The world of creating software has seen a lot of changes over the last couple of years. Not long ago, most book writing software such as Scrivener or Ulysses was built on desktop. These founders had little choice as the internet was yet to be explored.
As the internet matured, online creators were enabled. They adopted easy-to-use coding languages and tools for building online software. This led to the realization that they could build companies online without a huge investment.
The online software world exploded for thousands of industries, yet many industries still found difficulty with placing a foothold in it. One such industry included the professional writing industry. That’s why I founded Squibler, a writing software that finally cracks the code.
Why a Writing Software Hasn’t Found its Foothold
As I’ve interviewed writers and authors, the answer was clear. The majority of professional writers are over the age of thirty. Most over forty. They expressed their hesitancy to try new writing software as they aren’t technology enthusiasts.
One ghostwriter noted, “I live in Microsoft Word. And I’m old. I have no desire to learn more software.”
Even though she was only forty-three years old, she couldn’t bear learning another software program especially with her three kids running around.
The problem isn’t that she didn’t want to learn another writing software, but the writing software alternatives to Microsoft Word weren’t easy to learn. For example, the number one book writing software outside of Microsoft Word is Scrivener. And the number one complaint about Scrivener is that the learning curve is too high.
This Amazon review comparing Scrivener to Adobe is particularly interesting. The reason is Canva, a design tool now valued at over a billion dollars, aimed to be the easier version of Adobe for designers. It accomplished this through the effective use of personalization with onboarding and templates. Personalization keeps users engaged, delighted, increases word-of-mouth referrals and much more.
The stats around what makes a SaaS company successful say personalization is at the forefront. It creates a deeper relationship with your customers and increases activation and retention rates which directly lead to more revenue.
Improving activation—which takes place when users first experience the value you promised—by only 25% can result in a 34.30% lift in monthly recurring revenue (MRR).
For users who aren’t technology-savvy, this increase in activation through personalization has a much more valuable outcome. If you’re already scared to try a new book writing software, then there’s only one way to get you to adopt it. It’s an onboarding experience that provides a feeling that every step is personalized to your exact needs and gets you your first win fast.
Based on how the writing software personalizes this journey, you may receive a drip campaign that incorporates relevant articles, tutorials, webinars, and case studies. This will help onboard new trial users deep into understanding your software and community.
Personalizing a Writing Software with Onboarding
It’s hard to know what a personalized writing experience looks like until you see it done by others. For example, Wix has one of the best-personalized new-trial journeys to provide you the exact website template and educational content you need to become a successful customer.
Not every software can do this. You need potential users who have a large enough anticipation of investment to where they’re willing to answer a few questions. The wanting to create a website is filled with a large anticipation of investment which makes this work. The good news? So is writing a book.
After you enter your email in Wix’s website form, you get a prompt to follow a couple of steps to identify what type of website creator you are. I’ll show you how this can be done for a book writing software.
After you click, “Let’s Do It,” you’ll see this screen below.
For a book writing software, we could shorten the text to “I want to” then list these options:
- “write a book”
- “write a short story”
- “write a screenplay”
- “practice my writing”
Each time you provide an answer, Wix offers you the ability to provide another one. By the end, you’ve given them four important facts about yourself to help them market to you better.
For a book writing software, the second line of text could read “It should be” then have these options if you previously selected “write a book”
- A fiction novel
- Non-fiction book
The next word could read, “about”. If you selected “A fiction novel”, it will give you these options:
- Children’s Story
The next phrase could say, “I’d like to write” then give you these options:
- 15 minutes a day
- 30 minutes a day
- 60 minutes or more a day
The lasts few words could say, “toward publishing it.”
For example, let’s say I now know you want to write a fantasy fiction novel and devote 30 minutes a day to it. This tells me that you probably have a part-time or full-time job because you didn’t select “60 minutes or more.”
Moreover, I know to show you all the fantasy fiction novel templates right away to ease you into the software. When you’re done using the software for the day, I can then remind you every 24 hours that you committed 30 minutes to write your book.
If a writer had chosen “practice my writing” we could have just as easily personalized their onboarding experience by asking if it’s “storytelling skills,” “copywriting skills,” or “academic writing skills” they’re looking to improve.
Personalizing a Writing Software with Templates
B2C SaaS companies use templates because they’re one of the highest converting features to getting users to opt-in to a paid subscription. The reason is templates provide immediate value to the user. It gives them the thought “I can do this. Investing time in this software will bring me results.”
