Does this sound familiar?

“I don’t want to have to change my work methods to be able to use this machine. it should adapt to my way of life, not the other way around. that is why I’m not using this machine”

I remember people telling me this when I showed them the first Palm Pilot. but also when I talked to graphic designers when I showed them my first Macintosh Plus. I still hear it when people see me work with my iPhone.

It isn’t just that I don’t agree with these people, just that the truth is more subtle. If they were right, nobody would learn how to drive a car, use a QWERTY keyboard or learn to play an instrument. There are countless machines, instruments and technologies that have a steep learning curve, but they are worth changing your working methods and adapting.

Have you ever heard this one:

Customer: “I’m confused by the interface of your website.”

Founder: “yes, we wanted to make it challenging to get in. we want our customers to go through some effort to access our systems. it will make it more exciting as soon as they do make it in”

I’ve heard that one a few times from start-ups, usually right after they complain about not getting enough visitors and sign ups.

It isn’t necessarily bad to have a steep learning curve, as long as the upside is big enough and clear enough from the beginning.  We take driving lessons and spend years learning how to play an instrument, because we know it’s worth it. No gadget is so intuitive that you don’t have to learn anything. No, not even the iPhone.

When designing your product or service you should try to make it as easy to access as possible, make it very clear, from the beginning, what the upside might be, and hope people will invest the time it takes to adapt to your system.

Dont make it a challenge to access your service but don’t waste too much time persuading those people who don’t want to be persuaded either.