Outweighing the pain of upgrading software
Tuesday, June 5th, 2012 - Posted by Dave Collins
The psychology of pain is fascinating. We can remember incidents involving pain, yet we can’t precisely recall what the pain felt like, other than the fact that it was unpleasant.
We can recall tastes, smells, sounds, images and touch with far greater clarity.
Yet the more recent the pain, the greater our recall of the sensation, and the more we try to avoid it.
So after having a particularly deep and painful session at your dentist, you’ll most likely be extra-diligent with your teeth-brushing and perhaps even avoid items such as fizzy drinks.
Yet fast forward a month or two at the most, and the memory of the pain will be sufficiently blurred, and you’ll probably be back to where you were before the last dental drill incident.
A loose exception to the rule is when the pain involved is exceptional. Anyone who’s been unfortunate to experience terrible pain will tell you that even though they can’t recall the pain in the same way as other sensations, the after-effects can live on far longer than the temporary behavioural alterations caused by a cavity.
When it comes to software, the same principles apply.
Around fifteen years ago I installed a Windows Update that more or less trashed my system, and it took me a few days to repair all the damage.
To this day I generally avoid installing Windows Updates until they’ve been around for at least a few days. I prefer not to be an unwitting Microsoft guinea pig.
When it comes to upgrading software on my system, I have to weigh up a number of factors.
How much I need it.
How much I gain from it.
How great the risk.
How great the pain.
What’s interesting is that even though I weigh up these issues in the order that they’re written, any of them have the potential to make me go no further.
If I don’t need or gain from it, I go no further.
If the risk to my data, application or system is too great, the needs and gains are irrelevant.
And if the needs, gains and risk are all acceptable but the level of pain involved is too great, it’s probably never going to happen.
But this is where the psychology gets interesting.
If, for example, the amount I gain from the update is incredibly appealing, then I may foolishly choose to disregard all other considerations, despite knowing that I’m playing Russian Roulette with my system.
So I really need to change the wording. It’s not just about how much I need the update, but also how much I want it, or think I need it.
This is where marketing comes in.
I will upgrade to the latest version of your software if I need or want to.
Convince me that the need is great enough and nothing else matters.
Want something badly enough and the pain will be overlooked.
And as an aside, a lacklustre approach is plain stupid.
I’m far more likely to upgrade to a new version of my existing solution, as I’ll (naively) assume that the risks and pain are lower.
But this won’t do it:
Convince your customers that they want something enough and everything else will fall into place.