To hide or not to hide

13 Nov 2003 - 12:47pm
10 years ago
6 replies
562 reads
Bennett, Louise
2005

Here's a question I'm facing re an upcoming product release - I've picked a way to go but am hoping you guys (and girls) can validate it for me.

We have built a product that is going to be offered in 2 flavours - Standard (very limited features, but enough to satisfy simple use cases), and Advanced (lots of features satisfying very complex use cases).

PM believe that maybe 20% of the users who download the Standard product from the web site will ultimately migrate to the Advanced version (this % hasn't been based on any real user studies; its pretty much just their best guess). They believe the other 80% will be quite happy with the much cheaper Standard version.

So the question is how best to educate the users of the Standard version of the great wealth of features in the Advanced version, in case they want to upgrade.

We now have 2 firmly entrenched factions within the Development team and I'm being asked to adjudicate. One side wants the Standard version to be just that - ONLY the standard version, with no hint of the treasures in the advanced version. The other side wants to ghost the Advanced features in the Standard version (for example, list the other middleware transports supported by the tool in the menus, but dim them so they can never be selected) so that the Standard users can see what they're missing and rush out to buy the Advanced version.

I'm inclined to go with the first option, and find other ways to educate users of the Advanced product's capabilities - like information panels during installation, documentation, and other marketing materials. But being the last Usability resource standing in my company, it would be nice to be able to bounce this off some like-minded folk! Has anyone had a similar situation and been able to gauge any user response to either scenario?

Thanks in advance,

Louise.

Louise Bennett.
IONA Technologies
Waltham, MA.

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Comments

13 Nov 2003 - 3:45pm
Jay Goldman
2003

I would be inclined to agree with you Louise. I've often watched users
in sessions go off on tangents trying to enable a control because they
are convinced that it is the one they need in order to proceed with a
task. The reason for disabling the control is often a very good one (as
a simple example that I will momentarily stretch to the limits of
metaphors: you can't change the channel on a TV that hasn't been turned
on), but not always obvious from the user interface (pushing the
channel button is still allowed and no error message is provided).

That said, listing the Advanced features within the Standard product is
a great carrot-before-the-donkey way to get people to upgrade. Looking
at a side-by-side comparison between two versions of a product is often
a very frustrating and abstract activity, whereas constant reminders in
your daily use are a definite incentive. Instead of just disabling the
commands, can you come up with a standard method of marking them as
being part of the Advanced product? I definitely wouldn't suggest a
different 'disabled' colour due to accessibility and deviation from
standards issues, but maybe something like a small icon, a tool tip, a
status area message, etc.?

Jay

------
Jay Goldman, President
Radiant Core: Design + Develop + Interact
t: 416.941.1551 f: 416.941.9316 c: 416.704.4283

On Nov 13, 2003, at 12:47 PM, Bennett, Louise wrote:

> Here's a question I'm facing re an upcoming product release - I've
> picked a way to go but am hoping you guys (and girls) can validate it
> for me.
>  
> We have built a product that is going to be offered in 2 flavours -
> Standard (very limited features, but enough to satisfy simple use
> cases), and Advanced (lots of features satisfying very complex use
> cases).
>  
> PM believe that maybe 20% of the users who download the Standard
> product from the web site will ultimately migrate to the Advanced
> version (this % hasn't been based on any real user studies; its pretty
> much just their best guess).  They believe the other 80% will be quite
> happy with the much cheaper Standard version.
>  
> So the question is how best to educate the users of the Standard
> version of the great wealth of features in the Advanced version, in
> case they want to upgrade.
>  
> We now have 2 firmly entrenched factions within the Development team
> and I'm being asked to adjudicate.  One side wants the Standard
> version to be just that - ONLY the standard version, with no hint of
> the treasures in the advanced version.  The other side wants to ghost
> the Advanced features in the Standard version (for example, list the
> other middleware transports supported by the tool in the menus, but
> dim them so they can never be selected) so that the Standard users can
> see what they're missing and rush out to buy the Advanced version.
>  
> I'm inclined to go with the first option, and find other ways to
> educate users of the Advanced product's capabilities - like
> information panels during installation, documentation, and other
> marketing materials.  But being the last Usability resource standing
> in my company, it would be nice to be able to bounce this off some
> like-minded folk!  Has anyone had a similar situation and been able to
> gauge any user response to either scenario?
>  
> Thanks in advance,
>  
> Louise.
>  
> Louise Bennett.
> IONA Technologies
> Waltham, MA.
>  
> _______________________________________________
> Interaction Design Discussion List
> discuss at interactiondesigners.com
> --
> to change your options (unsubscribe or set digest):
> http://discuss.interactiondesigners.com
> --
> Questions: lists at interactiondesigners.com
> --
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> already)
> http://interactiondesigners.com/announceList/
> --
> http://interactiondesigners.com/

