be any Borland / Embarcadero staff reading who feel like chiming in with a historical tale, I'd love to hear your input!