Developing a User Adoption Strategy When Designing Software

Improving user adoption rates is important for any software design project. Learn what you need to consider when developing a user adoption strategy.

James Taylor

James Taylor, Founder

February 1st, 2022 11 min read

When designing new software or redesigning existing software, user adoption is important. Whether you have poor user adoption now and want to improve it or want to put your best foot forward to ensure customers continue to be happy after a software redesign, there are many things to consider. To ensure the best software user adoption strategy is in place, you will need a partner who will consider everything including the common issues that cause low user adoption, what metrics to measure and how to measure them, the different strategies for internal users and for external end-users of a product, and how to improve user adoption for the best ROI.

Importance of Software User Adoption

When designing new software, user adoption is one of the most important things to the success of the project. If your customers or other end-users don’t use the product because it doesn’t solve their needs, then what’s the point of creating the software? 

Some common reasons why software user adoption rates are low include:

  1. Lack of data or research before design & development

  2. Not considering the needs of the user and what problems the software solves

  3. Too complicated to use and lack of onboarding

  4. Lack of testing and adapting the software to better meet their needs

  5. Current users are unaware of the new or updated software

  6. High barrier to entry

To avoid these top issues that cause low adoption rates, let’s look at each one individually.

Lack of Data

Conducting research and analyzing data before the design and development even begins is key to understanding how users are currently using the product and what they like and don’t like about it. Looking at the data and getting feedback from users will help to design a product that will resolve any current issues the software may have and keep features that are most used. For new software, discovery research can be performed and rapid prototypes tested before development to ensure success at launch. Without the data and research, you will be flying blind and may remove or change one of the top features that keep users loyal to the current product.

Not Understanding User Needs

Software should be designed to meet business goals while solving user needs or issues. Whether it’s saving time from manually performing tasks, better organization and reporting, the ability to analyze large amounts of data quickly, or any other need, your software design should help solve those problems in a way that makes your users’ lives easier. Without understanding the need to be solved and how the user works in a particular system, the design will fail your customers. And user adoption will be negatively affected. 

Too Complicated and Lack of Onboarding

Whether you’re creating brand new software or redesigning existing software, it must be easy for your users to navigate and perform tasks. An easy-to-use design, organized in a way that makes sense for the user, is imperative for success. 

It’s also important to have training available to users to guide them through the onboarding process. I recently bought a new HR software tool for our business. The company is great, but the onboarding process consisted of a video call with a rep walking me through the software to perform a pretty simple task. It took multiple steps and I almost felt the need to write them down or record the session. If your software is so complicated that you can’t solve onboarding with some in software walk-through prompts, your user adoption will be costly in either labor or lost sales.

Lack of Testing and Adaptation After Launch 

Conducting user discovery and testing upfront helps you put your best hypothesis of the software experience out in the wild. But even after you launch a product, you’ll find there are things you missed. Continuous testing and gathering feedback from users will help you learn what they like and don’t like about the new product. Using this information and data, you can fix any issues that occurred after launch and tweak any features that users find cumbersome or not fully useful.

Users are Unaware of New Product

When launching a redesign or update of a product, it’s important to consider how you will inform your customers about the newly updated product. Whether they need to download a new version or just so they are aware of changes, communication is key to keeping those customers happy and to keep abandonment low. Email communication before and after launch can prepare customers for the changes they will see. App notifications to download a new version or refresh the page can help keep users from having issues with an old version. Those notifications can also help to encourage users who haven’t used the app in a while to check out the new features. On-page or in-app messages letting users know about the new design can also help them from being confused as to where old features are to keep them from being blindsided. 

High Barrier to Entry

The last reason that can affect user adoption is a high barrier to entry. If there is no demo or trial version of the software, it can be hard for an end user to justify making a purchase. Many people are “visual people” and need to experience the product in action before they commit to it. Offering free versions with a premium trial or demos where the user can see the features and how they work can go a long way in selling the product to new users. 