13 Nov 2003 - 3:52pm
vutpakdi
2003

I would recommend that any feature that can never be made available in the
Standard version be hidden.

Speaking from experience, just disabling features that won't be available
until the next version (or in a more advanced version), just pisses the
users off. I once worked with a product manager who insisted on putting
icons in to hint at functionality that would be available in the next
version or even two-three versions away. What happened is that users spent
an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out how to turn that
functionality on. Once told why the icons were there but disabled, they
uniformly said that if the functionality is never available in a current
version, the icons leading to them should be removed. The users were quite
unhappy about their wasted time and frustration trying to get enable the
functionality.

It seems like it would be far better to add an option to the help menu
(leading to a series of static screens highlighting functionality that
would be available in the advanced version.

Ron

=====
============================================================================
Ron Vutpakdi
vutpakdi at acm.org

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13 Nov 2003 - 7:22pm
sandeepblues
2003

I used Real Player 2.0 recently, and one of the menus
in Tools->Record from Mic/Line-In... pops up a dialog
that says, download this feature for a 14 day trial,
after which you have to pay.

This seems like a nice middle-ground in that context.

My advice would be to find a few(2-3) features that
would be *most* enticing for the Standard user to
migrate to the Advanced, and place them in useful
places. The user can turn off those features from
Preferences dialog.

I agree that it would be annoying to have that useless
clutter in the Standard version, but I think in the
hope of making the company some more money, such a
decision may be valid. The useless clutter shouldn't
be so annoying that they drop the Standard version,
but sacrificing a little user comfort to satisfy greed
is pragmatic. :).

No, I am not a marketing dude... I am a designer.

Sandeep

Sandeep

--- Ron Vutpakdi <vutpakdi at yahoo.com> wrote:
> I would recommend that any feature that can never be
> made available in the
> Standard version be hidden.
>
> Speaking from experience, just disabling features
> that won't be available
> until the next version (or in a more advanced
> version), just pisses the
> users off. I once worked with a product manager who
> insisted on putting
> icons in to hint at functionality that would be
> available in the next
> version or even two-three versions away. What
> happened is that users spent
> an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out
> how to turn that
> functionality on. Once told why the icons were
> there but disabled, they
> uniformly said that if the functionality is never
> available in a current
> version, the icons leading to them should be
> removed. The users were quite
> unhappy about their wasted time and frustration
> trying to get enable the
> functionality.
>
> It seems like it would be far better to add an
> option to the help menu
> (leading to a series of static screens highlighting
> functionality that
> would be available in the advanced version.
>
> Ron
>
> =====
>
============================================================================
> Ron Vutpakdi
> vutpakdi at acm.org
>
>
> __________________________________
> Do you Yahoo!?
> Protect your identity with Yahoo! Mail AddressGuard
> http://antispam.yahoo.com/whatsnewfree
> _______________________________________________
> Interaction Design Discussion List
> discuss at interactiondesigners.com
> --
> to change your options (unsubscribe or set digest):
> http://discuss.interactiondesigners.com
> --
> Questions: lists at interactiondesigners.com
> --
> Announcement Online List (discussion list members
> get announcements already)
> http://interactiondesigners.com/announceList/
> --
> http://interactiondesigners.com/

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13 Nov 2003 - 8:58pm
Andy Watson
2004

I suspect that presenting a customer with a product that had features
visibly disabled would result in them screaming blue murder and being very
disgruntled. More so if the customer has had to part with something of value
(money) in order to obtain the software in the first place.

