I went onto my Citibank app the other day to move some money around and pay some bills. (I know - I pick on Citibank a lot. I must love them, right?) Apparently they made some updates to their app, which I'm happy about; it shows that any fees I pay are being put to good use.
First, I had to agree to new terms and conditions. Fine - to be expected.
Then I was presented with a screen similar to what's below, that didn't have my totals on it and a bunch of messages noting functionality.
WHAT THE HECK!
Of course I didn't read the screen (let's face it - no one really reads anymore; people skim). I panicked because:
- Some of my accounts were missing from the list - where did they go?
- Why is the total low?!?! (Not on this screen - the initial screen I saw which I didn't take a screenshot of) Where did that money come from?
- What are these transactions?
The main thought I had looking at this screen was: who's account is this? Because it isn't mine!
When I realized this was a fake page with messages on it, I felt stupid and wanted to get rid of it, but I couldn't find the Close Tutorial button. It blended with the background and I thought it was part of the screen. Why wasn't that button blue or something? Or why wasn't there an "x" in the upper right to close this? Why didn't this look like a layer?
Talk about confusing!
After I figured out that this was a help screen, I did what I needed to do in the app and exited. Weird - I didn't think these types of screens existed anymore in apps because they are misleading and difficult to use.
Later that day, I opened an upgraded Box app and got this:
Then after going thru each page of the tutorial, I go this:
Dropbox did something similar - confusing!
And just last night I got something similar on the iPad app with Huffington Post. Some screens appeared that had instructional text to introduce me to new features and functionality. It was yet another forced tour!
Unlike the site/app tours of the past - you can't exit these and it's unclear how to get them off your phone screen (no x's in corners, no next buttons - you just keep tapping the screen, hoping this "feature" goes away).
What is up with this revised trend of multi-page tutorials/instructions and "forced tours" that you can't exit?
Integrating new features/functions into an app is always difficult. Most users will stick to using what they know how to use rather than try something new. There are better ways to let users learn about new functionality rather than instructional screens (that no one really reads by the way).
Here are 6 alternatives to forced tours/tutorial screens:
- Allow users the ability to discover new features on their own without help - just make sure functionality is easy to find - they may figure out how something works on their own and not need help. Maybe give them a few months and see how they use the app? Users are typically more advanced than app teams think. This approach requires usability testing to be sure features are simple and straightforward - and usability testing should happen anyway during the development process.
- Guidance through an app - rather than provide a direct paragraph of instructions, provide tips, tricks and recommendations along the way. Make sure the advice isn't intrusive and easy to get rid of. If help is presented in a constructive, subtle way, it will be well-received. If it is presented so that a user can't get rid of it - probably not. In-line tips are probably best.
- Make sure new features/functions are leveraging a familiar user experience or metaphor - I don't like to use the word "intuitive" - we only think functionality is intuitive because we are used to doing things a certain way that is based in our culture and understanding of the world. People in general prefer familiar interactions. These tend to perform better in usability research, amyway. Going too far out of the box won't always win user's hearts.
- Videos - Videos are probably the best way to communicate ideas to users. And it's especially helpful to use to describe new functionality. Rather than screens and documentation, provide a link to a video. Use text like, "Want a better way to do x?" or "Learn how to get more from this app." A 2-3 minute video can influence anyone to change habits more than a screen that frustrates the user's experience with an app.
- Incorporate more voice commands - Rather than relying on tapping as the only interaction someone can have with an app, allow the user the ability to use voice commands. And then having a voice response from the app could make the experience more pleasant, more direct, and just more helpful.
- Leverage other ways to communicate new features to users OUTSIDE the app - Send an email to your install base that links to a demo video for the new features. Or create a game out of the new features on a site so they are learning while playing. Introducing users to new features this way provides an educational component to your product and service - and is less intrusive than showing an instruction screen that few will read.
Help is becoming a thing of the past if we design for users first. Many of the computing constructs we are familiar with are very foreign to how we naturally think - but they great for how a computer works. We have grown accustomed to if/then and categorical thinking because we had to learn how to "talk" to the computer rather than the other way around.
Should a user need instruction to learn how to use an app? Shouldn't the app's design conform to how the user thinks? Keep that in mind when designing.
Also keep in mind that no one reads anymore - well, ok, people do read, but they don't like to read instructions.
Raise your hand if you ever read the instructions fully to put together a toy, an IKEA shelf, or electronic device?
(Yep - thought so :) ).
We need to move away from the familiar construct of reading instructions and design apps to be more familiar to use right away. No training should be necessary.
And if training is required, maybe it is time to reconsider UX practices leveraged in the app to make it easier to use.