Ouch! That Might Hurt
We humans are so pain averse that we often attribute pain sensations to only potentially painful events. This, in turn , causes us to fear the event itself. Even if the event doesn't happen, we may still claim to have experienced some mental anguish. Pain, indeed! Understanding this is helpful in understanding how customers may approach the installation experience.
Here are some fears that customers have expressed to me about software installations.
Many users perceive the installation process as too hard. They are justified in this when the installation program advises them to do things that sound dangerous ("Shut down all applications before continuing or you will irreparably damage your computer") or ask them to do things they don't understand ("Do you want to update the system registry?"). In older days, installation was often physically hard, especially on personal computers. I remember shuffling as many as 30 high-density floppy diskettes to install a large program! Fortunately, the difficulties have largely disappeared as the software industry has moved to CD-ROMs, DVDs, and the Internet to distribute software.
The simplest installation is just copying the right file to the right location on your computer. However, in today's modern operating systems, something as simple as this just doesn't work anymore. Proper installation usually requires a sequence of complex steps, and the entire process can fail if any individual step is not completed perfectly . Mitigate this by providing both typical or standard options and more advanced or custom options.
Too Easy to Break Something
A major installation concern is for the state of the system if something goes wrong during installation. Too many software applications leave the system in an unknown or unstable state if the install process fails to complete (for whatever reason). This is an unnecessary result of a sloppy or careless installation program. Because it is unnecessary, it is unacceptable.
Unknown Amount of Time
Users often express frustration because they don't know how long a "typical" installation will take. As a result, they can't plan various activities around it. For example, if I know that installing some software will take more than 20 minutes, I will probably wait until lunch before I begin unless I need the software right away.
Too Much Data, Too Many Forms
There are few things as frustrating as an installation process that requires you to enter the same data multiple times, or one that requires you to fill out endless forms, and then tells you that you forgot to enter some important code, such as a product serial number. Get all the answers you need up front. Your users and technical support organization will thank you.