When a person exchanges something of value for another item of value, the
realisation that they may have got something less than what they thought
becomes a very high negative factor against further use of that product. It
tends to promote the feeling of being cheated or ripped off. The emotions
that often get generated are similar to that of a child opening a huge
parcel on xmas day, only to find a pair of socks.

If one must sell two products that differ only in feature set, it is really
important to ensure that the customer that buys the lesser product has
absolutely no way of finding out that the extra features exist in what they
just paid for. So long as the customer believes that they are two different
products, then they are likely to be happy.

Having said that, the technique where visibly disabling the features of a
piece of software does work, is in that of trial or shareware software. In
this case, the customer has not parted with anything of value in order to
obtain the software, so generally does not feel disadvantaged when seeing
features turned off.

Thus one is actively prompting the customer that they can obtain more value
than they already have buy parting with something of equally or less
perceived value. In other words, if the customer then feels that the value
they would obtain is equal to or greater than what they lose by parting with
their money, they will buy the product enhancement.

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesign
ers.com]On Behalf Of Jay Goldman
Sent: Friday, 14 November 2003 9:46 a.m.
To: Bennett, Louise
Cc: discuss at interactiondesigners.com
Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] To hide or not to hide

I would be inclined to agree with you Louise. I've often watched users
in sessions go off on tangents trying to enable a control because they
are convinced that it is the one they need in order to proceed with a
task. The reason for disabling the control is often a very good one (as
a simple example that I will momentarily stretch to the limits of
metaphors: you can't change the channel on a TV that hasn't been turned
on), but not always obvious from the user interface (pushing the
channel button is still allowed and no error message is provided).

That said, listing the Advanced features within the Standard product is
a great carrot-before-the-donkey way to get people to upgrade. Looking
at a side-by-side comparison between two versions of a product is often
a very frustrating and abstract activity, whereas constant reminders in
your daily use are a definite incentive. Instead of just disabling the
commands, can you come up with a standard method of marking them as
being part of the Advanced product? I definitely wouldn't suggest a
different 'disabled' colour due to accessibility and deviation from
standards issues, but maybe something like a small icon, a tool tip, a
status area message, etc.?

Jay

------
Jay Goldman, President
Radiant Core: Design + Develop + Interact
t: 416.941.1551 f: 416.941.9316 c: 416.704.4283

On Nov 13, 2003, at 12:47 PM, Bennett, Louise wrote:

