Decades ago people used to do deep and interesting social psych research.  They’d set up strange and complex situations, then watch how people reacted.  Some of these were scary-scary, but some were actually insightful in the day-to-day world as well. 

What does this have to do with Creating Passionate Users?  Let me tell you…

1965, back when the Beatles were singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” a
few social psych folks did a compelling study about what makes people
decide to do something. 

First they showed a bunch of college students a film about the horrors of tetanus (Lockjaw! Seizures!  Death!)  that ended with the strong recommendation that everyone get a booster shot.  They even told them where the student health center was.  Careful
testing showed that the students actually learned something AND that
their long term attitudes about tetanus and the need to get a booster
shot had really changed.  This was great!   

Then they watched to see how many went to the college health service to get the booster. 

It was a total flop.  Less than 3% actually went for the booster. 

Then they gave exactly the same information in written form.  Again, a graphic portrayal of what would happen to you if you didn’t get a booster shot.

And again, it was a flop.  This time 3% showed up for the shot. 

Sound familiar?  That 3% number is roughly how many people RTFM for your great software and will actually use it to full capability.

But then they had a stroke of genius:  What
if they showed the movie AND gave the students a piece of paper with a
map to the student health center with times you could show up for the
booster.  They also asked the students to DECIDE when to actually make it to the clinic.   

Voila!  Suddenly, the number of students that showed up for the booster jumped to 28% of those in the audience.  And interestingly enough, it didn’t matter if the students saw the movie or read the paper version of the tetanus scare story. 

What made the difference? 

Two things seem to make the change… 

they gave the students something to take-away from the meeting—a piece
of paper with all the information they needed to act.  The health center was clearly marked on the map with a big circle.  Times for open appointments were on the page as well. 

Second (and just as important), the students were asked to make a decision about when they would go to the clinic.  They actually had to make a choice about when they’d show up for their booster shot.

So, what does this have to do with Creating Passionate Users? 

You already know users need really clear direction.  It also really, really helps if they have something to guide them in the completion of the task.  A cheat sheet is great, especially if it’s in the language of the user and helps them satisfy a need they acknowledge.  Keep them short and task-specific. 

It also helps if your user has to make some kind of commitment.  We’re
not talking about a lifetime of togetherness, just something simple
like working through a short but compelling tutorial that shows off
exactly how great your system really is.  You need some kind of engagement with the user to make the connection between the download and what your stuff can really do. 

Here’s the bottom line:  Be specific in your help and support.  Be very clear.  And get your users to decide to do something with your product.  Don’t let it just lie there and go out of their attention—get your users engaged!