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After 17+ years of development, our web app (CRM system) is packed with lots of features. Sophisticated filters, detailed reports, analytics tools,... We realized that the app may be a little bit intimidating for a new user (or a user who just registered for 30-day trial). Menu items with common features which are usable at day one are shown together with other items usable after a few months of app usage. E.g. you don’t need “Bulk e-mail” or “Top sales opportunities” if you have just 5 companies in the internal address book.

Some features just make no sense without certain amount of data in the system.

I feel that we should somehow reduce the amount of visual clutter for newbies. Our current approach is that we measure how much data (and what kind) is in the system and remove all features that makes no sense. For example: we have „Orders” tab in the main navigation which shows all customers’ orders in the system. If we detect that there is not a single one order in the database, we remove the tab from the navigation. Our approach can be described as a variation on „you’ve just unlocked new weapon” so popular in games. I see these pro/cons:

Advantage: newbies will see minimal UI, they will be (I hope) less confused, stuff that matters will pop out

Disadvantage: a user whose goal is to evaluate our software (30 day trial) can leave with impression that our software is „just a toy” and doesn’t offer important features for him („it looks like they can’t send bulk e-mails”). Maybe this is just my unjustified fear.

What I’m looking for is the best strategy how to make our complex software more approachable to newbies and increase conversions (we know that some customers chose „simpler solution” from competition, even if it wasn’t cheaper).

Is our current approach effective? What would you suggest?

I even thought about breaking our CRM into two versions (like „CRM Pro” + „CRM Lite”) to solve the problem, but it feels like too much hustle.

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Most likely you have authentication feature in your system. This makes possible to implement some kind of authorization templates which sometime are called user roles. So you can implement another 'dimension' of such templates which allow you to gather features in profiles like newbie, professional, etc.

So user will be able to select one of this templates according your recommendations. Also you may add some logic based on mentioned data analysis and make recommendation to user to change his template for more appropriate for his set of data.

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  • good idea. There's lots to be said for different views for novice and expert users. Experts are more likely to rely on shortcuts and advanced functions that would confuse anyone else.Tailor your interface accordingly – colmcq Oct 17 '18 at 15:38
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Ask completely new and untrained users what they want to use your application for, and find out what their goals and needs are.

Ask pro users that heavily use your application what they mainly use your application for, find out what their goals and needs are.

After you gathered that information you can see if you could create one version of the application which both of these user groups are happy with, their needs would have to overlap in most cases to make it work with one version of the application..

I even thought about breaking our CRM into two versions (like „CRM Pro” + „CRM Lite”) to solve the problem, but it feels like too much hustle.

Many application do this by asking their users what type of user they are and provide them with an application that fits their needs, that does not mean that one version has less or more function then the other but that the workflow might be different and other features are more important.

To be honest i think you should completely redesign your system since its 17 years old and i don't think any "quick fix" will make the situation much better, its also dangerous because advanced users might not like it.

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  • "you should completely redesign" - we evolve the system and it doesn't look like 17yo software, but number of features grows. – bizwiz Oct 17 '18 at 8:12
  • I don't mean its 17 years old by looks but it carries 17 years of features, tools etc. and if tell me you have functions in this tool that don't even get used and can jest get thrown out without consequences it tells me that the whole system should get a complete checkup and possibly a redesign. – Pectoralis Major Oct 17 '18 at 9:04

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