> Here's a question I'm facing re an upcoming product release - I've
> picked a way to go but am hoping you guys (and girls) can validate it
> for me.
>  
> We have built a product that is going to be offered in 2 flavours -
> Standard (very limited features, but enough to satisfy simple use
> cases), and Advanced (lots of features satisfying very complex use
> cases).
>  
> PM believe that maybe 20% of the users who download the Standard
> product from the web site will ultimately migrate to the Advanced
> version (this % hasn't been based on any real user studies; its pretty
> much just their best guess).  They believe the other 80% will be quite
> happy with the much cheaper Standard version.
>  
> So the question is how best to educate the users of the Standard
> version of the great wealth of features in the Advanced version, in
> case they want to upgrade.
>  
> We now have 2 firmly entrenched factions within the Development team
> and I'm being asked to adjudicate.  One side wants the Standard
> version to be just that - ONLY the standard version, with no hint of
> the treasures in the advanced version.  The other side wants to ghost
> the Advanced features in the Standard version (for example, list the
> other middleware transports supported by the tool in the menus, but
> dim them so they can never be selected) so that the Standard users can
> see what they're missing and rush out to buy the Advanced version.
>  
> I'm inclined to go with the first option, and find other ways to
> educate users of the Advanced product's capabilities - like
> information panels during installation, documentation, and other
> marketing materials.  But being the last Usability resource standing
> in my company, it would be nice to be able to bounce this off some
> like-minded folk!  Has anyone had a similar situation and been able to
> gauge any user response to either scenario?
>  
> Thanks in advance,
>  
> Louise.
>  
> Louise Bennett.
> IONA Technologies
> Waltham, MA.
>  
> _______________________________________________
> Interaction Design Discussion List
> discuss at interactiondesigners.com
> --
> to change your options (unsubscribe or set digest):
> http://discuss.interactiondesigners.com
> --
> Questions: lists at interactiondesigners.com
> --
> Announcement Online List (discussion list members get announcements
> already)
> http://interactiondesigners.com/announceList/
> --
> http://interactiondesigners.com/
_______________________________________________
Interaction Design Discussion List
discuss at interactiondesigners.com
--
to change your options (unsubscribe or set digest):
http://discuss.interactiondesigners.com
--
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--
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13 Nov 2003 - 9:26pm
Marci Ikeler
2003

Louise,

I think your instincts on this and Andy's comments are
both 100% correct.

This sounds to me of a classic example of people (in
this case, the other members of your team) voicing a
solution instead of a problem. The problem is that
you have a simple product and an advanced product.
You want the users of the simple product to be aware
of the features of the advanced product so that they
can pontentially upgrade. You also (presumably) want
the users of the simple product to be happy with the
product they just bought and continue to give your
company their business.

Frankly, this sounds like a marketing problem to me.
But, as I'm sure anyone who has ever surfed the web
knows, no one likes being constantly bombarded by ads
-- which is essentially what your colleagues are
proposing by leaving a bunch of non-functional
elements in the simple application in the hopes that
it will cause your users to upgrade. Even worse,
there's no indication to the user that this visual
clutter is actually an advertisement.

Instead of jumping to conclusions about how to solve
these problems, you might want to quickly mock-up a
few solutions to the problem (including the one your
colleagues propose) and do a quick paper prototype
user test with 3-5 people. That should settle the
matter fairly quickly.

