Demo dos and don'ts

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Here are some insights from usability expert Jakob Nielsen and Susanne Perrone, VP-marketing, Xerox E-Business:

DO give them a reason to try the demo. "You need to tell them upfront what you’re going to show them," Nielsen said. "And then once it’s over, you need to tell them what you’ve shown them."

DON’T make it too complicated. "A lot of demos I’ve seen leave too much up to end-users, and [the users] spend most of their time trying to figure out how to make the demos work properly," Nielsen said.

DO keep it short. "You need to give [users] some sort of value within 20 seconds; after that users will leave," he said. "A good rule of thumb is to assume that the user is going to be much busier than you think."

DON’T create distractions. "Extraneous animation and design elements can detract from communication of the key message," Perrone said.

DO factor in technology constraints. "You need to take into account your [bandwidth] issues, server capabilities and depth of the demo, as well as how long it may take for the user to download," Perrone said.

DON’T overdo the interactivity. "Continuous interaction detracts from understanding the product," Nielsen said. "On the other hand, no interaction is disengaging and boring. You need to strike the right balance."

DO test your demo on target users. "Testing will show you some problems you didn’t anticipate; but it gives you time to fix them," Nielsen said.

—Roger Slavens

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