Patterns are used throughout mobile applications. Designers, developers, and user experience professionals implement patterns in mobile tutorials because they’re common patterns, without knowing how the user interacts with that pattern.
Just because it’s a common pattern doesn’t mean it’s a best practice, said Theresa Neil in yesterday’s O’Reilly webinar Rethinking Mobile Tutorials: Which Patterns Really Work?
Neil learned that common mobile patterns were widely used across applications, but failing usability testing. Users found the patterns confusing, and were often frustrated trying to understand how to use the application.
I don’t want to see all this! All of this is getting in my way. Just let me get into the application.
If patterns can’t guide us, what can we turn to for guiding us? How can we create more effective tutorials?
Neal looked toward game design for inspiration and guidelines. Here are her five tips for crafting mobile tutorials.
- Use less text. Show, don’t tell. Adding a screenshot isn’t enough.
Example: Mailbox. When you open the app the first time, it has an interactive tutorial that allows you to learn by doing. The tutorial makes you follow the directions and gestures to complete the tutorial, and offers words of encouragement as you finish each step.
- No frontloading. Provide information in short, easily digestible chunks to engage users.
Example: ToDoList. When you open the app, nothing prevents you from using the application. Once you’re in the application, you’ll find contextual tips to guide your experience.
- Make it fun! If you can’t make it fun, make it rewarding.
Example: Flipboard (from 2013). On the Flipboard landing screen, you’ll find the bottom edge of the screen “flips open” to show options. This fun feature teaches you how to navigate the application and get a glimpse of what lies ahead.
- Reinforce learning. This tip takes care of itself if you’ve followed the first three rules.
Example: Polar. Once an action is mastered, Polar offers new tips. No tutorial is needed.
- Listen to your users. As a designer, developer, or user experience professional, you become biased after working on an application for months. You may no longer be objective on where users get stuck using the application. Do usability testing not just to improve design, but to learn where people stumble.
You want your application to inspire confidence with users. What tutorial tips would you add to the list?