The Increasing Importance of Discoverability

It’s incredibly easy to try out new applications these days  – especially web-based ones since they don’t even need to be installed.  And the more applications that people try, the more important that discoverability becomes.

People who try out an application don’t want to spend any time learning it.  They want to get started with it now, see what it does now, and cast it aside now if it doesn’t fulfill their needs.  If they can’t discover the features they need right away, they’ll look elsewhere.  It’s not like it’s a huge investment of their time to Google for your competition.

Read the help file?  Are you kidding?  Nobody reads the help file these days.  If someone can’t figure out your application by simply using it, you’re screwed if you think you can rely on your help file to explain it to them.  Customers would rather try out your competition than read your documentation.

If you want to grab potential customers, you’ve got to make your most important features easily discoverable so that new users won’t miss them.  Your next trick is to do that without creating a level of toolbutton overload that would intimidate those same new users.  And you’ve also got to avoid annoying experienced users by constantly getting in their face with all your wonderful discoverability.

It’s a tightrope walk, for sure, but I’m happy to walk it.  When compared to software written a decade ago, today’s software is generally more usable, and I believe that’s due in part to the fact that discoverability has become more important.  Out of necessity, many developers are making it easier to start using their software, and more often than not, I’ve found that this also makes their software easier for experienced users as well.

Yes, most programs – including my own – are still too complicated, too fragile, and too unfriendly, but in general software is slowly getting better, don’t you think?

7 thoughts on “The Increasing Importance of Discoverability

  1. Nick,
    I have been using Feeddemon since before Newsgator. Yes I paid for it. 8>). I am not a developer, not an expert on computers or software, but I am more knowledgeable than your average user.
    Feeddemon has gotten more useful with each release. Each time you update Feeddemon, I keep figuring out new ways to read my feeds. I never wince when a new version comes out unlike many other applicatios I use. Thanks for working so hard to keeping it simple. It is appreciated.

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  2. Nick,
    Feedemon is a software that I use on daily basis.
    Tried online applications, including Google, and still prefer FeedDemon.
    Simple to install, easy to use, pleasant interface, not a resource hog…
    well maybe I am going overboard, but I just like.
    Thank you for an excellent application.
    PS.
    I paid for license, and it was worth every single penny..

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  3. FeedDemon is pretty good, however, my only gripe is that it’s for PC only (unless you run Parallels or have a Windows boot for the Mac). :/ I work on a Mac at work, and unfortunately, most of the time I read feeds is when I’m at work rather than at home on my PC. NetNewsWire is not bad, but it’s not as good as FeedDemon in my opinion.

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