2. UI Overlays
If introduction slides is the simple thoughtless introduction, this next one is the dating equivalent of peacocking.
Like a male peacock uses his feathers to attract a mate, peacocking involves using a man’s clothing and adapting his behavior in an over the top and flashy manner, for the purpose of attracting women — but not necessarily a mate.
I’m a big fan of this onboarding method, but only if it’s very clear what your app does. If you have a complicated app with multiple use cases, I would steer clear of only relying on this.
What’s great about these is they are not distracting at all, and only come up when it’s relevant. In Slack’s case they’re little circles you can choose to ignore until you choose to make an action with said element.
A flaw with the previous method was giving information before people have expressed any interest in the feature. This method solves that. If a person is about to make a search with Slack, they will be notified of additional information the user will be extra attentive to because it’s directly relevant to helping them achieve their goal.
Once they use it, it’ll be much harder to forget because they’ve practiced in the application – therefore the value of that feature is immediately presented.
There’s a caveat with using this method though. I would not recommend using this unless your app can be summed up in less than a few words (ex: Slack – Chat service). Your goal at this point is not stressed on the value of your app, but rather the features which set you apart from your competitors.
3. Open Instructions
I would compare this onboarding method to impressing someone on the dance floor or with an instrument.
It can work really well, but only if you have the ability.
These are incredibly cool. If the goal of your onboarding process is to teach how to be a basic user of your app, this is the way to go.
When a user opens your app for the first time, they are shown the home page, however there are instructions that require them to interact with the app. This method is like a love child between methods #1 and 2. Think of it as learning on the job.
Facebook did a great job here. Given that Paper an entirely gesture driven design, they knew it was very important to teach their users how to navigate.
This method teaches users how to use your app better than any other way.
The flaws this method have are the same as UI Overlays. In that, you won’t be able to go too deep in communicating the unique value of your app.
Seriously. Nothing. This is a method.
This is like going to a bar/club sitting back and expecting attractive members of the opposite sex to come to you.
In your app, the probability of users immediately understanding its value has about the same probability as the situation previously stated.
However it happens, and if you do this, you better be damn sure of one of two things (though preferably both):
- People know without a doubt what you do before they download your app.
- Your app is dead simple.
If you can take #1 then you already show signs of being a unicorn.
When people can come to your app and already know who you are and the value you will bring to them then you’re in a good position. You could require them to give you their bank account and social security information and they won’t be deterred from signing up.
If you can take #2 then you better be sure it’s as simple as you think.
Signs of a dead simple app tend to entail a dominant element on the front page of your screen and a single clear action you can take.
Examples of this are Instagram and Snapchat.
When you log into Instagram, you’re presented a feed of photos which take up the vast majority of the screen real estate. There’s one of two things they want you to do, swipe up or take a photo yourself.
With Snapchat there’s a camera. Given you have already imported your contacts, there are two actions they want you to do – take a photo or look at your friend’s stories. Both of which drive value to your user’s experience.
The clear problem with using this method is if the previously mentioned conditions aren’t met. If they aren’t, you’re throwing your users into a blackhole.
If you expect your users to figure your app out on their own then you shouldn’t expect a second date with them.
Treat every new user like the first date with the mate of your dreams. Let them know who you are and why you deserve a piece of their thoughts. On the first date, the first impression is everything.
I’ve encountered four main ways to make that initial first impression go smoothly, however each one have their pros and cons.
- Introduction Screenshots
- UI Overlays
- Open Instructions
Each method has their own pros and cons. Be sure you fully evaluate your app before sticking with a single one. If you need help figuring that out, feel free to send a tweet to me @willietran_ and I’ll be more than happy to take a look at your app with you.
Thanks a ton to Samuel Hulick at www.useronboard.com for the awesome cover photo. That site has always been an awesome source of information on how to think for my user in mind.