Exposing musescore.org to (first time) users

• Dec 14, 2010 - 12:40
S4 - Minor

While the development of MuseScore started in 2002 by the project lead Werner Schweer, it was only after the launch of musescore.org that the developer and user community around MuseScore really started to grow. To be more specific, that was in September 2008. Today, little more than 2 years later, musescore.org is a vibrant community website with more than 10,000 registered users. Having our website translated in 31 languages(!), we see users from all over the world. Since the start, musescore.org received 1,575,635 visits from 219 countries.

Since a couple of months now, MuseScore has been growing rapidly with factor 3. The download statistics show this: sf-downloads.png

However, we don't see the usage of musescore.org growing with the same factor. Instead, we see more users asking questions on many forums, social media websites and more. Most of the questions come from first time users who don't know about the existence of musescore.org. A pity since all their questions are already answered in the handbook, forum or video tutorials.

Best anecdote to illustrate this came from a Spanish user. He said that "I didn't know about musescore.org until I met you guys, I simply didn't expect free software to have a decent website". Yet, when you start MuseScore and see the splash screen, it features musescore.org. But that seems to be far from sufficient to communicate about our website.

So I would like to propose some things we can try out:

  • For users who start MuseScore for the first time, the http://musescore.org website can be opened automatically as well in case there is internet connection. The webpage opened is a landing page which can guide the user.
  • MuseScore presents by default a dialog window to guide the user: start new score from template (selection) or from scratch, open previously opened score (5 latest ones are presented), read the handbook, watch the video tutorials, ...

Feel free to add more ideas.

Attachment Size
sf-downloads.png 15.29 KB


Definitely, publicize the web site better. I did not know of its existence until today, when I was trying to find release notes to find out what changed between and 1.0 (which I still haven't found), and was directed here by Sourceforge.

Of the two options suggested by Thomas, I much prefer the second. Automatically opening a browser to go to a web site I didn't give permission to visit is extremely objectionable to me. If that happened unexpectedly when I first ran the program, I would probably immediately uninstall it, run a virus scan, and start searching for root kits and other malware. If newly installed software does that without my permission, who knows what else it may be doing without my permission.

In my opinion, two options should be in the dialog suggested by Thomas:
- Resume previous session
- Some form of making your selection the default start-up, and not showing the dialog again.

Another way of making users aware of the web site is to add a musescore.org entry to the Help menu. The entry to the online handbook is already there, of course, but seeing "Online Handbook" I assume it's just an online version of the handbook I already have locally, and unless I have reason to believe the local version is out of date, I'll generally prefer a local resource to one that must be accessed over a (possibly slow or unavailable) network. I had no idea that the online handbook was part of a much larger user web site. One might want to include several items directing the user to specific page of interest to new and experienced users: Getting started, help forum, bug report, show off.

I didn't know that the website was on the splash screen. You have to be fast to catch that (MuseScore loads pretty quick on my computer) (; I have some suggestions.

Firstly, though, I am currently the leader of the branch of an organization that involves over 1400 members in the 14 surrounding counties where I live in the U.S. Communication is always one of the largest factors of gaining participation from our members. I've learned that you can't simply put out the information and hope that your people will go looking for it. Believe you me, I've heard lots of stories: "Why didn't you tell me we were having a board meeting, get-together, annual banquet, etc? I never heard anything about it." And my response would be, "What do you mean? It was all over the website, and our executives passed out reminders at every district's monthly meetings. How could you not have known about it?" Then they would reply, "I didn't know we had a website/ I don't check the website regularly/ I don't have time to go to those monthly meetings." So, when your members don't have the means or knowledge to be actively involved in the organization, you have to get your organization a little more involved in your members lives. You have to put yourself in such a position that they can have no excuse for not being aware of something. You have to essentially lie down in their path.

So, finally the suggestion that I have. I suppose it sort of builds on Thomas and linsley's ideas. (Great ideas by the way!) The first place that a new user will go in the software when they need help is the "Help" section in the toolbar (hopefully). So, now that you know their path, you have to lie down in it. Perhaps in addition to having a dialog box at startup and having a link to the site in the Help menu, you ought to be even more specific about it. Perhaps something like the following:

Help-musescore.org*, and then the following options-help and support forum, report a bug, online video tutorials**, help for new users***, perform a search****, FAQ's*****

* or "online help" might be more appropriate, as it's a little more specific to what the new user needs
** could be integrated as local, as the handbook is already
*** this one might ought to redirect to help and support forums, since you already have help and support as an option this could potentially be repetitive
**** a function within the software so that the new user can enter in key words/phrases and the most relevant entry in local handbook/ video tutorials will be presented for new users. It might also be useful to have an easily accessible "Didn't find what you were looking for?" area in the search results so that the new user can be redirected to the online help and support forum.
***** a local FAQ sheet that may contain issues (and their solutions) that are currently commonly found among MuseScore forums and could be based off of threads having relative issues. Again a "Didn't find what you were looking for?" button to redirect to a live forum.

That's all I've got for now. Maybe I'll have some more ideas later. I understand it could take years for all of these ideas to become incorporated into the software, but I hope it helps to accurately address the issue, and I also hope it gets the wheels going in other's minds for some more great ideas!

Thanks. I found the release notes myself, finally, when I started looking at the developers' handbook.

I think the release notes should also be more exposed to users. Some software -- Firefox and Thunderbird come to mind -- automatically present a "What's new" page after an upgrade. This contains a very brief summary of what has been added or fixed, with a link to the detailed release notes for interested users. (Automatically displaying the web page is ok for a program like Firefox that I expect to display a web page, but I don't like this for a program that I would not normally expect to access the internet, for the reasons I stated above.)

Other programs I've used present a link to the release notes (either local or web) in the About dialog, or include the release notes in the program's README file, or a separate release_notes.txt, or something like, possibly with a link from the help menu or the Windows program menu.

However it's done, I do think the release notes should be somewhere that ordinary users will find them, not buried in a handbook that only developers will read. Perhaps that's not the only place they are on musescore.org, but I did not find them in any of the other places I thought to look for them.

Ok, now that I've found the notes, I found the link to them -- a link to the release announcement on the home page, and a link to the notes from the announcement page. I just wasn't very observant yesterday. However, I still believe they could be featured a little more prominently, especially after a major release like 1.0. (On the other hand, if I'd found them right away, I probably would not have started reading and commenting on items in the issue tracker.)