Many writers rather start with a blank editor. However, a high percentage of these trial users get motivated to implement a template when they realize it’s easier to do than writing from a blank slate. Rather than go back to the template’s page outside of the editor, it can be provided within. On the left-hand side, we can include a layout of writing templates to select similar to Canva.
If the user feels the templates take up too much screen space, they can click the back button you see the red arrow pointing to. This gives the writer full visualization of their writing area, which is critical to keeping a minimalist design which many writers enjoy.
To understand how valuable templates are inside the editor, let’s explore. For example, with Canva, many designers work on several templates a day. For writers working on a book or a screenplay, it may be one every six months. For that reason, an entire book or screenplay template may not provide value by being easily accessible in the editor.
This bring us to these two questions:
What does a writer make many iterations on that would need to be easily accessible within the editor? Something that personalizes the experience. Maybe the answer is hard to find because it’s not something that gets published per se.
Writers constantly need inspiration for the most critical part of creating a successful book or screenplay – the outlining. In fact, according to a recent poll I conducted, 50 percent of book writers use images from the web for inspiration. For characters and settings, they search Google and Pinterest for these images. For text, they use name and description generators.
“Fantasy name generator” gets searched over 400,000 times globally a month. That’s only search volume, too.
To use templatized inspiration as a way to help writers brainstorm, it could be a feature that resembles the one below from video marketing tool, Lumen5. This feature helps you pull the right media for the inspiration you need.
There are two primary questions we need to answer to make a media searching feature possible for writers:
1. How does the media searching feature work in relation to a note and summary section?
We ask this question because the note and summary section are where writers brainstorm. In parallel, these are the primary areas where they’ll input the results from the media search feature whether images, text and even audio.
2. How do we limit the search media feature to not overwhelm the writer while still providing enough value to increase overall retention of our product?
This feature could be a winner. However, if it’s implemented with too many whistles and bells, it may scare off a lot of writers. There’s a perfect balance here, and it will take some work to find it.
Personalizing a Writing Software with Goals
The closest activity and learning curve comparison to writing a book is learning a new language. Duolingo is the number one language learning tool. It got there because of it’s focus on gamification to keep users coming back to learn a new language.
How it works is if you come back to use Duolingo the following day, they’ll reward you with experience to access new levels and add another +1 to your streak. The higher your streak, the harder it is to break. Just like any habit. It works when you work it.
As Jeroen from Salesflare notes, the team also introduced “weekend amulets”, “streak repair”, “streak freeze.” These features helped people believe they can make up for their failures. Introducing the amulet alone was responsible for a 4% increase in 14-day retention.
They continued to find ways to increase retention with the introduction of the in-app coach called “Duo.” Duo is Duolingo’s owl mascot. Not everyone fell in love, but it moved the needle.
To be exact, it improved 14-day retention by 7.2%. Part of this can be attributed to the idea that people perform more consistently with social pressure. “Duo” as the mascot that’s always there provides that pressure.
For a writing software, it’s almost as simple as copying what Duolingo did right and then personalizing it to the intention of a new trial user for the writing software.
If someone uses the writing software with the intent to only edit, then the gamification needs to change. If someone uses the writing software with the intention to only practice with writing prompts, then again, it needs to change.
Because there are so many different intentions among writers, the analytics and data science behind the personalization of gamification in creating a writing habit has to be extremely segmented.
Personalizing a Writing Software with Practice
More writers rather practice their writing to improve it than write a book. The reason is it’s easier to practice writing than to set a lofty goal to be completed like writing a screenplay, especially when that goal may take more than a year to accomplish.
There are many ways to practice your writing online. Most of them are fragmented, and almost all of them have these two common themes:
- You can’t save your work
- If there’s a writing prompt, there’s no editor to type
There’s one example that stands apart from the crowd. That’s The Most Dangerous Writing App. This app allows you to use an editor to type. The catch-22 is there’s no writing prompt and you can’t save your work. You have to think of the words on your own.
The Most Dangerous Writing App
This writing software is widely used by teachers and students. Moreover, they have several hundred high-quality sites linking to it. This goes to show the value this writing software has provided since launching.
Random First Line Prompts
This is one of my favorite writing exercise tools. The reason is when you use it, you get prompted to write based on an opening sentence.
The con is there’s no editor so you need to copy and paste this line into a Google Doc or a writing software such as Squibler. There you can continue the story and save your work.
Random First Line of Dialogue
The aim of this writing tool is to help with dialogue writing. This can be useful for scriptwriting and screenwriting, as well as narrative writing.
