Increasing software conversions Part 1: Auto-open after installation

2 minutes

This is part 1 of a 5-part series: How to convert more software trials to purchases.

I was the second software developer at Photodex in the ’90s.  We made CompuPic, the fastest thumbnailing image browser (before Microsoft built it into Explorer). We kept getting tech support calls like this:

Customer:  Where’s CompuPic?
Us:  I’m sorry?  What do you mean?
Customer:  I got CompuPic but I don’t know where it is.
Us: Did you download the installer?
Customer: Yes.
Us: Did you run the installer?
Customer: I don’t think so.  I don’t know where the installer is.
Us: Can you check your desktop for something called “CompuPic Installer”?
Customer: Ohhhhh, yes I found it.  Should I run it?

Don’t laugh, and don’t think this doesn’t happen to you.

For every potential customer who bothered to call tech support, how many tens or hundreds of times did we silently lose a sale?  All because the person couldn’t find the installer he just downloaded.

It doesn’t end there.  After the installer runs, guess what?  Same problem: customer has installed the software but can’t find it… or gets distracted with something else and never tries it.

Unfortunately there’s nothing you can do about getting people to run an installer; either the browser prompts the person to run it or not.  But what comes next is up to you.

You can cause your program to run after the installer finishes.  Why lose a customer just because they don’t know where you are, or because TweetDeck popped up with a critical update on Lindsay Lohan’s rehab status?

If you think you might piss some people off, put a check box on the last page of your installer controlling whether to launch your program after the installation completes.  Default the check box to “true”.  Most people will leave it and click “Next”.  Good!

A related problem is when the installer can’t handle the case where your software is already running.

Upgrades aren’t just for existing customers who are willing to work through funny dialogs that say “Shut down all components of SuperSoftware before continuing“.  It’s also for the new user who aborted an install or had trouble because of a virus scanner or who didn’t realize the first installation succeeded.

These potential customers don’t yet understand your terminology or architecture.  They don’t know that there’s a taskbar icon to close and a main screen to shut down.  They don’t know what the “Notifier” looks like or how it’s different from the “Management Console”.

Always give the user the option to nuke running instances of your software, right there in the installer.

As a professional software developer, it’s easy to lose sight of just how clueless people are about how their computer works, where files go when they’re downloaded or installed, or what to do next.  Every seam between one screen and the next is a chasm where you could be losing a significant percentage of your potential users.

Nothing’s too trivial, nothing’s too stupid.

Don’t forget about the invitation in my previous post – comment with your download link and stay tuned for my honest opinion:).

This is a guest post by Jason Cohen, founder of Smart Bear Software, the makers of the peer code review tool Code Collaborator.  Jason blogs regularly about startups and marketing.

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