The wyDay blog is where you find all the latest news and tips about our existing products and new products to come.
This week I was doing work on LimeLM that involved virtual machines. In particular preventing piracy in an environment where the whole PC can be duplicated bit-for-bit. As you can imagine this meant installing and using many virtual machines; VMware, Virtual PC, Virtual Box, Hyper-V, Parallels, and every other obscure VM.
When I ran Parallels the first time it reminded me of a split test I ran on wyBuild a couple of years ago. Heres the first run of Parallels:
Youre seeing this right 4 windows stacked on top of one another. Theyre even polite enough to welcome me twice.
The worst part is that I still havent read what the dialogs say and this is even after I cropped & arranged the dialogs in Photoshop, proof-read this article 3 times, and written this very sentence. They could say some pretty vulgar things and I wouldnt even know.
If a dialog has more than 3 words I just look at the buttons and guess what the dialog says. Heres what I read:
I clicked OK on the last dialog, and a new dialog popped up:
Oh God, theyre breeding. Im sure Copyright Notice is real page-turner, but I have better things to do.
By this point Ive forgotten what Parallels Workstation is. I think its a dialog generating machine.
What can we learn from Parallels horrific design?
Parallels first-run faults seem easy to apply for web & desktop developers alike. But if you clear the front door let users actually use your program will you convert more trial users to paying users? What if you clutter the first run do users care?
Yes, they do.
In wyBuilds early betas (back when it was still called InstantUpdate Designer) I ran a split test comparing how long a person used wyBuild. Group A had a version of wyBuild with crap similar to Parallels Workstation; the user had to dismiss a couple of useful dialogs before they could use wyBuild. Group B had an experience similar to what we use today; a dead-simple first screen:
I foolishly thought the first-run dialog boxes would give users a better understanding of our product.
In retrospect the results arent surprising. Group B, the group that wasnt interrupted, used wyBuild more than twice as long as Group A. More than that, the people in Group B were around 2 times as likely to save their project and build their first update.
So, the group that was bothered by a bunch of pointless dialogs often quit before theyd created their first update. (And this was back when wyBuild was free. The only measure of success was if the user actually used the product).
Because this data was collected remotely (it was opt-in, of course; Im not a sleaze), we couldnt ask the people in Group A why they gave up. If I were to guess Id say their thoughts ranged from Its too confusing to Ill do it later, when I have some free time (i.e. never).
You almost certainly have a competitor that is faster, cheaper, better, or all of the above. So, the next time you add just one more dialog or just one more field to your order webpage, think about how many potential customers youre losing.
Scratch that. Test to see how many users youre losing.
Windows 7 will be available for download to MSDN and Technet subscriber in less than 2 weeks. I thought Id introduce a few controls to make Windows 7 development easier for C# and .NET programmers. The controls will be written for .NET 2.0 & Windows Forms, but will obviously be compatible with .NET 2.0, 3.0, 3.5 and the upcoming 4.0.
The first control I want to give you is a way to use the new progress bar in your apps taskbar icon. This is what the new taskbar progress bar looks like when Internet Explorer downloads a file:
Of course, what good is integrating this shiny new behavior into your apps if isnt backward compatible with Windows 2000, XP and Vista? None at all. And since this taskbar behavior is included in wyUpdate & wyBuild 2.2+, backwards compatibility is a must. Heres our Windows 7 Progress Bar running on Windows 2000 Windows 7:
Like any new shiny piece of technology everyone wants to add it to their program. The flip side is that most of the times you shouldnt use it. Let me quote the Windows UX guide directly:
Is the progress feedback useful and relevant while using other programs? That is, are users likely to monitor the progress while using other programs, and change their behavior as a result? Such useful and relevant status is usually displayed using a modeless progress dialog box or a dedicated progress page, but not with a busy pointer, activity indicator, or progress bar on a status bar. If the status isn't useful when using other programs, just display the progress feedback directly in the program itself.
In the incorrect examples, the taskbar button progress bars aren't very useful.
