"User assistance can add value to a product or Web service’s business model by influencing how deeply users adopt new features or services. As more products employ pay-as-you-go models like that of SaaS (Software as a Service), the contribution user assistance makes becomes increasingly more important.
Users of technology products—from mobile phones to ecommerce Web sites—often stop learning and adopting features long before they’ve mastered those products’ full capabilities. A learning plateau usually occurs once a user has learned the features that meet his minimum product-adoption criteria, when the benefit of adopting more features doesn’t seem worth the extra effort or risk.
A bank’s online bill-paying service provides an example: It is common to find many users paying bills manually online rather than using more advanced features that would let them receive bills electronically or make automatic payments online.
An ecommerce site presents another example: A user might go to the site to buy books, but does not buy other types of products the site offers, such as music or electronic gadgets.
In cases where user adoption curves flatten out at suboptimal levels, companies miss out on revenues they might otherwise get from additional fees or sales. Even in non-consumer-facing applications, suboptimal adoption levels can lead to their economic harm. For example, administrators of a network security system might find the application’s reporting capability to be unsatisfactory, because they use its canned reports instead of learning how to customize reports and improve their effectiveness. Their dissatisfaction with reporting could make the security vendor more vulnerable to competitors who boast of their more useful reports.
Many technology companies think of user adoption as an all-or-nothing, take-it-or-leave-it decision. This column poses an alternative view: progressive user adoption. A progressive user adoption strategy consciously exposes new features of a product and moves users to new levels of product adoption over time. In this column, I focus on the role of user assistance in promoting progressive adoption." (Continued via UXMatters, Mike Hughes) [Usability Resources]