From Max Rudberg’s ‘If you see a UI walkthrough, they blew it’
[Clear, Rinse, and Solar] These apps have chosen to reduce details to achieve a minimal UI, but in the process the UI has also become harder to use. Unfortunately a UI walkthrough is quite an inelegant way to explain the core functionality of an app. It can be a frustrating obstacle before you can dive into an app, and you have to remember all of those new ways of using it once you get in.
Clear, Rinse and Solar have minimalistic theme and the gestures are hidden. Without walkthrough, users will have hard time using the application.
I think walkthroughs are not bad as long as you provide in-context message and highlight features that are key for user experience. On the other hand, you have work to do if you hide your key feature and it requires a walkthrough to learn. Users just rush through these screens and don’t have patience to read and / or remember.
I have done a mix of few things to highlight features / usage during first run:
- Full screen walkthroughs before signup (more or less marketing) and during first run (highlighting features) to educate the user about the app and key features. Also, it is a great stalling technique if you want your app to do bunch of things in the background and be ready when users finish the walkthrough.
- Overlays that highlight features / controls in the screen. These work best if you have custom icons, hidden gestures and actions that requires user to click on icons. However, many apps cram a lot of hints rending it useless. If you are providing an overlay, it should highlight key features and rest should be left for the users to discover. One of the culprits is iPhoto for iOS app.
- In-context highlight based on the app state. If you are Dropbox and if a folder is empty, then provide a hint to help users upload files.
There is no clear formula - it depends on your application and UI. It is not bad if you have a walkthrough - make sure that your UX is not totally broken if user skips it.