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Some ISVs just don't seem to get it

I don't care how many features or how great a software product an individual or company might create, if potential customers have to spend an un-godly amount of time reading or experimenting just to produce something useful with the product then many potential customers are going to spend their money elsewhere or choose a free open source alternative!

For me, SmartDraw (a drawing program) is currently a product you would have to pay me to use. SmartDraw might be a simple easy-to-use program or a very sophisticated program. I currently don't know which one it is since I didn't bother to download the trial version of SmartDraw.

While I have known about the existence of SmartDraw for some time, I only recently decided to check out what this program had to offer by visiting SmartDraw's website ( At first, I was really impressed with what this website had to offer potential customers (free trial download of the product, various online tutorials, example pictures of what you can produce with this product, free pictures/clipart, a downloadable PDF manual, etc.) until I spent some time reading the online tutorials and the user's guide (a downloadable PDF file).

In my opinion the online tutorials and the single tutorial that was provided within the user's guide are a total joke. While I expected the User's Guide (a downloadable PDF file) to be nothing more than a reference manual, I didn't expect the online tutorials to be what they turned out to be! For example, one of the tutorial web pages I checked out on your website was the UML tutorial web page. I expected that the material within this section of the website would provide me with some step-by-step instructions on how to create one or more UML diagrams using SmartDraw. Instead of teaching me how to create a class diagram or a sequence diagram all I read there was a description of what UML is and a description (several web pages worth) of the various things that are part of the UML!

In my opinion, a tutorial should demonstrate "how easy it is to create a class diagram with SmartDraw" not what a class diagram is.

While I have no problem with the UML related reference material that was provided to me for free, I do have a problem with a company calling that calls that kind of material a tutorial (which it clearly is not). Granted many companies don't have the resources to provide step-by-step examples for everything (expecially for free). That is not what I am complaining about. All that I am really trying to say is that companies shouldn't make things more difficult for a potential customer then they are.

One Programmer's Opinion
Sunday, July 18, 2004

I agree.

The problem is that sometimes the ISV doesn't realize what it is doing wrong.  Maybe the people over at SmartDraw don't realize that they have not actually written a tutorial.

This is where feedback comes in handy.  I can understand that you might not want to send them an email but it may be beneficial for both you and them if you let them know.

Most ISV's have a message forum or a feedback form in the program and an email address which can be used to notify them of the things you would like them to change.

Whether you choose to open their eyes or not is up to you.

Trying to be a nice guy.
Sunday, July 18, 2004

What a strange post. You say you didn't bother to download their product and here is your blistering review of it. You complain that they teach you about UML drawings. I have to ask, if they jumped right in and assumed you knew what a UML diagram is, do you suppose that people would be posting complaints that the tutorial was not helpful because it assumed they already had this knowledge? I think they would! You know why? Because some people just like to complain about everything, that's why!

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, July 18, 2004

OK, I've had a look at their site and their tutorials and I have to say that you are blatantly misrepresenting their product their site design and the quality of the tutorials. The UML tutorial is clearly labelled as a tutorial to teach you about UML and it is a very fine tutorial, the best I have seen online for free. The manual from the program is a separate download and its purpose and location are made quite clear.

Your review is extremely unfair.

Dennis Atkins
Sunday, July 18, 2004

I have to agree with the others - I find their site and information to be both thorough and clearly labelled.

If I didn't recognize your screen name, I'd think that this was a brilliant guerilla marketing technique.


Monday, July 19, 2004

Actually you did well not to download the trial version. It watermarks everything you do. I used it for one network diagram (and it is a great program to use if you do want to pay for it) and found it watermarked with "designed using a trial version of smart draw".  Just what you want on a presentation for the Managing Director.

I spent the next hour taking the watermark out and used my normal graphics program for the others.

Stephen Jones
Monday, July 19, 2004

What's the difference between Smartdraw and Visio Pro?
From the description I can't see any reason to look into this program further if you (like me) already have Visio.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Smart Draw is actually a lot easier to use than Visio.

Stephen Jones
Monday, July 19, 2004

One of the paragraph:
" At SmartDraw's Enterprise Licensing prices, saving one hour per year for each user immediately creates a positive ROI. Many users will save that much time, or more, every day."

How to quantify this ? 

I, Robot
Monday, July 19, 2004

Hi Dennis,

"... Your review is extremely unfair..."

While I didn't download a trial version of SmartDraw, I also didn't give the product itself a blistering review. I have only read good reviews about this product! I will try to explain again what my complaint/rant is (misleading user documentation).

"The UML tutorial is clearly labelled as a tutorial to teach you about UML..."

Are you sure about this? The URL I clicked on was titled "UML Tutorial - Learn how to draw a perfect UML diagram in minutes!"  Also, the title of the UML tutorial web page itself is "HOW TO DRAW UML DIAGRAMS". Some of the other tutorials I looked at were also labeled in a similar manner.

My complaint is not with the product itself (How can I complain about the software itself when I haven't used it?) but with the available documentation and how SOME of it was written. Imo, there is a difference between providing a general overview of the features of a drawing program (where you have to figure out by yourself how to make whatever drawing or diagram you want) and a tutorial. Now had the company provided me with just one simple example of how to draw just one UML diagram using an example that I could easily follow (i.e. press this button, type in this text, etc. and you too can create this cool looking example) I probably wouldn't have posted my rant here.

I guess I will just have to disagree with some JOS members here on this particular subject and leave it at that.

One Programmer's Opinion
Monday, July 19, 2004

FWIW, I tried a few times to use Visio to build diagrams, but had to give up and go back to SmartDraw. Granted, I never did anything complicated enough to require my reading their documentation, but SD feels natural to use, while Visio got me stuck.

Like someone said above, you might want to send them a constructive e-mail. If they get enough of such feedback, they may look into having their documentation rewritten.

Monday, July 19, 2004

I find it interesting that some people find Superdraw easier to use than Visio.

I always thought Visio was a type of killer app, in that it didn't do much, but what it did do, it did well and in an easy to use way.

What is it about Superdraw that is easier ?

Steve Jones (UK)
Monday, July 19, 2004

Doh, I meant SmartDraw of course.

Steve Jones (UK)
Monday, July 19, 2004

Download the trial and provide your email address.

You will be assigned a support specialist who you can email directly with your questions.

Monday, July 19, 2004

I've always considered Smartdraw to be a flagship download product.  Every few ISV's meet this level of quality.

Rather than providing a tutorial that shows you how to apply the generic features of Smartdraw, and leaving you to figure out how to apply it yourself is only good for the very technical users.  While they are the majority here, they are the minority in the marketplace.

What they provide are task specific tutorials like 'How to create a flow chart' or 'How to create a UML diagram.'  This is great for the majority of people who want to buy the product so that they will be able to do something they could not do before.

Ged Byrne
Tuesday, July 20, 2004

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