Where does your Help sit on the technology adoption curve?

The technology adoption lifecycle model is a popular model for describing how products rise and fall in popularity over time. Many organisations use it to help them plan their position in the marketplace, as few can spread themselves successfully across the whole of the market.

If we look at the technology adoption curve for the different forms of User Assistance (UA), what would we put in each of the different stages? Additionally, what does this mean for the people producing it?

The four quadrant “wheel of sales” adaptation of this model, developed by Jeff Cox and Howard Stevens, is useful way to categorise these sectors:

Stage 1 – Birth

  • This is for organisations  who want to be first, who have bought into a dream, and who like being revolutionary.
  • The technology is new and revolutionary, yet primitive. Products are capable of only a few basic tasks. The appeal and value is limited, but if it is successful it will give its users a real advantage.

Which UA technologies fit into this stage: Augmented Reality, game-based Help and DITA, perhaps?

Stage 2 – Fast growth

  • This is for organisations who want a state-of-the-art solution. They want better performance and are willing to pay to get that.
  • The technology advances, often dramatically and in big jumps. These advancements increase the options and complexity. Implementation is often tailored to each situation. The technology still has many sceptics.

Which UA technologies fit into this stage: DITA, Affective Writing techniques, AirHelp, User Generated Content and Web 2.0 based Help, perhaps?

Stage 3 – Incremental Growth

  • This is for organisations who want a reliable, accepted product, and may want some adjustments to fit their situation. They have experience of using the technology and have definite opinions about what they need.
  • The technology is accepted by the majority and is in widespread use. Although it continues to advance, improvements come in small steps. Products become feature-rich.

Which UA technologies fit into this stage: Web-based online Help, collaboratively authored Help, adaptive Help and screencasts, perhaps?

Stage 4 – Maturity

  • This is for organisations who want a standard product at a great price. The want no hassle and a quick result.
  • The technology is standardised and has near-universal acceptance. Advancements are few and far between, and may be resisted.
  • The products are simplified, commoditised and the technology is frozen.

Which UA technologies fit into this stage: Windows-based Help, PDF manuals and FAQs, perhaps?

What does this mean for the people producing online Help?

If your interest lies in creating state-of-the-art solutions and you’re working for a company that wants basic online Help for the lowest cost, then there’s going to be some tension. If the organisation is creating something revolutionary, then perhaps so should the User Assistance. If an organisation is in stage three, then perhaps the User Assistance can give them an incremental edge over the competition.

Do you agree with those categorisations?

What have we missed? Let us know what you think.



DITA could into any stage, 3 and 4 would be interested in efficiencies and cost savings too. For 1 and 2, NUI-based UA, much more community engagement, social and conversational based help that have an important branding and market aspect as well as a UX aspect overall.


I agree DITA is the odd one. If the deliverables haven’t changed, then it belong in Stages 3 or 4. With the lack of a proper toolset, you could argue it belongs in Stage 1.

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