When a user first launches our desktop application, would it be more helpful to give them a walkthrough, a Twitter-style wizard, or arrows and tooltips?
I work with a team that maintains a desktop application (Java) that is clunky and too complex. It's really hard to change, because of some underlying issues with its code. We're working on its replacement, but this won't be ready for a while.
In the meantime, we'd like to help new users with the existing application.
Common user problems
From the Support logs I know that the most common problems are for new users, in these areas:
I just installed this and it's mostly blank. What am I supposed to do?
How do I do various basic and important tasks? (e.g. create a folder, give a colleague access to a folder, update my password, etc)
How do I do more complex tasks? (e.g. integrate it into my website, set up access controls for a large organization, etc). I don't intend to try to deal with this level of issue in a generic walkthrough.
Here are my ideas:
Walkthrough: Immediately after installation, show a tutorial-style tour (including a Skip option). No interaction; they just click Next Next Next until it is done.
Tooltips: Decorate the interface with arrows and text bubbles to point out where to do things. Let users turn this off and on.
Twitter-style wizard: Create a wizard-tutorial hybrid (what is this called?) that makes the user do some foundational tasks. Interestingly, Twitter forces new users through their wizard, and you can't escape until you have done it.
Because we are working on a new interface, we want to minimize the work we do here. When the new interface is ready, we will throw out the old one and its associated walkthrough/tutorial/wizard.
We can detect whether a user is new to our product or has been around for a while.
So: which would be most effective for our new users? Or can you think of a better approach?