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Pat Dryburgh

Here’s me: when I download an app with a first-run tutorial, I try to find a way to short-circuit it and get to the actual app. If I can’t, I just race through it, knowing I wouldn’t have remembered any of it anyway.

Either I can figure out the app later or I can’t.

I’m with Brent. If a user interface requires a first-run tutorial to use, it’s broken. Good documentation can absolutely enhance a user’s knowledge and experience of an app, but the primary actions a user can take to achieve their desired outcome need to be discoverable and understandable without requiring additional written instruction.

A few times in my career, a product manager has put forward, during a review of my design work, the idea of using a tutorial to explain the interface I’ve designed. I think they were trying to do two things with this idea:

  1. Soften the blow to my ego (this tends to happen early in my relationship with a product manager, at which point I make sure that it’s clear I don’t take criticism of my design work personally), and
  2. Find a way to still meet a deadline by avoiding the time it would take to solve the design problems.

My response has been that if the design can’t be understood without a tutorial, then it needs to be redone. (That, and the wisdom an angel investor once told me, “deadlines aren’t promises.”) User testing is tremendously helpful in this regard. It’s an opportunity to hear out loud the questions your users are thinking when they first open your app and, most importantly, to then respond with changes to the interface before that’s the impression all future users have of your app’s design.

It’s like how a joke sucks if it’s only funny after you explain it. A good design allows a user to discover on their own the wonderful magic a great app can bring into their life.

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