Stages of Product Adoption

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So you want to build a product.

Is your product to superior to the current offerings? Will it revolutionize the way the world looks at the space you’re in? Are you creating an entirely new space? Will your product change the world?

Yes? Yes! Yes! Get ready for the ride, the road ahead has speed bumps along the way because you are asking your community of users to do one thing that can be incredibly hard — CHANGE. You are asking them to change their current habits and modes of working to adopt your product. While your product may be superior in every way, it has one significant hurdle and that is the one of adoption.

How will your product be adopted?

There are some key qualities that will improve your chances of adoption:

  • Reduce Friction — Make things easier than the other method or product currently in use. Minimizing friction happens in user interface design, streamlining workflows and doing ONE thing really, really well.
  • Be Unique — Do something no other product does. Have a distinguishing feature or quality that is simply not available with any other product.
  • Make Users BE More Awesome — Your product succeeds when you create awesomeness in the lives of your user. Make them shine and your mission is accomplished.

Assuming your product addresses at least two of the qualities above, you still have the fundamental hurdle of getting a community of users to adopt your product.

What can you do to accelerate adoption?

After seeing so many cycles of the next best thing take over our screens I’ve noticed a similar patter with each new “thing”. That thing could be an internet browser, a software application, a social sharing site, a widget/plugin/tool that simplifies a task. I’ve witnessed the stages of adoption in the lives of individuals and of communities and I consistently see people go through the Kübler-Ross Stages of Grief with every adoption. I've added one very important sixth stage (compliments to Barry Dobyns) which is Evangelism.

Here’s a sample of what I see using my (still) favorite social sharing tool, Twitter.

Stages of Adoption for Twitter


They say: “Nobody uses Twitter”
Inside Voice: The product is inferior (despite the fact that millions of users are using it).


They say: “Twitter is stupid”
Inside Voice: The product doesn’t have any redeeming qualities and I hate it (millions of users are being misled!)


They say: “My RSS reader/Favorite News site/Google Search works just fine, and besides, I don’t want to know what you ate for lunch!”
Inside Voice: I’ll keep using my inferior tool because it works in a way I understand and I don’t want to learn something new.


They say: “Twitter is a time suck”
Inside Voice: The product is going to make it so I can find out more information but I’m going to lose days of my life sifting through streams, getting distracted by videos, and lost in the interwebs of content time suck.


They say: “Twitter keeps me current”
Inside Voice: Not only is it OK to use Twitter, I understand how it will expose and reveal information in ways I couldn’t get with any other tool. Twitter is a river of content. I can step in when I want to see what is happening, and I can step out when life/work/nature calls.


They say: “OMG — Sally/Johnny/Susie you’ve got to use Twitter it will ROCK your world”
Inside Voice: Twitter has changed my life. It has transformed my information consumption in a way that I see so much more of the world with less time than life before Twitter.

How does your product look through this lens? How do you help your users navigate through the Stages of Adoption? Every person, every community will be different with the timing and sequence of the stages. Users will vary on their adopter categories along the innovation curve. Early adopters can move through the stages at a more rapid pace, but in my findings, no one is entirely immune from the stages.

And like the Stages of Grief, these are not necessarily a linear progression. Users will move in and out of the stages during the lifetime of using the product (just ask me about Drupal!). How does your product find the wayward users and have them come back around to Acceptance and Evangelism?

Understand what you are asking of your users. You are asking them to change, you are asking them to give up something that is warm and cozy and comfortable. It may not be efficient, it may not be the best tool for the job or there may be no tool at all. But they have to change their habits, their methods in order to adopt your product.

How will you help them?

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