Rethink Commerce Blog

Increasing software conversions Part 1: Auto-open after installation

Posted on May 20th, 2009 by

This is part 1 of a 5-part series: How to convert more software trials to purchases.

I was the second software developer at Photodex in the ’90s.  We made CompuPic, the fastest thumbnailing image browser (before Microsoft built it into Explorer). We kept getting tech support calls like this:

Customer:  Where’s CompuPic?
Us:  I’m sorry?  What do you mean?
Customer:  I got CompuPic but I don’t know where it is.
Us: Did you download the installer?
Customer: Yes.
Us: Did you run the installer?
Customer: I don’t think so.  I don’t know where the installer is.
Us: Can you check your desktop for something called “CompuPic Installer”?
Customer: Ohhhhh, yes I found it.  Should I run it?

Don’t laugh, and don’t think this doesn’t happen to you.

For every potential customer who bothered to call tech support, how many tens or hundreds of times did we silently lose a sale?  All because the person couldn’t find the installer he just downloaded.

It doesn’t end there.  After the installer runs, guess what?  Same problem: customer has installed the software but can’t find it… or gets distracted with something else and never tries it.

Unfortunately there’s nothing you can do about getting people to run an installer; either the browser prompts the person to run it or not.  But what comes next is up to you.

You can cause your program to run after the installer finishes.  Why lose a customer just because they don’t know where you are, or because TweetDeck popped up with a critical update on Lindsay Lohan’s rehab status?

If you think you might piss some people off, put a check box on the last page of your installer controlling whether to launch your program after the installation completes.  Default the check box to “true”.  Most people will leave it and click “Next”.  Good!

A related problem is when the installer can’t handle the case where your software is already running.

Upgrades aren’t just for existing customers who are willing to work through funny dialogs that say “Shut down all components of SuperSoftware before continuing“.  It’s also for the new user who aborted an install or had trouble because of a virus scanner or who didn’t realize the first installation succeeded.

These potential customers don’t yet understand your terminology or architecture.  They don’t know that there’s a taskbar icon to close and a main screen to shut down.  They don’t know what the “Notifier” looks like or how it’s different from the “Management Console”.

Always give the user the option to nuke running instances of your software, right there in the installer.

As a professional software developer, it’s easy to lose sight of just how clueless people are about how their computer works, where files go when they’re downloaded or installed, or what to do next.  Every seam between one screen and the next is a chasm where you could be losing a significant percentage of your potential users.

Nothing’s too trivial, nothing’s too stupid.

Don’t forget about the invitation in my previous post – comment with your download link and stay tuned for my honest opinion:).

This is a guest post by Jason Cohen, founder of Smart Bear Software, the makers of the peer code review tool Code Collaborator.  Jason blogs regularly about startups and marketing.

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Jason Cohen

CEO at Smart Bear Software

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Comments (9)

  • Justin Dolezy says: May 21st, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Would be great if you could cast your “newbie eyes” over our installer!


  • Convert more Software Trials to Purchases | Avangate Blog - Software Business Blog says: June 26th, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    […] Software Piracy – A Business Development Indicator? Increasing software conversions Part 1: Auto-open after installation […]

  • Alex says: July 9th, 2009 at 10:12 am

    > launch your program after the installation completes

    Sorry, this is wrong. This requires that the user work as an administrator. (Only if you like trojans and malware you should work as an administrator all the time ;-)
    What could happen, if a user (working without administrator rights under Vista or Win7)? After he start the installation the OS ask for a admin account. Then the installation program runs under the admin account and “launch your program after the installation completes” under the same admin account! If your program creates some data files, only the admin account have access to it! If the user launch your program next day, your program run under the user (non-admin) account and create a “access denied error” while reading/writing the data file!

  • Tips for increasing software conversions, parts 1 & 2 « Austin Entrepreneur Network says: August 10th, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    […] Losing Trials at the Installer — why a huge percentage of people who download never get a trial started, and some tips for improving the conversion. […]

  • Tips for increasing software conversions, parts 1 & 2 : Credit Debt Banking News | CDBN says: August 11th, 2009 at 12:11 am

    […] Losing Trials during a Installer — because a outrageous commission of people who download never get a hearing started, as well as a little tips for mending a conversion. […]

  • Won says: January 30th, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Build your software to be smart enough to be used by users with little computer skills. That is it.

    The download link for our Flash sldieshow software is

  • Andrea D'Intino says: July 23rd, 2010 at 11:13 am

    I agree with Alex: this is simply not feasible. It may have worked with XP… plus I simply don’t know how to get it done with modern browsers :-O



  • Stuart Moore says: December 14th, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    @Justin Dolezy – you have a typo on the trial page missing the ‘o’ in auto-update … Got a previous version? For the 1.8 version we strongly recommend you uninstall any previous version and download the installer here and reinstall. This is because the aut-update mechanism is broken in v1.7

  • developer launch says: March 26th, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Wow, fantastic weblog structure! How lengthy have you ever been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The full glance of your web site is wonderful, as neatly as the content!