We have an iPhone camera app, and our designer said that some users (including his roomate, so it's not hypothetical) don't know how to use the app, so we should have a popup tutorial, perhaps a video, or a text overlay.

A related use of the popup tutorial is when we launch a new feature, like a video mode.

I'm skeptical because:

  • I tend to immediately dismiss popup tutorials, and I've noticed friends do so, too.
  • I'm irritated: "I don't care what new feature you have; I'm trying to do something right now." I'm less likely to pay or recommend their apps. Particularly in a camera app, what you're trying to capture may not exist a few seconds later.
  • When I do want to learn how something works, the tutorial has long disappeared.
  • The first run of the app already has three permission prompts, so we don't want more interruptions. We could show a popup after the user took five photos, for example, but they may abandon the app before that, because they couldn't figure out how to use it, so the tutorial comes too late.

Is there data on what percentage of popup tutorials are immediately dismissed, or whether they increase revenue, usage or satisfaction? I tried some Google searches, and found nothing.

To be clear, we're talking of tutorials that tell the user how to make better use of the app, not popups asking the user to pay, download another app, sign up for a newsletter, or other unrelated actions.

  • Anything that interrupts is a distraction at a minimum and an irritation at the maximum. Almost always the latter. Almost always introduced by the clueless.
    – Rob
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 14:47
  • Do you have any data to support that claim? Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 2:41
  • This is research done by the Nielson/Norman Group where I get a lot of my information. You will need to search for articles related to this.
    – Rob
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 19:39

2 Answers 2


Sounds like a problem that's commonly encountered in game design. Tutorials in games tend to be ignored if they're presented as optional pop-ups, leading to frustration when the user cannot figure out what to do or how to do it when they skipped it. One way to counter this is by building the tutorial into your first use/startup. So, no video or 5 onboarding screens telling you what to do, but an interactive hands-on first use scenario.

Clearly people have downloaded your app with a reason in mind - latch onto that reason and guide them through their first use while making it entirely skippable if desired.


If you feel you really really need to inform users, you can use a message-bubble in a menu bar or a bar similar like an ad. Those can be static and less-intrusive to not miss the moment, but noticeable enough for first time users that are lost. Make sure to have an option somewhere to disable it and regain that extra bit of screen real estate for the photo, though.

But before that, consider your overall UX and UI. Because I feel like it could be improved. Based on the premise and the screenshots I would assume that it's as simple as opening the app, using a slider to set the brightness, and taking a photo. Which should not require a tutorial at all.

Ask the roommate what they expected of the app before opening, and compare with your planned user-journey. Perhaps the app simply wasn't compatible or he ran in to a bug. Perhaps he expected a different kind of app like prost-processing only. Maybe your default modus is too complex and should be hidden behind some settings. Maybe you just need (better) icons; your current screenshot has no icons or labels on the slider and shutter.

Always look at improving the interface first and use a tutorial as last resort. Because improving the UI makes the experience smoother for all users, not just the ones that het stuck. See also; the curb cut effect ( https://medium.com/@mosaicofminds/the-curb-cut-effect-how-making-public-spaces-accessible-to-people-with-disabilities-helps-everyone-d69f24c58785 )

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