Making Money With Software: Usability vs. Buyability

About This Blog

This site is for  entrepreneurs.  A full RSS feed to the articles is available.  Please subscribe so we know you're out there.  If you need more convincing, learn more about the site.



And, you can find me on Google+

Connect on Twitter

Get Articles By Email

Your email:


Blog Navigator

Navigate By : 
[Article Index]

Questions about startups?

If you have questions about startups, you can find me and a bunch of other startup fanatics on the free Q&A website:

Subscribe to Updates


30,000+ subscribers can't all be wrong.  Subscribe to the RSS feed.

Follow me on LinkedIn


Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

Making Money With Software: Usability vs. Buyability


Many software startups have gotten religion when it comes to creating “usable” software.  This is for good reason.  If your software is usable, people will use it, tell their friends, family and hair stylist about it and you end up making more money.  Life is good.  If it’s not usable, it makes people want to hit their computer or hurt small animals.  No referral sales.  Life is bad.
So, create usable software.  That’s an obviously right thing to do.
But, in addition to worrying about the usability of your product, you should spend some amount of time thinking about its buyability.  Buyability is exactly what you think it means (I’m a simple-minded guy).  It measures the degree to which you’ve made it easy for customers to give you money in exchange for your product.
Most of the things that make software buyable are blindingly obvious.  But, regular readers of this blog know that obviousness is not a deterrent for my writing – I have an uncanny knack for the obvious.
So, here goes:
Things That Increase The Buyability Of Your Software
  1. Transparent Pricing:  I’ve talked about this one before, but it is critical that you provide clear pricing about your product right on your website – somewhere prominent.  Maybe even a page called “Pricing” that has a link from the home page.  The reason for this is really, really simple.  If a customer has to call you just to find out what your product costs, then they can’t buy it right now, can they?  So, without clear pricing, you can’t sell easily.  There are probably some good reasons why certain companies don’t want to put pricing on their website (for example, the solution is custom, the price tag is embarrassingly high, etc.).  In this case, your software is likely not very buyable, and this article is probably not for you.

  1. Immediacy:  Face it, we live in a “now” world.  Even if you’re selling astronomical software for star-gazers in Australia and its high noon in Australia and there’s no possible way the user can use the software immediately – your customer still wants it NOW.   If a potential customer signs on, they expect to be able to purchase the software and use it.  Now.  If you provide a trial version, then the trial should work immediately.  If they pay for the software, they want to use it immediately.  Nobody wants to see a:  “Thank you for your order.  We will process it as soon as possible and send you your unlock code.”  If you take an order, then fulfill the order.  Period.  If the software can somehow “call the mothership” and activate itself, even better.  Otherwise, the unlock code (or registration code, or activation code, or whatever the cool kids are calling it these days) should be BOTH shown on the order confirmation page and emailed to the customer.  The issue with just emailing it is that about 14.2% of the time the customer doesn’t get the code.  The problem could be your mail server.  Could be a spam filter.  There are few things more frustrating than having just paid you for your software and then waiting for the “magical” email that will unlock the immeasurable happiness and joy that your software will bring to my life.  I don’t want to wait.

  1. Minimal Steps:  You need to figure out what the chances are that the customer that’s about to place an order has a high likelihood of purchasing something from you again.  If the chances are low (possibly because you have a single product), then don’t make them “register” for your site.  Don’t make them add an item to a shopping cart and then “check out”.  There should be two steps to purchase:  User clicks on the “Buy Now” button (even better, call it “Use Now” or “Enjoy Now”).  Form shows up with credit card info, user enters stuff clicks a button and magic happens (money trades hands).  Congratulations, your visitor is now a customer.  Once that is done, feel free to provide a link asking the customer if they want to register so they can receive information about updates, participate in your support forums, etc.

  1. Payment Methods:  In most cases, you’re probably going to use credit card processing for your orders.  If it makes sense for your customers, and you also want to provide the PayPal option, that’s great too.  Also, it may suck that Amex charges higher fees than other cards.  Get over it.  Some customers want to use Amex for no other reason that they like their rewards program.  You should be making enough margin on your software that you’d still rather have an Amex sale than no sale at all.  So, get over the higher fees.  Besides, many companies exclusively use Amex for their corporate cards, and it’s not likely you want to miss these sales.

If you were waiting for something particularly insightful or non-obvious, you’re going to have to wait for the next article.  This one has no such thing. 
Summary Of My Point:  If you spent half as much time on making your product more buyable as you do making it more usable, chances are you’d make more money.  

Posted by on Thu, May 18, 2006


I agree with point #2, however this is a really hard one with such a high rate of fraud. I know that you can use your gateway for AVS checks, etc, but sometimes this just does not cut it as people are getting more clever each day. We try to approve all orders within 4 business hours or sooner if they have not problems on their orders, but we would like it to be immediate. Any suggestions? We were thinking of a temporary key being sent out immediately and once their orders is approved send them the actual key. Something like: Dear John, thank you for your order, below is the temporary key for your order so you can get started right away. This key will expire in x days, but if there is no problems with your orders you can login to your account and receive your permanent key????? Anyway, as always good article.

posted on Thursday, May 18, 2006 at 8:16 AM by

The easiest engineering solution would be to use x509 certificates as all the infrastructure for creating, generating and authenticating the various little crypt blobs is widely available and extensively tested. see the OpenSSL project

And as a bonus any ssl based solution could be very easily adapted to purely web based offerings.

posted on Thursday, May 18, 2006 at 4:37 PM by Larry

Good points, however, none of them have anything to do with the software, only with the distribution of it.

posted on Friday, May 19, 2006 at 3:50 AM by Ben

I would add one more - differentiability. I think it speaks volumes when a company clearly tells you how they differ from their IT neighbors. Too often, the IT buyer must go to CNET or other trade pub (infoworld) to get a flyby feature by feature comparison.

On the pricing front: Progressive , by showing competitive pricing on its website, gets this concept.

posted on Thursday, June 08, 2006 at 3:56 AM by ventureblogalist

Comments have been closed for this article.