Again, the con is there’s no editor so you need to copy and paste this line into a Google Doc or a writing software such as Squibler.
Personalizing a Writing Software with Layout
Many writers want to start with a blank editor with the option to customize along. For example, if the writer is writing a short story without chapters and scenes, they don’t want a list of chapter and scene features to be present. Or, if the writer doesn’t like commenting, then they don’t need the comment option taking up a great deal of space.
One way to solve this is to have templates auto-check and uncheck particular features in the editor. For example, if I choose a book template rather than a screenplay template, the editor will adjust accordingly. This way, I always get an editor that’s personalized to me.
Here’s a screenshot from Google Docs of what checking a certain feature may look like.
The question we need to ask –
How much does personalization matter within the editor (outside of notes and summaries)?
I ask this because the reason is people don’t often need to adjust from writing a screenplay to writing a book, to say the least. It’s like changing your mind from learning Spanish to French.
If personalization for the editor’s layout features only solves a one-time problem, and that problem for a trial user is every six months, then it’s not valuable.
For example, when people use Canva there often using many different templates throughout a single week. This makes the tool’s personalization with in-canvas templates exceptionally useful.
To that end, the writing software editor must be geared to those who want to practice their writing if it’s to hold high value.
The reason for this is many book writers and screenplay writers enjoy practicing their writing. When they practice writing, they often prefer a different editor than when writing their book. Moreover, people who practice writing, use tools like The Most Dangerous Writing App or Random First Line Prompt.
If this is true, then the question we need to answer is –
How do we personalize an editor to cater to those who want to practice their writing, write books, and screenplays?
The possible answer lies within this check-mark personalization. That if someone goes through the onboarding process and selects, “Practice My Writing,” we’ll show them an editor that people prefer to use when practicing.
This editor may have an option to use a dialogue generator, random line generator, and even a timed writing feature – where if you don’t write fast enough, it erases your work.
A better UX and UI check mark system could look similar to the one below taken from Grammarly. For example, if my intent is to write better dialogue for a certain audience with a particular style and emotion, then the editor will generate the right dialogue phrases to continue with.
On the other hand, if a user decides to write a book, then what they see is an option like the one below where it check marks or turns on the type of book outline they’d prefer.
If they were writing a romance fiction novel, then it’d turn on the “Romance Fiction Novel” editor. There’d be an option to turn this off to use the regular editor as well.
As a reader, know that most of what I’m writing here is theory based on expected user behavior and research I’ve done to date. Many of these assumptions may prove correct; however, many may never see the light of day as they get invalidated through further analysis.
Personalizing a Writing Software with Community
The ultimate product validation is if you can build a vibrant community around it. That means users who come back and engage with other users to learn, provide value, and entertain.
Do we create this community inside a Facebook Group or a forum?
The answer can be both.
But is it the best answer?
That answer is no because there are community-based software platforms for readers and writers with over 70 million users. Case in point, Wattpad.
However, we’re not Wattpad. To do be like them, we’d need to create marketing messages in the onboarding flow geared to both readers and writers. That means we’d have to take personalization to an extreme. That simply won’t happen for a while – or possibly never – as the product would become far too complex.
The good news is we’re fortunate that writers love to read. That means the chances of them engaging with someone else’s work by reading or commenting is relatively high.
We will have to continue implementing and testing to find out.
If the community is viable, how do we include it without overwhelming the writers and readers who use our product?
Maybe it’s an “on button” on top of the dashboard that looks like the one below. This button will enable someone to disappear the template page in exchange for a community feed right on the dashboard.
The reason is that most templates will be used for time-consuming projects like writing a book or a screenplay. As a result, they won’t be used often. They’ll help with onboarding, but afterward, they may only make the product more complex for the user. Because after they use the template, they may not need to see more book templates, especially if they’re working on the same fantasy fiction novel for the next six months.
The good news is even if the community feed gets switched on, you could always have an option on the left-hand side to start writing similar to Canva’s layout. And below – just like Canva -, you can access all your work and educational content around the writing software and writing industry.
The deeper question is –
How do you create a community feed worth paying attention to?
That question is a beast in its entirety. For the most part, it revolves around regression analysis. In other words, the feed will show you a post based on a number of variables whether comments on the post, category of the post, and even scroll-depth of readers.
Patience to See it Through
There’s a lot of work that goes into designing a writing software for every writer. That work is only made valuable through listening to users, customers, and doing significant amounts of research on the writing industry in its entirety. That’s why the best way to see it through is by using patience.