Good luck,

Marci
http://www.pasttherules.com/

--- Andy Watson <awatson at attglobal.net> wrote:
> I suspect that presenting a customer with a product
> that had features
> visibly disabled would result in them screaming blue
> murder and being very
> disgruntled. More so if the customer has had to part
> with something of value
> (money) in order to obtain the software in the first
> place.
>
> When a person exchanges something of value for
> another item of value, the
> realisation that they may have got something less
> than what they thought
> becomes a very high negative factor against further
> use of that product. It
> tends to promote the feeling of being cheated or
> ripped off. The emotions
> that often get generated are similar to that of a
> child opening a huge
> parcel on xmas day, only to find a pair of socks.
>
> If one must sell two products that differ only in
> feature set, it is really
> important to ensure that the customer that buys the
> lesser product has
> absolutely no way of finding out that the extra
> features exist in what they
> just paid for. So long as the customer believes that
> they are two different
> products, then they are likely to be happy.
>
> Having said that, the technique where visibly
> disabling the features of a
> piece of software does work, is in that of trial or
> shareware software. In
> this case, the customer has not parted with anything
> of value in order to
> obtain the software, so generally does not feel
> disadvantaged when seeing
> features turned off.
>
> Thus one is actively prompting the customer that
> they can obtain more value
> than they already have buy parting with something of
> equally or less
> perceived value. In other words, if the customer
> then feels that the value
> they would obtain is equal to or greater than what
> they lose by parting with
> their money, they will buy the product enhancement.
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From:
>
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
>
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesign
> ers.com]On Behalf Of Jay Goldman
> Sent: Friday, 14 November 2003 9:46 a.m.
> To: Bennett, Louise
> Cc: discuss at interactiondesigners.com
> Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] To hide or not to hide
>
>
> I would be inclined to agree with you Louise. I've
> often watched users
> in sessions go off on tangents trying to enable a
> control because they
> are convinced that it is the one they need in order
> to proceed with a
> task. The reason for disabling the control is often
> a very good one (as
> a simple example that I will momentarily stretch to
> the limits of
> metaphors: you can't change the channel on a TV that
> hasn't been turned
> on), but not always obvious from the user interface
> (pushing the
> channel button is still allowed and no error message
> is provided).
>
> That said, listing the Advanced features within the
> Standard product is
> a great carrot-before-the-donkey way to get people
> to upgrade. Looking
> at a side-by-side comparison between two versions of
> a product is often
> a very frustrating and abstract activity, whereas
> constant reminders in
> your daily use are a definite incentive. Instead of
> just disabling the
> commands, can you come up with a standard method of
> marking them as
> being part of the Advanced product? I definitely
> wouldn't suggest a
> different 'disabled' colour due to accessibility and
> deviation from
> standards issues, but maybe something like a small
> icon, a tool tip, a
> status area message, etc.?
>
> Jay
>
> ------
> Jay Goldman, President
> Radiant Core: Design + Develop + Interact
> t: 416.941.1551 f: 416.941.9316 c: 416.704.4283
>
> On Nov 13, 2003, at 12:47 PM, Bennett, Louise wrote:
>
> > Here's a question I'm facing re an upcoming
> product release - I've
> > picked a way to go but am hoping you guys (and
> girls) can validate it
> > for me.
> >  
> > We have built a product that is going to be
> offered in 2 flavours -
> > Standard (very limited features, but enough to
> satisfy simple use
> > cases), and Advanced (lots of features satisfying
> very complex use
> > cases).
> >  
> > PM believe that maybe 20% of the users who
> download the Standard
> > product from the web site will ultimately migrate
> to the Advanced
> > version (this % hasn't been based on any real user
> studies; its pretty
> > much just their best guess).  They believe the
> other 80% will be quite
> > happy with the much cheaper Standard version.
> >  
> > So the question is how best to educate the users
> of the Standard
> > version of the great wealth of features in the
> Advanced version, in
> > case they want to upgrade.
> >  
> > We now have 2 firmly entrenched factions within
> the Development team
> > and I'm being asked to adjudicate.  One side wants
> the Standard
> > version to be just that - ONLY the standard
> version, with no hint of
> > the treasures in the advanced version.  The other
> side wants to ghost
> > the Advanced features in the Standard version (for
> example, list the
> > other middleware transports supported by the tool
> in the menus, but
> > dim them so they can never be selected) so that
> the Standard users can
> > see what they're missing and rush out to buy the
> Advanced version.
> >  
> > I'm inclined to go with the first option, and find
> other ways to
> > educate users of the Advanced product's
> capabilities - like
> > information panels during installation,
> documentation, and other
> > marketing materials.  But being the last Usability
> resource standing
> > in my company, it would be nice to be able to
> bounce this off some
> > like-minded folk!  Has anyone had a similar
> situation and been able to
> > gauge any user response to either scenario?
> >  
> > Thanks in advance,
> >  
> > Louise.
> >  
> > Louise Bennett.
> > IONA Technologies
> > Waltham, MA.
> >  
> > _______________________________________________
> > Interaction Design Discussion List
> > discuss at interactiondesigners.com
> > --
> > to change your options (unsubscribe or set
> digest):
> > http://discuss.interactiondesigners.com
> > --
> > Questions: lists at interactiondesigners.com
> > --
> > Announcement Online List (discussion list members
> get announcements
> > already)
> > http://interactiondesigners.com/announceList/
> > --
> > http://interactiondesigners.com/
> _______________________________________________
> Interaction Design Discussion List
> discuss at interactiondesigners.com
> --
> to change your options (unsubscribe or set digest):
> http://discuss.interactiondesigners.com
> --
>
=== message truncated ===

