• Five Ways People Adopt And Love Change

    Oh dear Lord. The new experience. You’ve spent months redesigning it and now you’re in the homestretch. But even if you know in your heart of hearts that it really beats the pants off of everything else out there, you’re still sweating bullets because you can’t be sure everyone else will see it the same way you do, or even give it a fair shake in the first place. Is it that users just hate change?

    Luckily, a communications expert named Everett Rogers looked deep and long at how human beings actually look at and choose to adopt something new and innovative. His findings are complied in his tome, Diffusion of Innovations.

    I love this because Rogers doesn’t look at what sells, but at what actually gets adopted and really, truly used. I’ve found his 5 Factors most useful not near the completion of a program of work, but from the very start to consider onboarding and adoption just as much as a part of the experience as everyday use.

    Here are the 5 Factors that drive whether someone adopts or snubs your product or service:

    “…the degree to which an innovation is perceived as better than the idea it supersedes.”

    What a shocker. The new solution has to be perceived as a better solution. Much better. Is the new Nest Protect really better than my classic smoke alarm manufactured and installed in 1992? Does it do something obviously better for me?


    There’s plenty of inertia keeping users attached to their current solutions. I really don’t want to have to get a ladder out and take that old smoke alarm down. To shake them out, the advantage has to be clear, crisp, and compelling from the start, but it still has to be true when your using it.

    “…the degree to which an innovation is perceived as being consistent with the existing values, past experiences, and needs of potential adopters.”

    Does it work with the situation I’ve got? Because if it doesn’t fit easily into my world, then it’s just not going to work out. Think of it as the new boyfriend or girlfriend of someone in your group of friends. Everyone will reject the new person if they don’t play nicely, if they exhibit values outside of a certain range of normal for the group, or remind the crowd of someone else that they didn’t like so much.



    In a networked world, this becomes even more crucial. Yeah, it’s got to work with your devices or chosen platforms, but it also may have to fit into the sense of self that you project into the world. Compatibility goes beyond data interchange and into aesthetics, environments, social structures, and human psychology.

    “…the degree to which an innovation is perceived as difficult to understand and use.”

    What’s the cognitive cost of using the new solution? Is the first step reading a manual or going to a training? A few fanatics with critical needs for a solution might be willing to deal, but the rest of the world doesn’t have the time or the patience.

    Do you need to code, create assets, and configure a web server, or can you just create your own space in a few clicks?


    “…the degree to which and innovation may be experimented with on a limited basis.”

    Can I try it out without being punished for doing so? Can I revert back if I don’t like it? Adaptive Path was involved in the redesign of a prominent social space, and the rollout included a preview that users could opt into when they were ready. Then eventually everyone was converted over after the trial period. Not surprising, but there was a huge correlation between those who got to try the new experience and those who responded happily about it.

    Price is one barrier and the freemium model removes that barrier so people can try out the value of the experience and worry about the pay barrier later. Glasses.com is working to remove the payment and shipping barrier with an iPad app so you can see how you look in any of their glasses before you commit to anything. And the more glasses you try on, the more likely (and more confidently) you are to buy and really love them.


    “…the degree to which the results of an innovation are visible to others.”

    And this one is my favorite. Can I watch someone else using it to see how it might be useful to me and understand what others think about it? There’s a lot of focus on the influence of one’s online (or offline) social network and its ability to spread ideas or advocate for a brand, but what about the ability to showcase what it’s like to use Google Glass or customize shoes.

    I still think this is a core aspect of Twitter’s redesign of their on-boarding process that drove 29% more new users to become regular user of the service. Rather than designing the shortest registration process possible, they designed one that helped you find someone of personal interest to follow. And when you start following someone, you start seeing what Twitter is useful for. You observe someone sharing thoughts, photos, and links, engaging in public dialogue, and OH’ing this and that.


    Rogers’ 5 Factors might seem relatively obvious, but then again, why do new products and services seem to get them so wrong so often?

    From spending years getting it both right and wrong, my experience has been that as creators of the new solution, we fall in love with it, adopt it before everyone else, and forget what it was like to be without it. As Dan Klyn outlines in his UX Week talk ‘Make Things Be Good: Five Patterns From The Life And Times Of Richard Saul Wurman‘, we forget to stay dumb. We lose the innocence of what it was to not know the new solution, and so we forget we have to fit into people’s lives before they fit into our business model.

    To better understand misses and bake in better adoption to your new-to-the-world experiences, here’s three ways to apply Roger’s 5 Factors:

    1.  Analyze your current solutions using the 5 Factors as heuristics for evaluating what’s done poorly and what could be better. Or use the 5 Factors as a lens when watching real users try out your solution. You’ll be surprised what you find. I highly recommend mapping the end-to-end experience of your solution so you see where the adoption of it might fall off and how to improve it based on the 5 Factors.
    2. Use the 5 factors in idea generation for new experiences. Remember you’ve got to onboard a user before you have a user, so spending a chunk of your design time on how people will adopt the solution is a good investment. Just spend ten minutes generating ideas on how you might solve for each factor, ideally by integrating it into the core of your solution. In less than an hour you’ll be much better off.
    3. Critique your ideas for new experiences using the 5 factors. Conduct a black-hat session where you purposefully find all the ways your solution doesn’t support each of the factors. Or bring in someone who has fresh eyes and ask them how the solution is or isn’t advantageous, compatible, complex, trialable, or observable.

    I’m sure your ideas are great. I’m sure you’re putting lots of work into getting them out into the world. Just remember that faster, shorter, bigger, louder, and bolder will only get you so far with human behavior and with conversion. Getting someone’s attention is only the start. Moving them to adopt something new into their life is what it really takes to have impact.

    [header photo credt: http://www.flickr.com/photos/49703021@N00/5377722580/]

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