How the Use of Legacy Systems Impacts Your Customers’ Experience


Have you ever heard the word “clunky” used to de­scribe an app?

Clunky, as a term, is kind of like “bug” - we don’t nec­es­sar­ily know where its soft­ware ori­gins lie. But it is a recog­nised term in the in­dus­try that we all agree holds the same de­f­i­n­i­tion. For any­one think­ing I have lost my mar­bles and have in­tro­duced bugs into this ar­ti­cle on a whim, bugs (in soft­ware) are er­rors, faults or de­fects. They can be in­tro­duced in nu­mer­ous ways and they range from pesky lit­tle an­noy­ing flick­able bugs to huge poi­so­nous at­tack­ing crea­tures!

Anyway, enough about bugs, let’s get back to clunky. The English lan­guage de­fines clunky as, heavy, old-fash­ioned and not-pretty. So, if we take that de­f­i­n­i­tion into the soft­ware space what we imag­ine is a dated and low func­tion­ing plat­form that has no con­sid­er­a­tion for cur­rent UX (user-experience) best prac­tices.

An im­por­tant part of this in­dus­try de­f­i­n­i­tion is the cur­rent UX as­pect. User pref­er­ences change: colours or im­ages are no longer trendy, shapes and lines do not fit within the norm and lan­guage styles are dated. These are all facets of the user ex­pe­ri­ence that can make the app feel clunky or smooth sail­ing.

But, if this is a legacy sys­tem, then can we make the as­sump­tion that these end-users (and just to clar­ify an end-user who is the ac­tual per­son who con­sumes the prod­uct [or ap­pli­ca­tion]) are just used to the ap­pli­ca­tion look­ing and func­tion­ing like that?

Honestly, yes and no. If the legacy sys­tem is some­thing a com­pany uses and can’t live with­out it, then yes, the end-users are go­ing to be­come ac­cus­tomed to its quirks and workarounds.

Why users switch or delete apps; no longer need/use the functionality, or, find a better experience somewhere else.

We are go­ing to fo­cus on when end-users find a bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ence some­where else and why they would change.

Go back to your Marketing 101 class, or even your first Microeconomics class when the con­cept of switch­ing costs ap­peared. These are the phys­i­cal, psy­cho­log­i­cal and/​or fi­nan­cial costs in­volved with switch­ing a brand or prod­uct.

Let’s com­pare the switch­ing costs be­tween chang­ing banks (e.g. your sav­ings ac­count) and a fit­ness app us­ing 4 dif­fer­ent mea­sures.

1. Competitor Analysis

This is when we want to weigh up our op­tions that are avail­able to us in the mar­ket.

Banking App

Most sav­ings ac­counts are rel­a­tively the same across all big 4 banks in terms of func­tion­al­ity and pric­ing

Fitness App

This is a sat­u­rated mar­ket, and the end-user might ex­pe­ri­ence choice paral­y­sis which can be quite ef­fort­ful

2. Payment Plan

Next we want to re­search how each app is go­ing to take our cash!

The banking app and fitness apps have low switching costs

Banking App

Fees are deb­ited straight from the ac­count (if there are any fees at all)

Fitness App

Subscription based, di­rect deb­ited through bank ac­count de­tails or card de­tails

3. Set Up

So we have re­searched the best of the mar­ket and are happy with the pay­ment plans, but now we need to set it up.

The banking app has large set up costs whereas the fitness app has low set up costs.

Banking App

Documents, IDs, em­ploy­ment his­tory…the list goes on! All this to set up one ac­count!

Direct deb­its. How many pay­ments do you have link­ing back to the one ac­count?

Payers. Friends who have your bank de­tails saved to quickly trans­fer you cash — to be hon­est, keep the old one open be­cause of this…there is no easy way around it.

Fitness App

Three let­ters, SSO. Single sign-on makes ac­count cre­ation a piece of cake! Create an ac­count with your cre­den­tials from a highly recog­nised ac­count (eg. Google, Facebook, iCloud, etc.)

4. Ongoing Maintenance

We have down­loaded, set up and now it is time to use it! The main­te­nance of an ap­pli­ca­tion might be your make or break, it will come down to its fea­tures and func­tion­al­ity.

The banking app has medium to low maintenance whereas the fitness app has low.

Banking App

Tracking spend­ing and set­ting lim­its/​goals re­quires some ef­fort, but if the fea­ture set of the app has that in­cluded, then I would deem this el­e­ment low.

Fitness App

The user work­flows of these ap­pli­ca­tions are de­signed to do most of the “admin” work for you, so you can only tap into the nec­es­sary part — the work­out!

As we can see from the above com­par­i­son table, there are many con­sid­er­a­tions needed in chang­ing from one ap­pli­ca­tion to an­other. What is cru­cial here is how each in­di­vid­ual end-user deems the pri­or­ity of these as­pects.

For ex­am­ple, you use a fit­ness app and have been us­ing it for 6 months with no re­sults, and are keen to try some­thing new. Therefore, your pri­or­ity on the High Switching Cost of com­peti­tor analy­sis is some­thing you are will­ing to pay for.

On the other hand, if you don’t have all the nec­es­sary items ac­ces­si­ble for set­ting up a new bank ac­count, then weigh this up with the low level at­trib­uted to the com­peti­tor analy­sis, you might re­think that pur­chase.

the legacy system the bank was using frustrated me for these reasons: -	Security -	UX/UI (User Experience/User Interface) -	Mobile application

These are my tip­ping-point rea­sons (and I’m sure I’m not alone); the rea­sons that change my de­ci­sion-mak­ing process from a want to a need.

