How do you prefer to be onboarded with a new tool?

helenanders26 profile image Helen Anderson ・1 min read

There are some tools that do a great job of getting new users onboard and comfortable.

Twitter has you add friends to follow so you can see the feed in action. Slack has a guided tour that shows you all the good stuff in a few steps. Even Dev.to has you add some tags to follow to get your home page looking great.

How do you like to be onboarded when trying out a new app or tool?

Video? Guided tour in the tool? Reading the docs? A combination of all three?


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For apps, just give me the in-app walkthrough. Press this button to do this, swipe here, check these, etc.

I like the way gamedevs handle on-boarding: the first couple levels are all about tutorial (which could be skipped). They walk you through all the basic workflows to get you going. And then you can go and read tutorials if you want to get to know more "advanced" topics.

For frameworks, give me some copy-pasta get-started solution. I run it, it works, I make a change, it works. I feel good, I'm making progress, I'll keep using your framework.

If it's a library, chances are I downloaded it because I already know what I need it to do, so if I can quickly just get things working, then I might go and take a look at the documentation to see how to customize it.


The best in-game tutorials are pure game play and clever level design without hand holding :-)

Maybe some occasional button prompts and hints when the game detects that you are stuck. The Last Of Us 2 does a really great job at that.

Also the first level of the original Super Mario Brothers is a good example for a tutorial level that eases you into the game play without literally spelling out what to do. The level is designed in a very clever way that implicitly teaches the player how to play. Here is a nice analysis: medium.com/swlh/the-perfect-game-t...


It depends on the game of course. A lot of gacha games for example are just a bunch of menus and options, and not that much actual gameplay. These would be closer to non-game apps.

Action games like mario where you don't really have a menu at all, or zelda where you have a simple menu to select items, would benefit from level design.


I really like the idea of treating the first few levels like a tutorial and guiding you through what you need to know without you noticing.

Sounds like it's best to make the experience easy to get going, with great documentation following it up. It sounds so simple but isn't always done well.

Thanks for sharing!


As the other guys mentioned, it shouldn't be very explicit the way you explain how it works to the user.

I always remember this quote: "UI is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it's not that good."

Which reminds me: should I ever create a walk-through? can I avoid that by simplifying the UI?


Personally I always want something to tell me the essential concept for a tool. Obviously this can be hard sometimes, especially when the tool is itself a new kind of thing*.

So sometimes, it's necessary to just jump in and swim around until it becomes clear whether you're in a swimming-pool or a lake. But to use that analogy I'd like a few pointers, such as: this is not something to try doing a lap of (for the lake). I do think for most tools, by the time they're delivered someone knows the important things to say about it - so I'd like that said early on rather than it being something I'll have to work out in a "Eureka!" moment some hours into the support material.

Re * for the younger ones here, there was a time when spreadsheets were a new concept that required explaining (1980s) and I'll be honest that it took me a while before I twigged what MS PowerPoint was for (in my now-long-passed IT Support years of the 1990s).


In the context of development tools, I would like to start using the tool right away instead of a guided tour. Most of what the tour covers would just blow over me. If I run into a specific "itch" and it's not obvious how I should use the tool to scratch it, I'll just go google it.


I suppose it's like the ergonomics of a door handle, in that we shouldn't know we're using one … unless it doesn't work!

So the best onboarding would be the one we don't notice.


That's brilliant, more tools and apps should effortlessly guide the user to where they need to be.


However, saying that and then doing it are two different thing β€” as I'm learning with the Under Cloud.