This is part 2 of a 3 part series on designing UI for the early stages of your application.
I’ve seen lots of apps that have no initial directions or start pages. You login and you are somewhere in the application with no context or explanation whatsoever of what to do. That’s rude! Here are some of my thoughts:
- If your app is something really simple and requires little to no interaction for the users to get it working or for you to provide a service, great! Make sure you are laying out your navigation correctly and you should be good to go, you can use HIDE/SHOW help tips to guide users a bit but for the most part a user should be able to interact with your app on their own.
- If your app requires some setup then I think short video(s) will do the trick. I think a tutorial video for a particular section of your application should last about 1 to 2 minutes. If you are doing a tutorial for the entire application then I would suggest a 4 to 5 minute video with an overall explanation of the application, its core features and then tell people to watch the rest of the videos for specific instructions on each individual section.I would also recommend having a visual helper feature. I’ve seen this in the Yahoo! email platform. Every item they wanted me to know about or understand, they highlighted by walking me through with a bit of explanation on the screen.
- If your app requires some advanced setup then I would suggest walking them through the process and have them go straight to the pages of the system that you need them to interact with, while providing them with specific instructions on each of these pages. Your users will appreciate the “GUIDE ME THROUGH” experience. I really liked the way Facebook walked me through the process of creating an account and finding people that I know on Facebook, one friend lead to the other etc, etc, you know the drill. My mom uses Facebook and she is 62 years old. Talk about great design and intuitive navigation.
- If your app requires the user to INTERACT with it before you can actually provide them with a service (ie: Google analytics) then it is a good idea to direct the user to the necessary action page and away from any page that is not related to the action you need them to perform. I suggest you also follow up with automated emails and in case the user still doesn’t get it, set up email reminders and invite them to come back to the application and complete the necessary tasks. You may also want to provide them with a video tutorial and directly speak with them.
It is extremely important to make sure your users know exactly what to do right as soon as they get to the first page of your application. Their idea of your company will be formed within the first 5 to 10 minutes of interaction with your application.