First Impressions Are Important

09 Dec 2014

A few days ago I was reminded how important first impressions are for a software project. First Impressions will either retain or repulse a user.

How complex is it to install your application? Does the complexity scale according to the complexity of the application? For example installing an operating system involves more complexity than installing a game. If a game is complex, or painful, to install that will repulse a potential user.

Does your installer work? A couple days ago I installed Dropbox on a newly installed Linux system. For an unknown reason the Dropbox installation page points you to an outdated installer. The user doesn’t know this until attempting to login, after install, when he is told the application is much too old. This is much too late and will easily turn away a new user.

Are you properly equipping the new user to either support himself, or find support when its needed? If you point the user to some kind of support channel (e.g. forum, mailing list, IRC) how are you ensuring the user will receive help in a reasonable time frame? This part of customer service can make or break a new relationship (and acquiring a new user is the formation of a new relationship).

Bringing in new users is just as important for a Free, or Open Source, project as it is for a commercial project. Both get advocates, people willing to test new things, and a community. A commercial project gets a sale, with potential for more through advocacy. A Free, or Open Source, project gains a pool of people some of which will eventually get involved project development.

None of that potential is realized if the First Impressions are bad. Even very skilled, DIY users will eventually give up if consistently encountering roadblocks.

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