All in the <head> – Ponderings and code by Drew McLellan –

Selling Software Online

Having recently switched to a different operating system, I’ve been in the market for a lot of new software lately – both free and commercial. That means I’ve been visiting the websites of a lot of software developers in the hunt for tools for a lot of different purposes. Finding the right tool for the job often isn’t easy.

FAO: Software Developers

With every software site I hit, there are two things I instantly look for – not as a web developer, but as an end user. The first is a short statement about what the software is and what it is used for. Not what features it has, or what awards it’s won, or even how much it costs, but what it’s used for. When I need to know the specific features I’ll go to the features page, but for my initial glance, I want use-cases.

The second thing I look for is screenshots. They say that a picture paints a thousand words, and never is it more true than in the case of screenshots. These tell me a number of things. They tell me if the tool has a well designed interface – from any screenshot it should be possible to easily grasp what you’re looking at. You also get a feel for the quality of the graphical site of the UI – more important to some than others. You get a good look at the menu bars, the tool bars and all the panels – from these you can very quickly assess whether the functionality you require is provided. A good user interface speaks for itself – so let it speak to your potential customers.

Another tip: unless it’s a major selling point of your software and addresses a real need in comparison to your competitors’ products, don’t tell me that your software is ‘easy to use’. Unless I’m incredibly drunk, I simply will not believe you. The only way I’m going to make that decision is by trying it out for myself. Offer me a trial and show me some screenshots.

The other thing to watch is tone of voice. If you’re not good at writing copy, borrow, beg or hire the services of someone who is. Cold technical facts do not sell software. A warm, positive and honest voice does. Tell me what your software does, let me know how cool it is, but please don’t bore me in a monotone drone.

Consider these simple, common sense suggestions and your customers will thank you.