Tips for Making Software Available for Download

The impact of the download size on software sales

If you are a software producer and you sell over the Internet by allowing customers to download your product(s) (against a fee, naturally), it is important to know that the download size of the file is a capital factor.

The importance of the download files is not to be taken lightly. Bear in mind that there is always a mental barrier for each product ever downloaded from the Internet. Find out where this barrier is for your target customers and try to stick to it.

A Definition

If we were to define download size, we would most likely define it as the size, in Kb or Mb, of a product (software, in our case) that a user attempts to download from a specific Web page. On a more jocular note and in the context of software sales, it could be defined as the approach taken by a software developer with regard to their product in order to get as many prospects to convert into customers, taking into account factors such as complexity, user-friendliness, available features and Internet connection types.

The Importance of the Download Size - Large vs. Small

Download-based software sales are greatly influenced by the size of the file(s) to be downloaded. Even if at first sight it does not seem much of an issue, many Internet users feel discouraged when they face a file that, due to its size, either blocks their computer for hours on end, not allowing them to do anything else but wait for the download to complete, or doesn't even download completely due to some error on the server that hosts the download file, or to any other reason.

Nowadays, when everybody seems to have so little time available and everything must be available "yesterday", download files fall themselves under the category of the things that need to be readily available, within minutes from clicking the "Download" button.

It appears that size is generally not an issue for Web users that have cable connections, while users that still rely on modem connections are less willing to wait for long minutes to download a 10-15 Mb piece of software. In such cases, it becomes obvious that applications that are larger than, let's say, 10 Mb, will be less likely to be purchased by somebody whose main interest is primarily in specific applications that don't "weigh" more than 500Kb.

The difference between a large file and a small file can consist merely in it being packed or not. There are applications that can do the packing for you, meaning that they will "squeeze out" everything that they consider redundant (mainly spaces) from the executable part of your product. The result will be, most of the times, a file that is considerably smaller than the un-packed one.

Pro's

  • A large file can allow you to insert absolutely all necessary information that you cannot simply leave out, e.g. help files.
  • A large file will contain more features, possibly a choice of languages, its graphics will be more user-friendly, and it may even contain more help text.
  • Small download files can grant access to your product to virtually anybody who is interested in it, regardless of the connection type they use. Associate these with good marketing copy and you could be on the roll.

Con's

  • Large files will usually translate into longer download time. Taking into account that not all Internet users have broadband connection, downloading files that are larger than the mental barrier for your target market would take forever.
  • Fewer portals willing to host your download files. Large download files may be cumbersome even for the servers that host them. There could be strict requirements on the size of the files that can be hosted and downloaded.
  • Smaller is not necessarily better. While trying to get more people to download your software by luring them with the small file size, you may have to make compromises in terms of features, languages, graphics, and even ability to recover after serious errors.

Tips

Here are a few tips that you might consider when making software available for download:

  • Display the name and download size of the software about to be downloaded so that people will not be taken by surprise when download starts.
  • Create "mirrors" for various connections types so that the users can choose what suits them best. Include estimations for the amount of time necessary for a complete download for each connection type.
  • Try to find a solution to keep your software as small in size as possible without necessarily excluding important features or support files.
  • Refer users to download managers (such as this one www.speedbit.com/ or this one www.flashget.com/en/download.htm) that can increase the speed at which they download your product from the Internet.

Conclusions

The size of a file has a crucial effect on the amount of time a user needs to download it. Software sales, when counting on downloads to increase in quantity, are influenced by this factor. Given that for a 10 Mb file it may take from less than a minute (for a cable connection) to more than 40 minutes (for a 28.8 Kb/s connection) to have it downloaded to the user's HDD, it become obvious that the importance of download files in terms of size must be regarded with utmost consideration.

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