Skype recently conducted a survey of 350,000 people in the US, UK and Germany to see how users respond to software updates. They found that 40% of people don’t always update their software when prompted. That’s a pretty high number, but we all know people are bad at updating all the time. What’s more disturbing is the reason those users don’t update:
- 18% are worried that new versions will be buggy or crash often
- 20% are worried about diminished computer performance
- 25% don’t think there’s any benefit
- 26% don’t understand what upgrades do
- 27% don’t want to spend the time updating
- 45% don’t update because they worry about the security of their computer
It’s that last one that really gets me. People don’t upgrade their software because they think it will cause security issues. If you’re a developer you’ll likely roll you eyes at this list and think “Well, if users would read the update info it would solve most of these issues.” But people clearly aren’t reading the update information, so something else has to change. Some companies have started automatically pushing updates, which takes the issue out of the users’ hands (not a bad idea since the survey also found that roughly 25% of people don’t know how to check for updates). But maybe it’s time to start re-thinking the way we communicate with users as a whole.
People aren’t taking software updates on blind faith. We need to get better at testing updates before release, particularly in-the-wild to identify fringe use cases, bugs and security holes. Remember, the only thing the average user hears about software updates is when something goes wrong and a news-worthy issue arises, forcing the company to release an emergency patch (which the everyday user just sees as yet another update).
The benefits of an update need to be presented in an easy to read (and understand) way right up front. Instead of creating a pop-up that simply asks users to update, throw in a few bullet points that highlights the main features and fixes of this particular update. Keep it simple – most users won’t understand what a “UI redesign” is, let alone why it’s important enough to merit an update. Users want to know why it’s important that they update, that it’s worth their time and that the update won’t cause unnecessary problems.
Just food for thought.
On the bright side, of those people who do update regularly, their top reasons were “too keep my computer safe and secure from viruses and hackers” (76%) and “to ensure my software is free of bugs and crashes less often” (67%). We just need to get everyone thinking like that.
To read more about the survey and see Skype’s accompanying infographic, check out The Register.