How to Measure User Adoption

Now that we talked about what can affect user adoption, let’s discuss how to measure it. Depending on the type of software, the metrics used can vary, but most are common across them all. Some metrics to consider include:

  • Number of users who purchase, switch to the new version, or download the new software

  • Abandonment rate

  • Frequency of use

  • NPS (Net Promoter Score)

  • SUS (System Usability Scale)

  • Rate of user complaints or issues

  • Number of features used per user

  • Usage rates of specific features

  • Error rate

It’s important to also track these metrics prior to launch of a software redesign to have a baseline to compare. If you see these numbers improving, you know you have done a good job of solving user needs and driving user adoption. On the other hand, if you see these metrics decline, it may be time to go back to the drawing board and edit some features that are causing a decline in user adoption.

A design agency should be considering user adoption metrics all along the way — from before the design begins to after launch. They should work as a partner with you and be as invested in the success as you are. They should guide you to make the best product possible. For a new product, they can help benchmark metrics for you so you know how you will measure success post-launch. On a redesign of an existing product, they should help you to gather the data on your current product so you have benchmarks to compare. They can also help set goals on the improvements of those metrics you should expect to see with the new software design.

Differences in User Adoption Strategy Between Internal and External Software Users

Meticular’s user adoption strategy and process are different depending on the end-user. On one hand, there are internal users that are required to use your customer software. Other products you create will cater to a user outside your organization. Let’s take a look at how our processes differ and how internal user and external user adoption strategies differ.

Internal Software Process

Since management or department heads have already made the decision to create the software, users don’t usually have the choice of whether they want to use it or not. For this type of client, we consider the following questions:

  • How many errors are we seeing and why are they happening?

  • What features and functionality are users not using?

  • What other user behaviors are we seeing (possibly some that we didn’t expect)?

  • What can functionality or features would match current business processes or enhance the way they currently perform tasks

To answer these questions, we track behaviors through analytics and do user discovery to ask direct questions and understand any user concerns. Our focus for an internal software usage is less about the overall adoption and more about the adoption of features and if they make the users’ jobs easier, not harder. 

External Software Process

For external users who decide to make the purchase of the software themselves, our process is a little different. An end-user adoption strategy is considered since users do have a choice on whether they use the software or not. The following steps are taken for these types of software designs to understand user adoption.

  1. We gain a clear understanding of the user journey, including viewing the metrics that will help us measure whether we're succeeding or failing at each step.

  2. Next, we figure out what the question is we want to answer with the data. Adoption rate can be vague. We instead look at the adoption of a specific feature or a particular user behavior we want to understand. For example, “How many users use the reporting by project feature?”.

  3. Then we narrow down the metrics to only track what will help us answer the question we came up with in the previous step. Tracking everything is often not necessary and can muddy the waters. When we narrow our focus down to answering a specific question, we can better focus on the relevant metrics that will provide that answer. In the previous example, we might track total users, users that use the reporting by project, and users that use other types of reporting filters.

  4. Lastly, we make sure to have the proper tracking in place to gather the data needed. Additionally, we may track other key user behaviors that may be relevant to help us understand user adoption.

Improving User Adoption for Continued Return on Your Design and Development Investment

As we discussed in a previous blog, calculating ROI is important when selling a design project to management, measuring the success of a project, and understanding what you’ll get in return from your investment. User adoption is another big part of that ROI as you want customers to keep coming back to use your product and to be advocates to others to grow your customer base.

As we consider the different end users for a product, the ROI may be viewed differently. For internal software users, the return can be summed up by how much the product solves a problem. Whether it makes employees more efficient in their daily tasks, reduces human error, or saves money, the more that users are able to use the software, the better these needs will be met for the company and its employees.  

For external software users, ROI can be measured by several different metrics. You can simply use the number of users who purchase your product to understand adoption rates, although that number by itself usually doesn’t tell the whole story. Other metrics to consider are upgrades to a higher-level product, referrals, abandonment rates, usage of features, error rates, and customer service complaints or issues. These deeper metrics can tell more of a story about user adoption, especially when you look at more than one metric to understand the bigger picture.

Need help with a user adoption strategy for your next software design project? If you’re looking for a partner who can guide you through the right strategy and ensure successful user adoption, Meticular is the partner for you. Schedule a free consultation to discuss your project and the best user adoption strategy for you.