Is the task continuous? If the task never completes, there's no need to show its progress. Examples of continuous tasks include antivirus scans and file indexing.
In this example, a continuous task doesn't need to show progress.
By the way, the Windows User Experience Interaction Guidelines is a must read for all Windows Developers. Its a shit name (why not Windows Usability Guide?), but it has quite a few good tips. All I can ask is that you skim it once.
Weve integrated the Windows 7 Taskbar progress bar in both wyBuild & wyUpdate. Heres wyBuild creating updates for Nero Burning ROM:
Heres wyUpdate installing an update:
The latest version of the Windows 7 Progress Bar C# source code, example projects in VB.NET and C#, and binaries are available on the open source component page.
If you have any questions, or find any bugs you can report them in the comments or in the wyDay forum.
It has to be our most frequently asked question: "When will you guys add automatic updating ability to wyUpdate?"
Our answer: soon Now!. As of v2.5 wyBuild ships with a free AutomaticUpdater control.
First I need to clarify some confusion. Theres a difference between automatic checking and automatic updating. Its an important difference.
Automatic checking simply checks for a new version and tells your application if there's an update. You can do anything you want with that information. Usually, people just opt to distract their users and launch the updater.
Automatic updating is the full shebang. There isnt an off-the-shelf updater in existence that offers true automatic updating. For an updater to be truly automatic it has to handle everything from checking for updates (the easy part), to quickly and quietly installing the updates (the hard part).
Most off-the-shelf updaters tout their ability to do automatic updates. Its a lie. Ive personally tried all of our competitors products and the best thats offered is automatic checking with the option of launching the updater to distract the user and, oh yeah, update their product.
Dont believe me try them yourself. A quick google search will give you a list of 20 of our competitors. I wont bad mouth them by name.
As of wyUpdate 2.1 neither automatic checking nor automatic updating is included. The reason we dont include even the bare minimum (automatic checking) is that it introduces a huge usability problem that you, the programmer, have to solve.
Namely, what do you do once the automatic checking reports back that theres a new version? The easy answer the wrong answer is you show your users wyUpdate and force them to update immediately.
This is wrong for 2 important reasons.
If you bug your users enough theyll start looking at your competitors products longingly. Dont push them to the edge.
Thats not completely true. Your users dont care about updates, they just want a better experience. They care about bug fixes. They care about the new great feature. But they dont want to play janitor and keep their programs in tip-top condition. Its just too much of a hassle.
Frankly, youll be lucky if 1% of your paying users actively search your website for the latest installer. Its your job to deliver it directly to your users.
Or, to put it another way, if you run a supermarket your customers will expect clean floors and fresh food on the shelves. They dont want to clean the floors or stock the shelves. They dont even want to see someone doing it. But they expect it done. If its not done, theyll only think about it in retrospect:
Hey, remember that grimy store with moldy bread? Yeah, thank God we finally have a Wal-Mart!
How do you keep your users up-to-date without bothering them? Thats our problem.
In reality its several hundred mini-problems: how do you install an update quickly and quietly when the users in a rush?, what happens if the user shuts down the computer mid update?, what if the user isnt an administrator?, what about Vista UAC?, should the updater be run as a service or a process?, how often should the updater discreetly check for updates?, what happens if the user manually checks for updates when the automatic updating is currently in progress?, what if the files are read-only?, etc, etc, etc.
Weve solved these mini-problems in wyUpdate 2.5. Were currently integrating and testing our solution for the thousands of edge cases.
Besides all of the behind-the-scene changes were making to wyUpdate, were also creating a new open-source component that you can include with your .NET application. It will handle all of the complexity that goes into integrating auto-update directly into your program.
Here are a few screenshots to show what we have in store:
You can watch our progress as we add automatic updating ability to wyUpdate by checking out the sources from our subversion repository:
svn checkout http://wyupdate.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/ wyupdate-read-only
Or you can wait until its finished and read our full tutorial and download the full source zip file. The tutorial will be extra technical and will feature loads of C# code.