Users need to learn an unfamiliar workflow or a new feature.
The best approach to make an interface feel “intuitive” is to use elements and interactions that users are familiar with. In cases of complex or very specific use cases users need to be “walked through” the process in the form of a guided tour or by highlighting certain features or capabilities.
Use onboarding only when every other option to make the feature or process self-explanatory is exhausted. Typical techniques include task-oriented workflows, clear call-to-action buttons, logical structure following natural language reading patterns, clear and precise headings and labels for buttons and links, or simply breaking difficult workflows or forms up into easier to understand pieces.
It is important to wager the benefits of a swipe-through tutorial or value proposition tour with the barrier constructed until user can use the app. The goal is to reduce friction on a user’s journey to complete their task and eliminate unnecessary steps or tutorials upfront before the user has even had the chance to experience the app. Being able to learn as you go is generally more effective because users get assistance when they need it and are therefore more receptive and willing to digest the information provided.
Three approaches to onboard a user exist:
- Tutorial: walks the user through key features of the app before the user gets to use it. This is often called “tour” or “joyriding” and typically the least preferred method of onboarding.
- Hands-on: asks user to perform a task or use pre-fabricated content to experiment with the features of the app. This is common for apps that require users to create or curate content and helps to remove the fear to make mistakes and get them engaged.
- Interactive: provides small, often interactive explanations that users can dismiss or further engage with. This contextual and progressive approach is generally preferred because it provides just-in-time hints and explanations.
If possible, consider interactive onboarding techniques like coach marks or instructional overlays that highlight a certain element or section of the user interface.
Remember that onboarding techniques aren’t always well received so try to keep them to a minimum, don’t repeat them, and provide the option to skip or disable them altogether.