Scrivener desktop app

Scrivener for Mac is a desktop writing application.

The good bits:

  • Scrivener uses a free sample approach, giving people a fully-functional 30-day free trial that only counts the number of days the software is open instead of counting down 30 days from the date of download. This fits its use case quite well, as book writing often occurs in stops and starts instead of all at once. Scrivener is giving new users a chance to try the product within real-world writing timelines.
  • Scrivener gives new users the choice to start with an editable copy an “interactive tutorial” project. In addition to providing detailed information about the product, this tutorial project serves as a boilerplate upon which new users can build.
  • The interactive tutorial is also available on-demand, instead of only being offered one time. A fresh copy can be called upon any time.
  • Even if the user doesn’t choose the interactive tutorial, Scrivener offers a powerful default experience with its project templates. Each serves as its own free sample, with an actionable project skeleton and inline writing prompts.
  • Some on-hover tooltips provide bite-sized guidance throughout the experience, as well.

To be improved:

  • The product asks for access to the user’s contacts before they even get into a project. The stated reason is for the purpose of pre-populating the author’s name and address. That’s a fairly narrow use case in return for granting permission to an entire address book. Scrivener may want to instead wait until the user first enters their name and address information in one place, and offer to cascade that information to other places, or save it for the future.
  • Although it’s called an “interactive tutorial,” the tutorial project is essentially a user manual (even though there’s a separate PDF called “user manual…” which contains much of the same content). It is written like, and is the length of, a small book. While this is a creative, contextually-relevant approach, it may be daunting to new users. Learning isn’t linear, and users are likely to ignore the whole thing because it looks like a lot to sift through if one just wants to start writing (see the paradox of the active user for more on this phenomenon).
  • The content is a dense mix of passive information and active instruction. It’s very easy to miss an instruction if skimming.