Full Version Trials or Limited Versions or Both?


Here's a dillema I am having for a desktop java application.

Do you offer a full version with a 30 day trial?

My concern is that people setting back their time inside virtualizations or somehow fiddling around with it to end up using it without restriction.

Do you offer a limited version lacking in features?

Again, my concern is people might find ways to workaround the limitations thereby removing the impending need to purchase the full version.

Possible solution: include both?

Is it never recommended to NOT offer any type of hands on evaluation product? How about a simple screencast and offer a full money back guarantee. So if they buy it and don't like it they can cancel and get their money back in 30 days. Would my billing company complain at the chargebacks?

If you do offer an limited trial version of your application, should you still guarantee full refund in 30 days even after they make the transition to the full paid version?

Trial Demo

asked Nov 22 '11 at 08:06
Kim Jong Woo
644 points

1 Answer


You have several questions combined into one here. First there are three possibilities for a trial:

  1. No Trial. Advanatge no one can convert your trial into a full version (but this advantage is the same as in 2 below). Disadvantage, no one can see how your product works, and depending on your market you may be eliminating a significant number of buyers by not offering a trial.
  2. Unlimited Trial. Build a trial that allows users to evaluate your program but can not be converted into a full version. The trial is typically missing code or contains extra code that can not be bypassed. Advantage- anyone who wants to can evaluate your product and the trail can not be turned into a full version. Disadvantge- it can be difficult to build this type of trial for some products and the user must download both a trial and full version..
  3. Time or Run Limited Trial. Build a trial that can be converted into the full version of the program. Advanatge- you only need to deliver a code to the customer to convert the trail into a product. Disadvantage- there is an entire subculture of people who creak cracks for trial programs and publish them on the internet. Thus some people may get your product for free.

In our experience, you must have a trial for at least some customers. In addition, the amount of effort that goes into creating a trial that can be converted into a full version, and the continuing battle with crackers makes this type of solution impractical. We prefer having a separate trial and retail version. Yes, someone can post a copy of the full version on line, but they can do that with any kind of trial and they rarely seem to do it.

Finally, refunds are an entire subject on their own. They have been covered here before. In general, all credit card systems allow a customer to do a chargeback within some time period (30 - 90 days). Since the customer can essentially generate their own refund this way, at will, why not turn this into a positive and advertise a 30 day money back guarantee. Depending on your product you may put qualifications on this, but offering a guarantee has been proven to generate additional sales.

answered Nov 22 '11 at 10:08
Gary E
12,510 points
  • great answer +1 – Kim Jong Woo 12 years ago

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