Tuesday, May 24, 2005


X-Plane Upgrade: It's EASY!

I use the X-Plane flight simulator. It has a lot of rough edges in comparison to Microsoft Flight Simulator, but it "feels" a little more realistic.

X-Plane is distributed on a DVD-ROM. It is large, because it contains lots of satellite imagery and other graphics. Updates to the software are available on the X-Plane web site, but the updates do not contain the scenery. So, whenever an update is available, you have to download and install the software, and then manually move or copy the graphics files from the original installation.

I have to laugh at the upgrade instructions. They start by saying "It's EASY," then provide a list of several steps that the user must follow. The word "Easy" is repeated several times throughout the instructions, to try to convince the user that what they are doing isn't very hard. It's true that none of the individual steps are very difficult, but when taken in total, it's a lot to do. And you have to repeat these steps whenever a new update is available (which happens every few weeks).

It would be easy for the X-Plane producers to provide an automated means of upgrading, but they don't. It would probably be pretty easy to re-organize the files so that a user only has to move a single directory from the old installation to the new installation, but they don't do that either.

It's such an annoyance that there are people who pay for subscriptions to XPlaneUpdate, a service that will automatically download updates for X-Plane much like Windows Update does for the operating system. While I admire the people who are filling this need, clearly the original developer's opinion that "It's EASY!" is not shared by many users.

If you have to keep telling your customers that your software is easy to use, you're probably wrong. Rather than working to convince them it's easy, work on actually making it easy.

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