Jun 3, 2005

Users Shy Away from the Cutting Edge in Software

Source: Publish
Written By Andreas Pfeiffer

Opinion: Motivating and training professionals to take full advantage of upgrades is hard, so lots of cool new features are going unused.

Technology providers very often live in a dream world where it is enough to bring a new feature or program to the market to push the envelope of how professionals go about their work.

In all fairness, there is some historical foundation for this. Desktop publishing was a home run. Enthusiastic users adopted Photoshop before there was actually a practical use for it in the publishing workflow.

Even today, certain niche functionality can change user behavior if there is a strongly perceived need for it: The fast adoption of Camera Raw tools is a good example for this.

But these examples should not mask the horrid truth for vendors: Most users don’t care about technology or cutting edge features. They just want to get their job done, and usually, the most efficient way of doing this is by using exactly the same methods you employed yesterday and the day before.

It is actually quite ironic that the industry that has epitomized innovation as a driving force in society is probably the most change-averse in history.

Except for the nerds and geeks among us, we do not want to change anything in our digital work environment: What more horrific thought is there than to change e-mail clients?

User inertia is a very strong force, and it helps cement monopolies. Where would Microsoft be today if computer users showed the same patterns for change as buyers of consumer electronics, cell phones or cars?

The real problem with user inertia, however, is that it presents the most monumental barrier to change in maturing industries. Most users stick with older versions of software, and even when they upgrade, they usually keep well-established work methods rather than experimenting with new possibilities.

And let’s be fair: Who has the time to learn about new features, especially since providing manuals has become a disappearing art in the software business?

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