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I am in the process of developing a web application which has various sections (tasks, documents, discussions etc.).

Currently the "blank-slate" state of the app is quite underwhelming, so I was thinking of adding some sample data for new users. This would hopefully give the users an idea of the potential future look and functionality of the app and make a better first impression.

My questions are :

  1. Is this a commonly used approach?
  2. Would users be irritated by having to delete the data?
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I ended up doing something which I've never seen before but seems to be looking quite well so far. I am using Guiders.js (github.com/jeff-optimizely/Guiders-JS) to show users a tour of the app, and for each step of the tour I inject html using the callbacks so as to show sample data but only for that step in the tour. –  DaveE Oct 18 '12 at 17:48

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I've seen this being used, and I think it's a good strategy to display to the user how the application is supposed to be used, As long as you make it totally clear that it is fictive data. You want the user to get a quick look at what the application will do, but don't make the entries credible to a point where they're hard to distinguish from the real entries the user will add themselves.

I know that Eg. Wunderlist uses this strategy. They populate the list with tutorial data, that shows how the list items are displayed/used and where each item tells the user how the app is used and some nifty shortcuts that they also can use.

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I'd agree with AndroidHustle. Using the blank slate as a tutorial seems like a really good idea.

Basecamp is an example that does this really well. It isn't just demo data, but a way to help the user create their own. There's a blog on their work (with examples) here.

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+1 one for good link! –  AndroidHustle Oct 18 '12 at 20:59

I think it is a common approach and it can be useful for helping users to get a brief "tutorial" of how the application works.

You do correctly see the downside, which is removing the data. I would echo Captain's recommendation of giving the user the option to seed the app with demo data on install/instatiation.

I would add that in the event that a user does elect to seed the app, that you include some UI element(s) that allows for one-click removal.

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Sugar CRM is a good example of this. On installation it asks if you want demo data or a clean slate. Demo date is fictitious and just shows how elements and patterns use the data.

I would recommend giving users the choice and a quick and obvious way to remove the demo data.

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