Controlling your Silverlight Installation Experience.

I’ve been doing plug-in development & design for many years, and often I've seen many a battle around this space. It typically starts with ubiquity, once that is overcome it then settles down at abandonment rates and from there the curse of the dreaded plug-in ends.

The reality however, no matter what plug-in you choose is that in actual fact ubiquity isn’t the sign of displeasure, it typically starts with how the entire package is presented to the end user.

Fatigue Point 1 – Do I want the full Experience?

imageIf you build a Silverlight experience for example, and all you put in place of the viewer whom doesn’t have Silverlight is the typical generic “Get Silverlight” medallion. This will basically be your first failure point  (depending on the power of word-of-mouth).

As put yourself in the end users shoes. I’ve arrived at a site, and it has nothing but a “Get Silverlight” button.

Well, what does that mean? and more to the point do I really want to go beyond the button? why..why should I get Silverlight!

Irrespective of what plug-in you choose to build with, this initial hurdle is not just solely related to the plug-in but more to the point around what it is you’re trying to entice the end user to actually experience.

Have you explained what it is you have to offer clearly? is there a sense of reward for them should they agree that getting Silverlight is worth it.

Fatigue Point 2-  Do I want to install?

image It’s easy to push away and declare ubiquity as being the sole reason as to why any plug-in fails or succeeds. It’s only 1/3 of the battle ahead, as there is more beyond the “Get Plug-in XYZ”.

For instance, Installing plug-in have become a tax we willingly pay each day online, often enough in your lifespan online you’ve most likely downloaded plug-in like Flash, QuickTime etc approx 8-9 times a year. All users online do it, so the old myth around folks being plug-in fatigued is actually not a reality at all.

Fatigue Point 3 – Do I want to stick around.

image The final but crucial point of fatigue is, well, do I actually want to stick around?

If you have a 5mb+ payload (ie .XAP file) the end user has to download and all they want is the first 100k, think about the tax you’re imposing on the end user.

Splash Screens are effective here, you want to keep the end user locked on the job at hand and re-assure them the experience is highly worth the wait.

It’s also important to note your mileage in terms of broadband access online will vary and despite the fact I’m sitting on a 30mbps cable link at home others aren’t on high speed broadband.

Have a read of this great article:

Five Do's and Don'ts for Managing UI Time Perception



Think about your end users pain, understand that ubiquity is definitely a hard psychological barrier to overcome, at times people put to much stock in the idea of what success here looks like. They also don’t pay attention to their abandonment rates as they should, and watching people drop off can mean many things (i.e. is your intended experience built for the right audience? I'd argue a RIA based blog isn’t appropriate, given HTML is simply just better suited – unless, you’re doing something more compelling than the HTML iteration has to offer).

We’ll explore more of this going forward soon, as we’ve got an upcoming announcement around this space. I just wanted to highlight early the notion that having a Silverlight experience for an external site has many fatigue points associated to it, and it’s something we should all take responsibility to ensure is enticing beyond the off the shelf default experience.

It’s not just solely about “do they have plug-in yes/no”.

We’ll continue to partner with OEM providers and grow Silverlight installs to reduce the ubiquity barrier of entry, however it’s still up to you to handle the rest, no matter what plug-in you adopt.

Comments (2)
  1. Mike Downey says:

    Good post, Scott.

    I think the biggest hurdle is – by far – your point #3. And it’s really not just about the size of the download. It’s more about what happens after the user clicks the badge on the web page to get that plugin/app. The express install mechanism that Flash Player (and I believe Silverlight as well, once some version’s been installed – as is the case with FP) uses is probably the best experience. Most of the others seem to be getting worse and worse. Tighter security restrictions in the OS (which are there for good reason) mean more dialogs, dimmed screens, and alert boxes that the user has to click through just to view the thing that he had originally browsed to. The file size of the download is also a factor but I don’t think it’s as big as many people think. That said, I’m no fan of 15MB + installers…

  2. John says:

    I just reinstalled Vista last weekend and then built a new Win7 partition on Sunday. What I noticed was Flash simply gives you a Browser style message – "This site needs flash, do you want to install?", you click yes and its done. While Silverlight you get badges everywhere that the user has to choose to click on.

    I’m guessing it is market share thing but Flash got installed for me before silverlight as the first site you hit in Australia is, immediately its ads are flash and the popup to install happens – it just feels like part of the windows install process.

    For me Silverlight got installed on Win7 as part of the Windows Live Essentials.

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