[A picture of private offices at Fog Creek Software] Alert! This ancient trifle retrieved from the Joel on Software archive is well-past its expiration date. Proceed with care.

Joel on Software

2001/04/06

by Joel Spolsky
Friday, April 06, 2001

Mark Newman: "As you can see, I'm not a fan of CMM. I view it primarily as a means for high-priced consultants to hold seminars and sell books, not as a process to improve software."

(CMM: "capability maturity model".)

Capturing Email Addresses

We used to ask people to provide an email address to sign up for our on-the-web FogBUGZ demo. Just an email address, nothing else: many of the free software demos you find on the web require a complete name, address, where did you hear about us, birthday, mother's driver's license ID, etc.

I was curious as to how many people our email request was scaring away. So (sneaky Joel) we changed the demo signup so that 50% of the guinea pigs, er, potential customers had to provide an email address and 50% didn't.

Result: about half of the people gave up when asked to type in an email address. We want people to try the demo, so we changed it to never ask for an email address.

Of course, people are concerned about privacy and spam. But this reminds me of a more interesting principle of the usability curve: reducing difficulty by even a small amount tends to double the number of people who succeed with a task.


Have you been wondering about Distributed Version Control? It has been a huge productivity boon for us, so I wrote Hg Init, a Mercurial tutorial—check it out!

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About the author.

I’m Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Fog Creek Software, a New York company that proves that you can treat programmers well and still be highly profitable. Programmers get private offices, free lunch, and work 40 hours a week. Customers only pay for software if they’re delighted. We make Trello, insanely simple project management, FogBugz, an enlightened bug tracker designed to help great teams develop brilliant software, and Kiln, which simplifies source control. I’m also the co-founder and CEO of Stack Exchange. More about me.

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