The secret to progressive adoption is to stop thinking of adoption as a Yes/No state on the part of the user, rather think of it as incremental adoptions over a period of time. Map out the basic core features that would represent minimal adoption and apply principle 1 to those ("don't get in the way"). Next decide what levels logically lead the user through a comfortable progression pattern over time.
For example, in online bill pay, we decided it was too much to ask a user to start by turning off paper bills and having the system pay electronic bills automatically. They first had to build a trust in the system. The best progression seemed to be:
- Get the bill in the mail and pay manually online.
- Authorize getting the bill electronically but still pay manually online.
- Authorize routine bills to be received electronically and payed automatically online.
Two elements you should consider when planning a progression profile are:
- Level of trust required. Plan a progression that allows the user to build trust with the system. Trust can mean a lot of things, trust you with my data, trust you with my SSN, trust you with my credit card number, etc. It can also mean I trust that all this work is going to get me what I want. For example, MS Excel's Chart Wizard lets you see how your data will be graphically displayed at each step in the process.
- Level of skill required. Move the user along incrementally from basic skills to get core value to more advanced skills to leverage greater value. For example, MS Word starts with a default template in place. Using templates should not be an initial requirement, but should be planned as a step that happens after the user has made the initial adoption. Steps along the skill dimension should be sized for easily managed progression. Don't make the user have to learn a lot to get more value. As long as the perceived increase in value is proportional to perceived effort to get there, you have a workable progression profile.
I will discuss concrete user assistance techniques that can be applied to support progressive adoption over my next several blogs.