This week the site title is a little misleading.

No lesson learned. Just an observation and instead seeking lessons learned from the readers.

Last week I dove into a couple new software tools.



Omnigraffle is to Mac as Microsoft Visio is to Windows.

Wireframes, process flows, architecture diagrams, functional maps. And that’s barely scratching the surface of what Omnigraffle can do.



Sketch is your modern day alternative to Photoshop.

A design tool designed for Macs.

Cutting One More Tie to Windows

Both of these are replacements for old windows counterparts I’ve been clinging on to.

First, the previously mentioned Microsoft Visio. And then Paint Dot Net, which is an inexpensive and modestly powerful image manipulation tool that is just enough for whatever I’ve needed.

Yet the thing is, I’ve had my mac for almost two years now and am only now making the switch. For the past two years it’s been “easier” for me to take the time to launch a Virtual Machine that I have Windows loaded on and then open Visio. Mind you, this is from an external hard drive so there’s a considerable performance lag.

Why? Why did it take me so long to get out of this painful process rut?

The Learning Curve

It’s not the software expense (thanks to BlueFletch’s great software policy).

It’s not that the Windows apps were better (that’s a post of it’s own, but in short it’s probably the opposite).

It’s the learning curve.

190 pages
190 pages? Yikes.

These are mid-tier software products in terms of their power and complexity. They can help you do amazing things but in return require the user to be somewhat skilled in using the tool in the first place.

They’re not a Trello, where you can become a power user in 15 minutes.

It’s not for lack of trying either. These tools come with great resources: tutorials, videos, forums and thorough documentation. Ok, maybe tooooo thorough! –>

There’s a significant amount of time investment required to really unlock the power of these tools.

And knowing this, or even just the perception that this is the case, caused me to really procrastinate making the switch.

How To Accelerate the Learning Curve?

Here’s where this post becomes less lessons learned from me and instead a request of lessons learned from you.

Aside from the JFDI approach, what other ways are there to shorten the adoption curve? How do you make new software less overwhelming?

I’d love to get your thoughts. In the meantime here are three off-the-cuff ideas:

1. Lock down 75% of the features for new users

What if you created two versions of your app?

Version 1 could be your starter version. Think of it like the “lite” versions of apps you see in the app store. You know, the try before you buy versions of apps: games that only let you play a level or two or apps with a killer feature stripped out.

In addition to making you more willing to buy the app, this model also makes it easier to get familiar with new apps. These lite versions could hold back the majority of features for pro users only, so that new users aren’t so overwhelmed with extensive menus and features when they first start.

2. Game-ify the learning process

Gameification may be the wrong word here but I’ll bite and use it.

Most software does 5, maybe 10 core things at most. Thing is, a new user who doesn’t know the language and context of your app can’t distinguish the few core features from the hundreds of small tweaks and settings within the app.

Create simple goals that clearly outline the core features. Then entice the new user with badges (or whatever you gameification style) for mastering those features without getting distracted by the minutiae.

3. Create interactive tutorials

Whatever your app is for, walk your users through doing a basic version of that on their own.

And no I don’t mean highlighted tooltips, videos or a user forum. Yes, those are necessary supporting materials but they’re not enough.

Less Meeting helps you take great meeting notes. So new users get their very own dummy meeting that has an interactive tutorial built in, walking them through the whole note taking process.

If you have video editing software, give your users the raw files and walk them through creating a polished video clip.

For example, Sketch kind of did this by showing you an intro graphic that was built in Sketch. This experience could have been so much better though by stepping the user through creating the document itself. There is a giant gap in going from this:


to this:


An artist with all the paint brushes in the world is not an artist if she doesn’t know how to use them. You could have all of Sketch’s tools & features and even then some, but if you don’t know how to use them it’s worthless.

Or what’s worse…you’ll get overwhelmed by the learning curve, procrastinate and never even try.