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I work with a web-based platform with lots of data and various tools to view the data, perform analysis. Users are often impressed by one or two features and stick with them. The platform adds new features regularly; too many and too often for most users (and the sales team) to keep up. We have release notes that are emailed out and the occasional press release, but we're still in search of organic ways for users to discover new features.

One idea we had was a pop-up that included "Did you know?" text and some graphics. We know that most users ignore these. Has anyone been successful with popup's like that? Or Are there other interfaces that have seen more success?

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Great question! –  Rahul Sep 16 '10 at 21:48
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4 Answers

One approach could be to highlight new options with a different background or text colour. This will make the new feature stand out and the user will notice it (hopefully). Then you could have a tooltip or even popup that explains more about the new feature. This way the user will feel more in control.

Don't forget to include an option for turning it off though.

Revert the option to the normal colour scheme after a short while - on a per user basis if you can.

Microsoft do this with newly installed programs on the start menu.

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Try using psychology.

We've been exploring social proof and set completion in our app to get people to try out more stuff. It boils down to keeping track of features they use and then suggesting that if they use one more, they'll complete some visible metric (like a badge, or a LinkedIn-style profile completion meter). We don't actually give them anything, but we do make discovering new features in the app a lot more interesting than "what's new". We'll probably continue down that path. I'd also like to start showing what other people do; hotels do this ("84% of visitors turn off the lights when they leave the room" by the light switch, for instance). So in our case we'd probably microcopy something in like "74% of users have used X to do Y" where X is a new feature and Y is what you can do with it.

Check out Stephen Anderson's The Art & Science of Seductive Interactions slides for more info on using psychology to seduce people into doing something.

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Great slides! (15 chars) –  jensgram Sep 17 '10 at 6:14
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Indeed. If you're in or near Amsterdam, Stephen is giving a workshop on the topic on November 9th. You can get a ticket here: poetpainter.com/seductive-interactions (use coupon code "poetpainter" for 10% off) –  Rahul Sep 17 '10 at 13:28
    
Very interesting approach –  Nicholas M T Elliott Sep 20 '10 at 17:54
    
"Try using psychology." Some day someone said that when designing something and the field of UX was born –  Ben Brocka Oct 7 '11 at 16:05
    
While something like "84% of visitors turn off the lights when they leave the room" is an interesting approach in existing m/hotels, a more effective way for saving power in new m/hotels is to have a socket for the room key card controlling the room's main switch. :) –  agib Mar 29 '12 at 14:26
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Just to be slightly contrary... is there a possibility that the users aren't using them because they're not the right features?

Where do the features come from? Who are they targeted at? What needs are they addressing?

Can you tell a story to the users about the new feature where it's solving a problem that they have?

If there are more features coming than the sales folk and the users can cope with - maybe there should be fewer new features? Maybe making the current features better or more discoverable would be a better way to spend the time?

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Yes! Excellent point. Functionitis can wreck a good UI. –  James Crook Jun 5 '11 at 9:55
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I think the point is: Don't show them your new features when you add them, show them when they need it.

Balsamiq does a great job hiding functionality, and then making you stumble over it when you need it. For example, I was copying many images into the balsamiq wireframe, and suddenly thought: what if I could just copy and paste them? And I could! It is not a word processing program, but in this instance, it behaved as if, thus leveraging my already acquired knowledge in new ways.

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