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Usability

An applications ability to overcome critical mass is closely related to its usability. First of all, because bad usability brings a learning-curve that can incur extra cognitive cost, but more so because it can cause frustration. A lot of research has been done into usability, and things such as the users error-rate, speed of learning to use an application, impediments to access such as sign-ups, and the applications consistency, were found to be important.

The users need to contribute and engage with the community is counter-balanced by the effort he has to go through to do so. Wikipedia in this regard does well, because, while its usability might not be perfect by todays standards, the fact that one can fix small problems easily, without signup, makes the social fence very low (easy to overcome).

An additional aspect of usability that was found to be important is the (speed) performance of the application. If an application feels fast and snappy people interact with it more fluidly. And speed relates to critical mass in the additional way that, as the number of users increases, web-applications often slow down, thus capping or reversing growth. Especially pioneering users can experience an application as going down in value when late adopters clog up the system.

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avatar by: Anonymous ...

A rolling stone is worth two in the bush, thanks to this atrilce.

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