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To build a good game interface, is essential to instruct the user of the available functions in an intuitive way, without the necessity of an instruction manual. The purpose of onboarding experience is tell the users only what they need to know, in few words about your app and be as simple and direct as you can while doing it.

You can also think of onboarding (or walkthrough, or tutorial) as the setup manual for your digital application or website, but with a subtle — yet effective — dose of persuasion.

The onboarding flow is arguably the most important part of the mobile application. for the first time experience a new user determines whether they come back again and again or close the application immediately and possibly eliminate it. Optimizing other parts of your application is useful only after the flow of introduction to capture as many users as possible.

The main goal is to accommodate your users and get them using your product — as soon as possible. But, when do you need an onboarding? You may be introducing a fun and new interaction, like swiping to see a hidden item — and, quite often with web products, you may be introducing a product that is nothing like users have seen before.

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Stitcher onboarding — advertising features
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Google Translate onboarding — instructions

In recent years, we’ve seen plenty of discussion about the usefulness of mobile onboarding. A popular argument against onboarding is that if an app needs it, then it is fundamentally flawed, lacking the cardinal elements of simplicity and user-friendliness. While this line of thought does have logic, it can be somewhat controversial. Let’s see why.

Can you convence me?” Onboarding in apps, sites, softwares.

Given that these are often the first set of screens with which users interact, they also set the users’ expectations of the app.

Therefore, it is essential that those involved in creating the product — product managers, designers, developers — take the time to evaluate whether onboarding is necessary for the app and, if so, to determine the best way to implement it.

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Paper onboarding — usability instructions
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Facebook Photos onboarding — intro presentation
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Popover onboarding - walkthrough

So if there’s anything in the app interface or features that might confuse the user, it’s definitely worth doing a quick walkthrough. However try to make it quick, easy and effortless. It’s all about showing how exactly the app is going to make the user’s life better. What does the app do? How can the user integrate it into their life? What value will this integration provide? The story should be about the product and not about the interface, no matter how proud it makes you feel.

Only 20% of games make it past the first play session. The onboarding in games.

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Monter Sweetie

Onboarding is usually integrated on the beginning of the game, building a story and helping the user to explore it. In many games extentions, actions as boarding or forcing the player to spend his first 5 to 10 minutes within your game can not give a good user experience, therefore the onboarding integration should be done very carefully.

A Research from E. Andersen, et al. from Dept. of Computer Science and Engineering at University of Washington says that one size does not fit all. The onboarding process for simple apps and games should be non-existent or minimal. But for some casual or complex games, the walkthrough is absolutely necessary.

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Cut the Rope
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Moster Squad — Onboarding walkthrough for players that even with the intuitive interface does not yet not yet understood fully.
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Pocket Troops — Translation: “It’s time to start your first mission! Tap the red button to open the world map.”
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Tembo The Badass Elephant

One of the key challenges of video game design is teaching new players how to play. Although game developers frequently use tutorials to teach game mechanics, this may not be a good feature for games with mechanics that can be discovered through experimentation. A game should be fun to explore, without relying on words to tell a story.

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Onboarding on a screen that says to select the character in a written screen “Recruit a soldier.” Really need it?

A good UI / UX, integrated into game design, should tell the player what to do, but not how to do, teaching him something constantly throughout the game by introducing new mechanics, keeping the player engaged and entertained.

However, when we talk about popular games such as CoC, Candy Crush or Temple Run, for example, offering a “skip for free” button would make the experience even friendlier, considering the game itself is already intuitive enough. The audience should also be taken into consideration, as the heavy-user gamers prefer discovering what to do by themselves.

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Clash of Clans — Players spends first 5 to 10 minutes of their gameplay in base building, the routine part of the ‘Habit Loop’ not necessarily the most engaging aspect of the game.
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Rival Kingdoms — Skip for Free button, a simple feature that does not hold the impatient or hardcore player.

And how do I know if I am doing right?

For both, gaming and app development, companies already conduct several forms of testing (QA, Internal play-tests, team sessions, milestone reviews), regularly as part of software development process to identify bugs and milestone build progress internally. On top of that, they also bring external users/players, including friends, family or different team members to test the game. No doubt these tests are immensely beneficial & crucial before launching it.

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Focus Group — usability testing

When it comes to collecting feedback from users, usability tests and focus groups are often confused although their goals are completely different.

Focus groups assess what users say: a number of people gather in order to discuss their feelings, attitudes and thoughts on a given topic to reveal their motivations and preferences.

Usability testing, on the other hand, is about observing how people actually use a product, by assigning key tasks to users and analyzing their performance and experience.

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Conclusion

Games onboarding are there in a subtle way to prepare the main way for beginning players, with optional challenges for advanced players, clearly communicating the risk and reward. Some studies and tests have shown that players generally do not like lengthy tutorials and skip through text boxes & narratives. They like to be visually shown a action (animated) rather than read about it. They take pride in discovering features on their own rather than be handheld. The same rule goes for onboarding screen apps: the user hates to digest a total of seven slides and messages.

Remember even beginner players are evolving and maturing a mobile experience, having used smart phones for a number of years now, so they are familiar with how most common mobile game features work (mental models).

Research links of this article:

http://gamasutra.com/blogs/OmTandon/20151029/257417/UX_Walkthrough_Anatomy_of_a_Usability_Test_in_Video_Games_Part1.php

http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2012/01/features/test-test-test?page=all

http://grail.cs.washington.edu/projects/game-abtesting/chi2012/chi2012.pdf

http://www.dtelepathy.com/blog/design/ux-flows-onboarding

http://apptimize.com/blog/2014/09/mobile-ux-optimizing-the-onboarding-experience

http://32dayz.com/blog/mobile-app-promotion-%E2%84%9628-app-tutorial

Product Designer @ ThoughtWorks Brasil

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