What is User Adoption and why is it important

A web solution will only reach its potential if it’s fully adopted by the people that look after the running of the website on a day to day basis. Even the most beautifully rendered, powerful and dynamic website will fail if it’s ignored and left to slowly degrade over time. Therefore it’s important to get people behind it. This is particularly important when it comes to large systems with dozens or maybe even hundreds of administrators and contributors.

Engaging and supporting your website administrators will deliver the following benefits:-

  • Accelerate time-to-competency during onboarding
  • Cut costs of updating and maintaining information
  • Improve employee productivity
  • Produce more engaging experiences for the end user
  • Increase online conversions

Consider your end users

Consider the job description of the prospective administrators. Learn more about their role and their technical ability to perform the task at hand. Consider your roles and permissions within the system and consider what aspects of the solution they should be able to manage. Also consider how you will lay out the user interface to facilitate simplicity and how you can provide a ‘distraction free’ experience.

Consider interviewing many prospective users to find out what they need access to and discover what constraints they have. Even if they are technically competent many are often limited on the time they have available. It’s good to understand this from the outset.

The administrator will only be interested in what the system can do for them. They will not care about how the solution is built or any technical details. We need to identify the tasks required to perform the job and then make their life as simple as possible!

Create beautiful help documentation

Creating help documentation is an important part of any software development or maintenance process.

Ideally you should create browser based documentation in html and css. It’s possible to create on source with multiple outputs – create content once and publish in multiple channels. Consolidate all your documentation in one knowledge base, using one tool. You can then publish the entire content instantly as a webpage or PDF.

The most common mistake I have noticed on many software vendors’ web sites is they only offer their manual in a single file, typically a PDF file. Certainly it may be very convenient for users to download a product manual file and use it on the desktop, but this alone is very limited.

A single file is almost useless for your technical support needs. For instance, you cannot point users to certain sections of your help system by simply giving them direct URL links. Each page should contain a topic, section or chapter of your manual. Having many pages which are relatively small is easier for reading, navigation, and bookmarking.

Tooltips / contextual help

Create intelligent content that appears for the right users, at the right time. Draw user’s attention to hotspots to highlight new features and answer a question before they ask it. Add supporting help with tooltips where you know users need it most.

Give screenshots

A picture is worth a thousand words. Give as many useful screenshots of your software as possible. This will help current users understand better how your software works and will help prospects to see how it looks before downloading a trial or demo copy. Make your screenshots clear. Explain what each window does and how its controls and elements work.

Make your online manual searchable

If your solution is complicated and its help includes hundreds of pages then you must add search capabilities to your online manual. From a user’s point of view it’s more convenient to search a required topic by keywords rather than to look through the endless list of topics in the menu or be scrolling around for ages inside a PDF file.

Make your help extendable

Your online help needs to be dynamic. The help needs to become a living facility that evolves at the same pace as your solution. Technology does not stand still and it moves at a decent pace – the help need to be set up in such a way that it can be editing and published quickly and easily. Again, this is why boring PDF documentation falls out of date quickly and does not promote or support the product adequately.

Make pages printable

Some users may like to print out a certain sections of the online help. Sometimes designs that looks great on the display look awful when printed. Make sure your manual’s pages are printable in black and white on at least the two most popular paper sizes: A4 and Letter. Check if there are no big pictures, no color background, the fonts are easy to read, all the content fits the page width, and so on.


Create interactive walkthroughs to guide users to learn-by-doing. Create completely interactive tours, where you can progress the tour when users perform specific actions, like clicking a button or typing some text.

Other ideas include:-

  • Catch users’ attention with modal windows for announcements, new features or scheduled downtime.
  • Show a “getting started” tour when they log in for the first time.

Provide first class training

Prior to launching a product you need to consider your training. Who needs training and what information do they need. A few things to consider :-

  • Put trainees into groups depending on their tasks
  • Excite them about what’s possible
  • Introduce them to the login, dashboard and general interface of the back end
  • Take them through the tools they’ll be using day to day
  • Leave them with resources, links, help files, support contacts
  • Consider additional training. Schedule in regular ‘meet ups’
  • Take into account staff turn over. People move on.
  • It’s not always practical to round people up for training when new people join and if they need refresher sessions. Remote training and screen sharing is a great way to overcome this.

Get feedback

An easy to use integrated feedback form to find out how to improve your product or service. Use an integrated feedback form to find out what users think before they move on. Ask users a quick question right when it’s fresh in their minds, this improves in-app survey response rates.

Create tools that protect the user from themselves!

There are features that we should add to a back end application as a precaution – to retain and protect the design and performance of a web application. Some of these include:-

  • Do not allow the user to upload oversized media or files
  • Optimise images on upload
  • Limit number of characters within restricted text spaces
  • Limit the WYSIWYG text editors. Do not allow the user to apply size or colour to font which could potentially take us off brand
  • Ensure that the more savvy admin cannot switch WYSIWYG in html mode and start pasting in their own html, css or javascript
  • Do not give them any kind of access to templates, just content
  • Apply admin levels and approval processes
  • Flag if pages are not optimised (lack of meaningful URL, page titles, meta descriptions)

These are just a few suggestions. There’s are many other things we can do. It’s a balance between giving users the freedom to publish great content but also locking these down to retain the integrity of the website.