Do you remember what a pain in the ass it used to be to open cookies and then close them?
The other night, I quietly tip-toed to the kitchen for a late snack. I was looking forward to a rich butter cookie, but also dreading the noise and hassle of opening the package. Usually you struggle to open the end of the bag and then yank out the tray and then getting it back into the package is nearly impossible.
Not anymore. The folks at Keebler have created this easy to open package that makes it oh so easy to get to their cookie goodness. Now you just pull back the tab and wallah, there’s the yummy goodness of those cookies. (It also has the bonus of being quieter, so my wife and kids can’t hear me opening it.)
You may be asking yourself what the heck that has to do with your app.
So many apps make it difficult to get to their goodness. Long and painful registrations, convoluted setup routines, demos that go on and on for things I will never remember all mean that a lot of apps are constantly getting in the way of their own potential success. If you want the best possible returns on your development efforts, then get me into your app and using it as quickly as possible. Let me see the value right away, because delete is just a couple of taps (clicks) away.
All I want is the cookie!
Our startup clients are often dying to explain everything to their users and we completely understand. We are all for guiding the user to the best use of your application, but too much and they may never bother swiping through all your demo screens. If you are spending an inordinate amount of time explaining your app, then maybe it’s time to rethink your interface choices.
It’s not just demos or explaining your app. Sometimes an app’s interface is so different from what a user expects or so convoluted, that even if they get past demos or instructions, they still aren’t sure what the app does or how. This is especially true if you haven’t explained it properly in your app description. Can you give them little tidbits of help along the way, rather than trying to cram all the instructions down their throat at the beginning?
Ultimately though, it’s about understanding your users motivation to solve a problem and showing them immediately how the app will solve it when they start it up. This could be applied to games and their desire to enjoy something immediately, but that’s a whole other ball of wax I’m not going to get into right now.
- Think through your interface elements.
- What does a user see the first time the actual functionality of the app loads on their screen?
- Is it obvious what they should do next?
- Can they immediately gain the satisfaction and value your app provides?
- Maybe you need to layer in functionality as the user gets used to the basics?
The bottom line is, if you don’t get me directly into the app itself, then I’m likely never going to completely understand what it can do for me. Before you call it ready, it might be a good idea to hand it to complete strangers in your target market and get their reaction to the functionality and interface. Better yet, use a product like FluidUI or UXPin to demo the concept and see what users see the first time.
I’m not advocating for focus groups or comprehensive user analysis (although that’s great if your startup can afford it), but I am advocating for understanding the user experience. You are too close to what you created and you’ve been layering in all the functionality you think it needs, but you’ve got to be sure that it will make immediate sense to a user. Just get me to the cookie reward, so I can learn more and more about the rest of your app.
Can you layer in functionality over time and after repeated use?
This is an extreme example, but the Carrot To Do list app does a brilliant job of layering in app functionality over time. This app though of course goes to the opposite extreme. You have to earn the additional functionality after you’ve used the app several times and completed tasks to get the features as reward. You don’t have to start abusing your users like Carrot does, but you do need to think about what they want first and then what you can expose to them over time.
Will they remember it?
I love the app Fly Video Editor. It has an elegant and beautiful interface for a very complex task – editing videos on your iPhone. The first time I used it, I loved the functionality and raved about it to the developers on Twitter. When the app first loads, they do a brilliant job explaining how the app works by having you actually “experience” putting together and creating a sample video. I played around with a couple of tests and loved it all the more.
In fairness to the Fly team, the way they have implemented the features of the app is incredibly elegant and done better than any other video editor on the market, but the functionality isn’t obvious, so I would be concerned that other less technical users may never bother to try to figure it all out again.
Then a few months later, I went back in while journeying through Disney with my kids and I couldn’t remember how to do more than the fundamentals of the app that I can do in almost any video app. I couldn’t remember how to join 2 videos or transition them or do a video in video. These were the cool features I wanted from the app, but I didn’t want to sit there learning the app again while my kids were doing the cute things I wanted to catch in the first place.
So, I gave up and went to the default video camera to record my video. When I got home, I tired again, looked on the web and found how to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish, but should I have to go through that?
When you’ve gone to the trouble to create an elegant interface and to simplify complex tasks that I am not able to do in other apps, it might be a good idea to think through the implementation of those features and how you expose them to your users. At the very least prompt them again through the tutorial if they haven’t created anything in awhile, so they know what they can do with it and why they bought the app in the first place.
Now, go run your app or look at the mockups and decide for yourself, whether you are making it difficult for me to get to the cookies.