Our context sensitive support and training platform (also referred to as a Digital Adoption Platform or DAP), VisualSP, works wonders on top of any web application and our customers rave about the simplicity of getting going quickly and easily using the system. However, we hear the following question from potential customers from time to time:
Why doesn't VisualSP provide a contextual overlay on top of desktop applications?
This article is written to answer that question.
Having said that, that is the only desktop application we support natively through the app model.
The short answer for why we don't support other desktop applications
Our current customers who have transferred over from being customers of another DAP that supported desktop applications told us the exact same story: It had been Really hard to roll out and maintain a solution like that.
On top of the maintenance headaches, their users didn't get as much usage from the desktop based solution while paying for the high price tag of a workstation solution - which is always a separate cost from the web application based DAP.
The longer explanation for why we don't support desktop applications in general
Desktop applications such as Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office apps are all closed systems. You cannot integrate something within those systems that would let you overlay contextual experiences such as interactive walkthroughs or inline help icons on top of them.
The only thing you can do as a context sensitive application support provider is to develop your own desktop application that sits directly on Microsoft Windows or Apple computers and lets you overlay contextual experiences on top of any desktop application.
So what's the problem you ask?
Why not go for it and make something like that which can overlay on top of any Microsoft Windows or Mac OS application?
The challenge is that to go down that route is a very turbulent road filled with some pretty big potholes that you only realize after you have experienced it. Here are some facts around this idea and why we at VisualSP have stayed away from supporting general desktop applications.
Deployment and updates
When a desktop team at the organization has to roll out a desktop app for all their users, it takes a lot of coordination and effort to make that happen. Especially since you're potentially rolling out desktop software on your users' personal devices as well sometimes which makes things extra tricky.
Just like any other desktop application that gets installed on your computer, you have to keep the DAP desktop app updated all the time as well with constant bug fixes and updates.
If you have installed a desktop application as an individual user in the past, such as snagit, loom, etc, you know that there are constant updates that are rolled out by these applications. It might not bother you as an individual to keep these things updated on your own computer, but it's much harder for organizations to keep these desktop applications constantly updated on their users' computers all the time. In fact, it's much easier to deploy browser plugins and keeping them updated automatically since the browser take care of that themselves.
User intervention needed
Even after the DAP desktop application is pushed to the users' desktop, there is user interaction needed to log in to the workstation application. Our research showed that most of the users don't even know about the DAP that exists on their workstation aside from seeing the logo of it on their desktop - which is usually distracting and in the way for many users.
For the companies that had deployed the desktop / workstation for their users, most of them report that a only a very small percentage of users are actually using the desktop based DAP because of the intrinsic user motivation needed to get started and keep on top of it.
The extra cost
There is always an extra cost to get the workstation / desktop based DAP in addition to the DAP that works in the web browser.
That extra cost is sometimes a significant factor for companies to not go that route since it sometimes doubles the cost of the system itself.
The cost would be worth it if there was enough usage, but our research of the customers who have used the desktop based applications in the past has shown that there was very minimal usage by their users as mentioned above. Some of these customers never even got to the point of rolling out the desktop based application but were still paying for it.
All of these things above are the reasons that we at VisualSP have decided to not support mainstream desktop applications with our contextual support system.
Our strengths are in the simplicity of getting the DAP implemented quickly and easily on any web application with a fair, transparent and easy to understand price structure.
If you have any questions about the information above, reach out to us and let's talk.