Progressive User Adoption (redux)--
I'm in an all-week training session learning how to do contextual design. Very neat stuff, by the way. We've done some contextual interviews and did some initial interpretation and the outstanding common observation is that the users we observed were using just a small portion of our product's functionality. As I have noted before, users typically plateau out at a sub-optimal level, and user assistance can provide tremendous value in systematically moving the user through progressively higher levels of product adpoption (see my Currents presentation).
What struck me in this current study we are doing it the negative impact the user's premature plateau was having. I talk in my article about unused features being the long tail, but what I saw this week is that our competitive advantage is in those long tail features--and they are not being used. It is so frustrating to hear users say, "I really hate that your product can't do..." and then they name a feature that our product has.
As I have said, I think there is a great opportunity for user assistance to add value by being part of a conscious, progressive user adoption strategy. Come to the Atlanta STC Currents conference on March 10 and hear more about this topic. (Yes, that was a shameless plug!)