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.

About the author.

I'm Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Trello and Fog Creek Software, and CEO of Stack Overflow. More about me.