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This is utter nonsense. Spend even a small amount of time with someone who works outside of the computer hardware/software industry and observe how and why they use a smart phone or computer. UI walkthroughs are not only necessary, but desired. They act as the equivalent of standing next to someone and "showing" them how something works. As the OP correctly notes there is a very heavy reliance on mimicry for most learning.

Visual cues are nice, and even desired, but gentle introductions outlining how to get started are as well.

One of irks I have with "slight visual cues and subtle animations" is that they assume all users will give the same amount of attention and have the same reasoning process as the designer does. They then call the design "obvious", as if that is an objective quality---but even a short conversation (or usability study) with a sample of their users will tell them it's anything but.

Nothing wrong with being bold and trying new ideas but obvious is only really qualifiable via user testing. It's simple thing to do to see if your product is actually usable.

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.

Rather than going through Craigslist, at my last startup we used http://www.usertesting.com/ - $39 bucks and the user testing video is all yours. Pretty decent.


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)

When I read the part about how the iPhone camera icon worked, I pulled out my iPhone and tried it. I didn't understand before then how to get directly to the camera from the lock screen.

I think I had even read about it, but never bothered to try it until now.

People skip tutorials and walkthoughs just like people don't read the Help.

Discoverability needs to be layered. Come over and watch my Dad use your app. It's astonishing how much we take for granted.

Some people skip through tutorials and rely on discoverability, others are lost without a tutorial no matter how discoverable your features are. Written introductions are comforting, You need to accommodate both learning styles.

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 often find that I have no recollection of the tutorial after I've done it (usually because I am annoyed that it has come up when I've probably downloaded the app because I need it now).

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.

People learn things differently. Plenty of people skip tutorials and walkthroughs, but plenty of people also study those things like you wouldn't believe. There's no one right way to do this - you just have to try and cover your bases for each type of learning style.

Its not so cut and dry.

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.

I disagree. UI walkthroughs are like instruction manuals. Some people read them, but most just toss them aside and learn about the product by using it. I think there definitely needs to be some sort of help section within the app that the user can refer to when needed, but for the most part UI walkthroughs are just barriers of entry. I would even argue that most UI walkthroughs are pretty overwhelming for the average user.

  > They act as the equivalent of standing next to someone
  > and "showing" them how something works.
Yup. That's the point. In the best case you should not show how something works it should be obvious or very easy to discover.

Try that on a 4inch 2dimensional object with a target audience of children through elderly, moron through genius, and tell us how well that works for you.

Agreed. It's a fast-track to understanding. Not all behaviours that are beneficial are or can be immediately learned, nor would you expect or want them too - that would very likely be overwhelming.

no way. it all boils down to this: When you open a newly bought iPhone then you want to see the device first after unboxing and not a bunch of how to guides. your attention is seeking the device and not how-to-make-it-work.

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