Shareware Beach

Saturday, 30 April 2005

Progress Demands Change

Filed under: Just Great Software — Jan @ 21:20

When you’re selling a product or a service, at some point you’ll have to choose. Do you continue selling more of the same, pleasing existing customers? Or do you start selling something new to new customers, losing part of your existing customer base?

I got the idea for this article from Seth Godin’s blog entry where he talks about a company being held back by its customers. About nine months ago I faced a similar choice, and decided to go for broke.

PowerGREP version 2 was certainly a very nice product. I’m still proud of it. But it fell a bit short of my goal of making it the ultimate Windows grep tool.

PowerGREP 2

There was no way I could add all the features I had in mind, and still keep PowerGREP’s existing user interface. So I had to choose between improving the existing PowerGREP, limiting the amount of new functionality, or completely redesigning the product. You can see the result below. Can you spot the 7 differences? :-)

PowerGREP 3

PowerGREP 3 has been out for a couple of weeks now. As I expected, some PowerGREP 2 customers wrote in no uncertain terms that the old version was much better. Of course, while they say that PowerGREP 2 is better, what they really mean is that they like it better. Humans like things they’re used to and comfortable with. Just like the paper company still finds a market for its quaint designs, many people will continue to use PowerGREP 2 for years to come. After all, it is a solid product.

At the same time, other people wrote to express their thanks and admiration for the brand new version. The real test will be how the product fares as the sales generated by the announcement of the new release wears off.

The key lesson is that you can only listen to your customers to a certain extent. When I announced a pre-release version of PowerGREP 3 to part of the user base, feedback saying the older version was better dominated. When I released the finished PowerGREP 3 this month, more people wrote to say they like the newer version.

If you’re ever faced with the decision to put through a major redesign, or evolve an existing design, keep in mind that your customer base is very familiar with your present design. The new design will be alien to them. It’s quote possible that existing customers favor the old design, while new customers favor the new design. So the question is who you want to cater to most. Unless you’ve already cornered a significant slice of the market, new customers are probably where the money is.

But don’t redesign a product for the sake of redesigning it. The major upgrade to RegexBuddy, released in January, is very much more of the same. The original design works just fine, and could easily accomodate the additional features.

5 Comments

  1. Maybe you should have considered stratifying the market by creating 2 products:

    1) Standard – The orginal version
    2) Professional – The new power version

    It may turn out that the market actually contains two types of users and you are only addressing one at any point in time.

    Comment by Roger Jack — Sunday, 1 May 2005 @ 4:57

  2. I did think about that, but decided it wouldn’t be a good idea. If there are two editions of PowerGREP, they can’t both be the most powerful Windows grep tool. That would make it difficult to advertise PowerGREP as such.

    I want to see how the market reacts to the new version over time before deciding if “PowerGREP Lite” would be a worthwhile venture. But it would have to be marketed as a separate product under a different name.

    Comment by Jan Goyvaerts — Monday, 2 May 2005 @ 9:39

  3. Hi Jan,

    The new PowerGrep version looks very powerful but difficult to use. The last version looked easier. Sometimes you have to choose between power (this way you will catch experienced and geeky users) and easy-to-use ( you will catch less experienced, lazy users, and those people that download your software and do not know why)

    Of course, there is a middle point, where you can catch both… but it’s really difficult to find it.

    Regards,
    Carlos AM

    Comment by Carlos AM — Thursday, 12 May 2005 @ 22:38

  4. Carlos,

    The new version does look more complicated. There’s no way around that.

    But it actually is easier to use in many ways. What would require a very complicated regular expression in PowerGREP 2 (since you could use only one) can often be done with multiple simple regular expressions in PowerGREP 3. The “Replace HTML Attributes” example shows this quite clearly. It’s something I’ll be adding prominently to the PowerGREP 3 web site soon.

    You’re right that finding a middle point is difficult. You run the risk of falling between the gap, pleasing neither group. PowerGREP was always intended to be the top of the line grep tool, not the Sunday afternoon grep tool. :-)

    Comment by Jan Goyvaerts — Friday, 13 May 2005 @ 7:10

  5. Hi Jan !
    Nice blog, discovered through JGSoft.com
    I’d like to add the fact that, as you put it yourself considering Winzip, sometimes the software just does what you want it to, period.
    I know JGSoft since 1999 if I remember well, when EditPad was postcardware and bundled on a CD with DOT.net (english webdesign related magazine).
    I bought it (EditPadro) a few months later, downloaded and printed the manual. Well, since that, I think I can say I use a mere 85% of the software functionalities. I didn’t upgrade to EPP5 + versions, because I just like it the way it is.
    Things change so quickly in the IT environment (ie. security fixes and patches, browser versions, latest virii signatures and so on) that it’s convenient to rely on what you know for sure.

    Having say that I’m considering eventually upgrading to 5 and bundle it with AceText.
    Do you plan to make “special offers” or “value package” (like bundle EPPro+AceText (already done) + RegExp + PowerGrep) ?

    I’ve read that you know of Nick Bradbury,
    I use your software for writing webpages
    , teamed up with TopStylePro that I bought last year on a “special offer discount of the month sale”.

    Reagrds,
    Yann, France

    Comment by Yann Faurie — Wednesday, 31 August 2005 @ 7:41

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