Visual cues are nice, and even desired, but gentle introductions outlining how to get started are as well.
My method is to get 3 random craigslist people and pay them $50 bucks to play with the app for an hour. Record them struggling and have them talk through their thoughts and how they use your app. You will learn more from that experience than anything else.
The 'obvious' lock screen camera thing on the iPhone is a perfect example of something that I haven't seen anyone figure out on their own. It doesn't look or behave like anything else on the iPhone, including the only other interactive element in that same lock screen. Once you DO know, the cues are nice reminders.
The Pudding Monsters example is terrible too, as it precisely a UI walkthrough. Minimal, because well, the UI in that game is minimal, but it is explicitly telling you what to do and how to do it. (BTW the game is wonderful)
I think I had even read about it, but never bothered to try it until now.
Discoverability needs to be layered. Come over and watch my Dad use your app. It's astonishing how much we take for granted.
With a recent project I watched a few totally inept testers discover all the features with no problems, but after launching it became clear that most of our power users were not discovering features. A quick bit of intro text and everybody is happy.
I think there's room for both, but I think it's nuts to assume that the people who really do need a walkthrough will:
a) Remember it
b) Be able to find out where to get the tutorial again, unless there's a giant "?" button at the top.
I think your vision is skewed, if all you require is "a quick bit of intro text". I've seen tutorials that are minutes long, and it's just awful.
Most applications don't need a complex UI and shouldn't make their UI more complex or difficult to understand than it needs to be (this, I feel is the OP's real gripe). Its rare that your UI need be so complex that a UI walkthrough should actually be necessary. Most users of most applications don't want to (and won't) go through a learning process, they just want to 'do'. That said, I agree with you that sometimes it is necessary/helpful.
> They act as the equivalent of standing next to someone
> and "showing" them how something works.
Lots and lots of demos to re-enforce the action and get users accustom to a thing is fine if that experience doesn't frustrate the user and they can get up to speed using the app quickly.
If you are choosing neat new ways of communicating and changing the way the user interacts with the app for the sake of being neat, that is fail. If you violate the users expectations without a damn good reason, that is fail.
A fail is Windows 8 and having users try and figure out how to launch a new application. It takes a keyboard shortcut to open the metro desktop to launch another app. This is not obvious and nor is it reinforced very well. http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/new-keyboard-sh...
I'm not so sure about that. My grandmother, who certainly had not seen an iPad or iPhone in action before (she's 85, doesn't speak English and doesn't watch TV), figured it out within one minute of using my iPad for the first time yesterday.
If you think about the pinching movement, the distance between your thumb and index finger correlates to the size of the object. Increase that distance and the object grows in size (i.e. you zoom in). And vice versa. This is what I'd like to call "hyper-intuitive" and is the kind of thing people can figure out without being trained on it.
Same thing with double-tap to zoom. Not terribly intuitive, but that's not a big deal because there's a "hyper-intuitive" way to zoom. Double-tap becomes necessary only in very specific situations where only the hand holding the phone is free - which is not very common.
He just likes the app switcher better.
But he never would have discovered it if not for him coincidentally paying attention when I pulled it up once.
For example, I gave my mom a Microsoft Surface tablet I was lent for RT dev this weekend. It was in the classic desktop but I had a mapping webpage open in IE that responded to most touch gestures.
Because it was in the classic desktop, my mom was using her past experience and thinking of her finger as a mouse and hitting the little "+" icon to zoom in.
Not very "hyper-intuitive".
Tutorials just aren't very fun. That's why games so often have to sort of build the tutorial into the gameplay somehow, make it more piecemeal and interactive. Which is what the article is getting at. So you can think of it more as "don't make crappy boring tutorials" like popups and step by step screenshots.
User studies with web sites have show users search pages/sites just enough to find something that sounds vaguely like their current goal. They don't analyze the entire thing and read every link and then make a decision. Showing a bunch of images and a next button is sort of forcing them to do that, but it won't stick and they won't like it.
Your reader's mindset is contentious from the get-go, and they're going to want to prove you wrong if statement is controversial. It doesn't bode well for your point if you can't convincingly back it up.
The true point in this article is that visual cues within UIs are great and nice. It's a huge victory when you can educate your user naturally (see: the popular Super Mario Bros example), but it just doesn't apply to everything. Not everything is innate; some new things need to be taught. How do we learn most things? We observe someone doing the same thing.
So THAT's how you use the camera when the screen is locked! I couldn't figure out why the screen would just bounce so I always ended up unlocking the phone to get to the camera.
We have to learn how to ride a bike and type on a computer. The user doesn't know how to do everything, nor do they have the intuitive reasoning to pick up and use something completely new and alien. While we should make them feel smart, there's room to teach them and make them feel enlightened with this new system. Contextually, a UI walkthrough may or may not be a good idea.
There is substantial training, even licensing surrounding cars. We put up with the steep learning curve because of the tremendous and inescapable requirement of cars in many places.
So. Is your app so important that your user will put up with a steep learning curve and reading documentation before they can use it?
The appropriateness of UI walkthroughs hinge on this point. Steep learning curves and a need for training is inescapable in many situations - it's also almost always unnecessary for consumer applications.
Just like how no one would buy a toaster that required training/documentation.
The reason why UX has to be so much more discoverable on apps, websites etc. is that there is a hell of a lot more of them and they often are created by clever fucks that decide to do things in novel ways.
App functionality and theoretical purpose is by contrast infinite. Therefore it's easier to pass judgement on car designers when they do crazy inscrutable interfaces because it's generally a solved problem, whereas with apps there are many more valid reasons to try something new.
