Gap, How to Respond to Critics

Recent redesigns by and Gap stress the importance of humility in the social media age.


Back in August, social news aggregator redesigned its service. The makeover was met with near-universal backlash, and sent traffic tumbling down 26% in the U.S. alone. Digg has since hired a new CEO, former Amazon exec Matt Williams, whose candid approach to this issue serves as a lesson in humility for businesses, and as an example for how companies should respond to resounding criticism in the age of the social media echo chamber.

On Tuesday, Williams took to Digg’s blog to convey two simple messages. First, we apologize for our mistakes. Second, here’s what we’re doing to fix the situation.

“As many of you know, the launch of Digg v4 didn’t go smoothly, and we’re deeply sorry that we disappointed our Digg community in the process. Thank you for your patience and your extremely candid feedback–we hear you loud and clear,” he wrote. Williams went on to explain that Digg has been working hard toward “reinstating a number features that many of you loved,” and listed off the popular-but-nixed services the company will bring back, from user profiles to the “Bury” button to the “Upcoming” section.

Compare this to Gap’s recent redesign fiasco. Last week, the company introduced a new logo, which, like the Digg’s overhaul, was unanimously panned. Soon, Gap North America president Marka Hansen had taken to Internet to respond, defending the logo on the Huffington Post as a modern, “more contemporary and current design” that “honors our heritage through the blue box.” The company then announced that the new logo was part of a crowd sourcing project, allowing fans to submit their own designs. And by Monday, Gap had cancelled the crowd sourcing initiative, reverted back to its classic logo, and admitted wrongdoing.

“We’ve learned a lot in this process and know we did not go about this in the right way,” Hansen wrote in a follow-up blog article on the Huffington Post.

Given, Gap’s reaction took place over the course of a week, whereas Digg has been responding to criticism since August. However, Gap was just redesigning its logo–Digg was redesigning its entire company. Most significantly, Gap’s response has been sloppy and spastic, a desperate attempt to salvage a bad situation by making worse, like struggling out of quicksand. Oppositely, CEO Matt Williams has remained consistent and apologetic, stressing the company’s mistakes and explaining clearly how they will rectify the situation.


Now that’s something we can all Digg.

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.