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Increase Print Software User Adoption by Showing Less

Often the best way to drive a print software solution’s adoption rate is to eliminate the complexity. How ironic is this? We buy print software products based on extensive feature lists and then we drive adoption of the software by turning most of the features off so people will actually use the tool. Isn’t that an awesome irrational cycle we put ourselves into?

By Jennifer Matt
Published: December 15, 2014

We make print software investments with the hope and expectation of creating positive business results. Many print software projects fall short of expectations because of a lack of utilization of the tool by the intended audience of users. For example, your employees may resist the use of a new print MIS solution or your customers may fail to adopt a new web-to-print solution. The creation of positive business results requires both functioning print software and the utilization of that software tool by the users.

Driving utilization can be tricky because humans, unlike computers, think for themselves, have emotional reasons for what they do, resist change when possible, and typically look for the path of least resistance. One of the tools we all have at our disposal is what is typically referred to as “security settings” within any software. I hate the name because it invokes the idea of “preventing access” which is technical accurate but not ideal for the way we should be looking at this very powerful tool in our arsenal to drive user adoption.

Security settings are designated to all users of a software solution, when you login to any system you are exposed to features, functionality, and data based on your security settings. For example, a web-to-print system administrator is given access to virtually all features, all functionality, and all data in the system. Whereas an individual buyer in the same system will only be exposed to buying features and functionality and data that relates to their transactions.

We should stop thinking about security settings as a way to “restrict access” and start thinking about security settings as a way to personalize each user’s experience in the solution. The name is misleading, when you hear security settings you think that’s something to be delegated to the IT person that maintains their office in the server closet. If we changed the name to “user personalization settings” we have a better chance of soliciting the input of more sociable people to determine how to optimize the user experience for each user role in your system and potentially for each individual when it makes sense. When you show users more than they need to see, you increase the perceived complexity of the solution. Increased complexity makes users feel “burdened” by the solution and kills user adoption. For example, in the online marketing world, the focus is on driving traffic to your website and then converting a percentage of that traffic by getting them to sign up (e.g. provide their contact information) in a sense give you permission to market to them in the future. The most common way to collect user information is to present a form. HubSpot (an inbound marketing software company) conducted a study of 1,000’s of forms and found that reducing a form by just one field (number of questions goes from four to three) can increase the conversion rate by 50%. When you reduce the customer burden you get more utilization.

We should think about our web-to-print and Print MIS solutions in this manner. Look at every single role that will be using the system and use security settings to eliminate everything that isn’t relevant to that user. This is an activity to drive utilization; the user experience is optimal when users see less not more functionality. When print software solutions promote their flexibility, ask how many of the features and functionality you can hide from users? Often the best way to drive a print software solution’s adoption rate is to eliminate the complexity. How ironic is this? We buy print software products based on extensive feature lists and then we drive adoption of the software by turning most of the features off so people will actually use the tool. Isn’t that an awesome irrational cycle we put ourselves into?

When we conduct audits of live Print MIS and web-to-print implementations, security settings is one of the first places we look at; not only do we not see a concerted effort to personalize specific user experiences, we often see real issues that risk exposing confidential information. Security settings can be confusing to understand and are often setup incorrectly. Mistakes in this area can be very costly; for example customers seeing other customer’s products in a catalog or your employees seeing confidential information about your business or other employees.

The idea of security settings is difficult for most people to fully comprehend and the user experience of configuring the rights and access is not usually intuitive. We always recommend a testing phase to all security settings. For example, when you are setting up a new web-to-print site, with a catalog that is specific to this customer, we recommend you setup a test customer service user that has the exact same security settings as the customers will have for each store you configure. Make all your security settings and then logout of the system (because you were probably logged in as an administrator). Log back into the system as that customer service user and “test” that you’re seeing only want you want the customer to see and nothing else. This simple process step will help catch many for the most egregious mistakes and protect you from exposing your mistakes to your customer.

On the Print MIS side of things you should get even more granular with security settings because you have fewer users who are going to be using the system all the time. It’s worth the effort to think about their security settings very specifically. Often a few tweaks in settings will decrease the perceived burden and complexity of the system and make these users feel the system was configured specifically for them. Stop thinking of security settings as a restriction of access and start thinking about them as a powerful tool to give each user of your system a personalized experience which shows only relevant features, functionality, and data. Complexity kills user adoption; security settings are one way to eliminate “perceived” complexity of print software.

Jennifer Matt is the managing editor of WhatTheyThink’s Print Software section as well as President of Web2Print Experts, Inc. a technology-independent print software consulting firm helping printers with web-to-print and print MIS solutions. You can reach her at jen@whattheythink.com.



By Cory Sawatzki on Dec 15, 2014

Another great article Jennifer.

We do nothing but custom, customer based solutions and integration. In such, we find that there is not enough thought, or allowable refinement in many boxed products to allow the administrator the ability to create a truly customized "User Experience".

That being said, once again, I think you are right on the pulse. Thank you.


By Jennifer Matt on Dec 15, 2014


I find that many commercial products are investing in the ability to "configure more". For example with certain modules some MIS solutions allow you to add/subtract fields to any screen, create custom alerts and notifications, and create custom reports and queries. All of this is very powerful, the challenge is that to make the system truly your own, you have to first buy these modules, understand how they work, and then use them to deliver the best user experience possible for each user of the system. This is what I find is not being done. We want the system to be "ours" but we aren't investing the time and energy to make them ours.

Its the difference between taking the model home and buying it as is (with all the staging furniture in it). Its nice but its not yours.



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