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For a mobile app, is it better to lead a user off with a brief tutorial in the hopes that they remember some of the key functionality or is it better to have a more wizard-like experience where tips are contextual and happen while the app is being used?

Also, is additional functionality to expedite a process that isn't necessarily shown (example swipe left to accept or right to decline) worth pointing out or leaving it up to user discovery?

Thank you!

  • this is called onboarding and its tough! Depends on the complexity of the application. For some apps, its intuitive and you probably dont need to go down a full on 'hold my hands' tutorial and can rely on highlights around certain functions. Other apps will require you to guide the users around a system. But its difficult to get the mix right – colmcq Feb 1 '16 at 16:15
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My personal take would be the tutorial at startup approach. BUT I would recommend that you carefully consider your app's targeted user.

If your average user needs get a bit of context and help to get started using your app correctly, then a startup tutorial/walk-through should be used. A good example of when this is appropriate is when an app does a complete UI redesign since that requires a bit of adjustment for every user of the app and allows the app to point out what has moved and what is the same.

I tend to prefer this type of walk-through since I am usually able to skip them if I prefer to wander on my own. If the user would miss out on important information, then obviously don't make your walk-through optional.

The problem I see with tutorials that are contextual and happen while the app is being used is that they interrupt user flow and train of thought. If these tips are minor and very little guidance is needed for your app in general, then this might be the preferred approach. Also, if your process is very complex then walking the user through it might be the right thing to do.

Ultimately, the right answer is that "it depends" on your audience. In particular, focus on how much help a user needs to get started using your app. Tailor the amount of required and offered help in your app accordingly.

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Compare your app with other services that are similar or present information in the way you are. It's okay to take a look at what is succeeding and what is not. See how they walk a new user into the app.

Do they present a video tutorial, outline each feature with cards, or even have live examples of the features? @SWHandyMan is right, it all depends on your target audience. Think about how you might react to a walk-through yourself. Is it necessary? How long should it be? Do I bring up helper tips later on or throughout the app? Stuff like that will get you in the right direction.

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