I see the need to 'learn' Clear is more akin to the desire to learn keyboard and terminal shortcuts. The desire for increased ongoing productivity offsets the additional onboarding burden.
Plus a new feature can get lost or ignored by people already familiar with an existing interface, so it needs it's own little mini walkthrough just so it'll get noticed. Here's an example of Facebook's mini popups focused on a single new feature:
I've built wizards of various kinds over the years and I call them "training wheels". The trick is to make it so they can start pedaling on their own relatively quickly, rather than using it as a catch-all where you dump every possible use case.
Self-evident interfaces (i.e. lots of affordances, very little tutorial needed to get started) can be good for people who just want to pick up an app and understand it.
BUT, there are also people who want to interact with something in the fastest, most efficient way possible. If a novel new UI can shave even milliseconds off of common repeated tasks, a 60 second tutorial is definitely worth it.
If an alarm clock (second example in the OP) requires me to remember weird gestures something is wrong. An alarm clock does not lack visual screen space and the main purpose of the alarm clock is to set the time and then close it. It doesn't have to look good or save space to show something else.
For a browser or a book reader it's different, there i want to fill the whole screen with content as reading is the main purpose of using that app. If i have to tripple sweep, double tap or whatever to get to the menu i don't care.
Like a matryoshka doll, it's best to educate your user at every level of interaction, whether explicitly (FAQs, copy, instructions, walkthroughs, etc.) or implicitly (affordance, appropriate skeuomorphism, etc.).
Apple is generally good at both. For example, when you ask for help, an app will both show and tell. Most apps are just "tell," instructing you where to go and what to click.
Oh, what, sorry? The GMail filter UI doesn't look like that any more? http://cl.ly/image/2x1A2J1Y0U1a
Some products are daily/heavy use products which should optimize for the expert user. These products need to be designed such that, once the user has an understanding of how to navigate and understand the product's functionality, they can perform regular actions with ease.
Examples: A Todo list, a weather app, or an app for sports scores and the news on a mobile phone. A POS (Point of Sale) system where the operator has some sufficient time for training [Keep in mind that POS systems are designed for fast transactions to keep lines short and moving smoothly].
Other products are used many times by different users, infrequently. These interfaces need to be designed such that they're intuitive, require as little handholding as possible, and should offer 80% of the benefit for 20% of the effort. Additionally, that 20% of the effort should be possible by almost all of the people who enter into the experience.
Examples: a photo kiosk at the local drugstore, a fast food ordering counter with an iPad or self-checkout system at a grocery store.
What does this have to do with UI walkthroughs? Because the first class of products are not designed to be intuitive on first usage, they need scaffolds (extreme way of conveying this is a "crutch") for the user to understand their operating protocol. Once the user understands how the system works, then they will be able to use the product quickly and effectively on a repeated basis.
They lack context.
They make things seem more complicated than they are.
They're often skipped.
Folks think the screenshots are the app and try to interact with them (seriously!)
So basically, they're not a dependable way to teach stuff. On the other hand, they can definitely be helpful for quickly laying out an app's value proposition and, in some cases, can provide an important layer of instruction.
Apps like Clear purposely sacrifice discoverability for minimalism and fun. In some cases, progressive disclosure and visual cues might change the nature of the app and a walkthrough may be helpful. But Phill Ryu himself admitted that the walkthrough was a band-aid and I think we would all do well to think about how we can do better in the future.
The point is, I think there is a ton of room for innovation in the space of teaching UIs but we should keep all the chips on the table. Experiment, do user testing, but don't categorically exclude options from the table.
It's using existing gestures and having them carry out different functions that is unique to the app.
It's like keyboard shortcuts - every program's usage will be different minus a few key ones. Or video games, some buttons do what you expect but some will depend on what the game's design is. Of course there will be some tour or tutorial - how else are we supposed to learn about them?
Double tapping the Home Button on iPhone < How did we learn about this? Double tap? There's no visual queue on the hardware that we can double tap. Did Apple fail?
I kinda get what the author is trying to say but he also kind of miss the point of walkthroughs and tour completely.
For example, this app has non-standard UI but has very simple UI that the users can pick up quickly. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mhillsyste...
Clear and Rise are perfect examples of simple UI that can be explained and picked up quickly.
With an app like Clear, I have 0 trouble using it and love the minimalist approach and simple interactions. I have no trouble using the app or remembering which gestures do what. Some older than me, and likely most all younger than me would feel the same way (if they use or were to use the app).
When you are analyzing it, it is easy to point out things wrong with it, but when you use it, it just feels so right.
+1 for real life user testing
It's much, much harder to do this with an application where you can't boil the functionality down to a small set of verbs - line of business apps are the usual terrible example of this.
After 3-5 hours, Windows 8 is surprisingly decent, but the first hour is a super frustrating adventure of swiping and gesturing with the hope you can get back to the home screen.
They might've invented a superior interface paradigm that doesn't fit into an existing model. While it could be discovered by poking and taping, it might be faster and less frustrating to have it explained explicitly.
If it wasn't for Clear's gorgeous UI. I probably would've never heard of it before. People like fresh ideas, fresh UI too.
If you need to teach people how to use your product you failed at UX. And the time spend on walkthroughs and quick tips would have been better spend on rethinking the whole interaction model.
That being said, it doesn't mean your product is going to fail just because your UI sucks! Sometimes the problem a product is solving is so big that users don't care how clunky it is to use...great examples: Banking, Cars and most Email clients for example.
Then I came to the comments and everyone was complaining. I didn't know people liked hand-holding so much.
I never realized how many apps on my iPhone was such shit :(. FML.