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Introducing existing users to new features

From the 'Program tips as RSS feed?' thread:

"Maybe it might be worth thinking a bit higher-level and working on the wider issue of how to get users to use their tools more effectively."

So what IS the best way to get existing, regular users to use their tools more effectively?

Background: I'm thinking of a corporate environment where the users are using the software package daily, but they're not involved with choosing the software, or updating the software, or communicating with the software vendor - that's all dealt with by someone else (e.g. IT or higher management).

* tip-of-the-day // ok, we know that doesn't work
* help file // all well and good if the user actually looks at the help file, but they rarely do (and they don't actually NEED to, because they're familiar with the (old version of the) package and can still do things 'the old way')
* send an edited release notes document to the contact (e.g. IT or higher management) and ask them to circulate it // that might work in an ideal world, but probably suffers from the same problem as the help file
* send a consultant/trainer to demo new features // nice, but expensive

So what's the best solution? How do you deliver knowledge of new features to those users that don't have a curious or vested interest in the software, they just use it, day-to-day, as part of their jobs.
Friday, November 05, 2004
I've never seen a good solution to this problem. If you can figure out how, put it in a bottle and sell it, you'll be rich.
Anony Coward
Friday, November 05, 2004
I don't have a general solution but if you told me more about the feature I might have some ideas...

Usually I think it's a matter of introducing the feature "in situ," at the place and time where it's most likely to be useful.

For example, in FogBugz 4.0 we have a new "release notes" feature. The way we teach people about it is when they mark a bug as fixed or a feature as implemented, a little link starts showing up that says "Release Notes."

Another example is teaching people about keyboard shortcuts by putting them on the pull-down menus. Eventually frequent users get the clue.

So I think it really depends on the feature.
Joel Spolsky Send private email
Saturday, November 06, 2004
A neat idea is put a video or Flash video animation with the new features.... can work if the new features are good enough from the point of view of the user.

Other idea is change a little the application with skining, if that was planned (however, exist skining packages that not  requiere coding or control replacement, i know at least one for Delphi) and with web pages is more easy.... This is for inmediate comunication that the aplication "change" and the user instantly start to scan for new things...
Mamcx Send private email
Thursday, November 11, 2004

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