Let’s carry on with the bank­ing app ex­am­ple be­low to dis­sect these rea­sons a bit fur­ther.


Realistically, we trust the banks we de­posit and save our money with to be se­cure. That makes sense, right? Well, the legacy sys­tem I was us­ing for my old bank ac­count did not seem se­cure. Sure, to pass Australian bank­ing laws it needs prove that it is, and I am sure it did, but the sys­tem it­self and the us­abil­ity of it made me think oth­er­wise.

It is nor­mal that when an end-user heads to their bank­ing web­site and wants to log on to in­ter­net bank­ing from there, they are di­rected to an­other por­tal, win­dow or tab. This was the case with my old bank ac­count, but some­thing that made me ques­tion this was the new win­dow opened for the in­ter­net bank­ing site had a dif­fer­ent com­pa­ny’s logo on it!

Truth be told, they were do­ing a merger with an­other com­pany — but that did­n’t calm my nerves en­tirely. Migrating sys­tems, es­pe­cially in soft­ware, is a very del­i­cate process, so my trust in their sys­tem started to de­crease, rapidly.

This trust could have been strength­ened through care­ful com­mu­ni­ca­tion of the merg­ing brands there­fore man­ag­ing my ex­pec­ta­tions.


I re­mem­ber be­ing ex­ceed­ingly frus­trated by this sys­tem, con­tin­u­ously, be­cause I strug­gled to nav­i­gate through the work­flows they had cre­ated. Unlike typ­i­cal legacy sys­tems, where things don’t change, their but­tons, CTAs and in­for­ma­tion shuf­fled around all the time.

It should­n’t take me twice as long every time to process a sim­ple trans­fer.

As some­one who works in Customer Success I can see how users are in­ter­act­ing with sys­tems to rec­om­mend im­prove­ments where pos­si­ble. Although, changes such as these were on a large scale and needed suf­fi­cient ed­u­ca­tion to go along­side it, such as tooltips or app-cues that pin-point the changes and ori­ent the end-user be­fore they get frus­trated.

Similar to strength­en­ing the trust lev­els through ed­u­ca­tion — chang­ing el­e­ments of a sys­tem that dis­rupt the cur­rent work­flow can cre­ate large amounts of dis­rup­tion to the end-users needs to be han­dled care­fully. Engagement prac­tices go a long way to mit­i­gate the risk of frus­trated end-users.

Mobile App (or lack there-of)

Mobile bank­ing apps have come a long way in the last 10 years, es­pe­cially with re­gards to fea­tures and func­tion­al­ity. This was not the case for my old bank ac­count, and as I was on the move be­tween uni­ver­sity, causal work, and the odd travel ad­ven­ture, I needed my bank­ing app to suit my lifestyle.

Yes, this was a few years ago — but when I could see the leaps and bounds the com­peti­tors were demon­strat­ing in their func­tion­al­ity ad­vance­ments, it was a no-brainer to switch.

Out with the old and in with the new, as they say! It was an involved process, but I got it done and am still happy with that decision.

I am just one end-user out there, and I know I men­tioned that switch­ing costs are mostly per­sonal, but there are ways to mit­i­gate the num­ber of end-users switch­ing be­cause of a legacy sys­tem’s lim­i­ta­tions. These in­clude:

MRR (or ARR) and Churn Rate
  • MRR is your monthly re­cur­ring rev­enue and ARR is your an­nual re­cur­ring rev­enue. If your ap­pli­ca­tion is a sub­scrip­tion-based pric­ing model, these fig­ures should con­tinue to in­crease if you are con­tin­u­ing to hold onto your end-users (or cus­tomers).
  • If not, the ev­i­dence will be in the churn rate. This is the rate to which end-users are leav­ing your ap­pli­ca­tion, usu­ally on a month-to-month ba­sis.
  • Just in case you need a lit­tle more in­for­ma­tion on these terms, read my Software KPIs blog!
  • Fun fact — this is a great case study of how ac­knowl­edg­ing these fig­ures is cru­cial to the growth of your busi­ness, and it cen­tres around a very well-known legacy ap­pli­ca­tion, Salesforce!
  • That age old say­ing of “know your cus­tomer” re­ally should be “listen to your cus­tomer”! How can you know them with­out lis­ten­ing to them?
  • Listen to their frus­tra­tions, and con­tinue to ask “why”? Why does this frus­trate them?
  • By ac­tively lis­ten­ing, you may dis­cover things that you were not aware of in your ap­pli­ca­tion.
  • Probably my favourite (and I am def­i­nitely bi­ased!) be­cause num­bers don’t lie, but it’s also a huge part of my every­day job (hehe!!).
  • Look into your an­a­lyt­ics of your ap­pli­ca­tion (and if you do not have one…get one! but first check out this blog where I dis­cuss my favourite an­a­lyt­ics tools), un­der­stand the trends, the drop-offs and the range of end-users you are ser­vic­ing.

These are my go-to 3 ways to au­dit your ap­pli­ca­tion and check if your legacy ap­pli­ca­tion is be­ing switched out for the next best thing, or if your users are re­luc­tantly stick­ing around be­cause they feel like they have to. If you are feel­ing that these 3 points will not cover your ap­pli­ca­tion, head to our Legacy Modernisation page and down­load out e-book man­ual to help you get started.

It goes with­out say­ing, if you have no idea how to track your MRR (or ARR), churn rate or feed­back that come from your an­a­lyt­ics then reach out and chat to me or any­one in our team. You can get in con­tact with us here.

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Alice Spies

KPI mo­ti­va­tor and res­i­dent head chef

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