=====

Marci Ikeler
marciikeler at yahoo.com

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17 Nov 2003 - 2:55am
Jason Moore
2004

Hi Louise,

Thanks for the posting this excellent case study to the list. The
responses all confirmed your initial hunch: that the ghosting of menu
items is a sub-optimal solution to educating users of the "standard"
product about the "advanced" version. What I find interesting is how
we, as interaction designers/architects communicate that decision. You
have the analogy (unwrapping a christmas gift), experience (we did this
and users hated it), stories/anecdotes (the PM who would add ghosted
menu items for features that were in the pipeline, but didn't exist - i
love that story, btw.) a suggestion to do some paper mockups with
people that might use the product, and of course, your initial approach
of polling colleagues for their expert opinion.

Also it is worth noting that none of the respondents merely rejecting
the proposed ghosting menu items solution, but suggested options and
alternatives. We are not simply "testers", "user advocates" or
"interface dispute arbitrators". We are looking to identify the essence
of the problem and then work on a solution that everyone can live with.
Despite the original subject heading, the problem is not to hide or not
to hide, but how to explain the features available in the current
version and communicate/sell the benefits of the advanced version.

So, back to the arbitration issue and the development team. They wanted
to know whether to hide or not to hide, and now you're telling them,
well, neither. my hunch is that hiding or ghosting options is driven by
having a single code-base for both products, and they just want to add
some #ifdef STANDARD_VERSION and #ifdef ADVANCED_VERSION compiler tags
to the interface file. The real challenge is to convince development
that a third way might satisfy the actual problem and company goals
better.

Good luck! I for one am interested in how it turns out!

:jason

Jason Moore - jmoore at sober.dk
Interaction Architect - Sober Interaction Design

On Thursday, November 13, 2003, at 06:47 PM, Bennett, Louise wrote:

> Here's a question I'm facing re an upcoming product release - I've
> picked a way to go but am hoping you guys (and girls) can validate it
> for me.
>  
> We have built a product that is going to be offered in 2 flavours -
> Standard (very limited features, but enough to satisfy simple use
> cases), and Advanced (lots of features satisfying very complex use
> cases).
>  
> PM believe that maybe 20% of the users who download the Standard
> product from the web site will ultimately migrate to the Advanced
> version (this % hasn't been based on any real user studies; its pretty
> much just their best guess).  They believe the other 80% will be quite
> happy with the much cheaper Standard version.
>  
> So the question is how best to educate the users of the Standard
> version of the great wealth of features in the Advanced version, in
> case they want to upgrade.
>  
> We now have 2 firmly entrenched factions within the Development team
> and I'm being asked to adjudicate.  One side wants the Standard
> version to be just that - ONLY the standard version, with no hint of
> the treasures in the advanced version.  The other side wants to ghost
> the Advanced features in the Standard version (for example, list the
> other middleware transports supported by the tool in the menus, but
> dim them so they can never be selected) so that the Standard users can
> see what they're missing and rush out to buy the Advanced version.
>  
> I'm inclined to go with the first option, and find other ways to
> educate users of the Advanced product's capabilities - like
> information panels during installation, documentation, and other
> marketing materials.  But being the last Usability resource standing
> in my company, it would be nice to be able to bounce this off some
> like-minded folk!  Has anyone had a similar situation and been able to
> gauge any user response to either scenario?
>  
> Thanks in advance,
>  
> Louise.
>  
> Louise Bennett.
> IONA Technologies
> Waltham, MA.
>  
> _______________________________________________
> Interaction Design Discussion List
> discuss at interactiondesigners.com
> --
> to change your options (unsubscribe or set digest):
> http://discuss.interactiondesigners.com
> --
> Questions: lists at interactiondesigners.com
> --
> Announcement Online List (discussion list members get announcements
> already)
> http://interactiondesigners.com/announceList/
> --
> http://interactiondesigners.com/

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