This story was originally published at kryshiggins.com

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The final season of the fantasy TV series Game of Thrones, which aired recently, was panned for its tonal shift from prior seasons. The audience blamed the show writers for pacing and action that seemed contrary to the character arcs developed in George RR Martin’s books. There were many discussions about what the true cause was, but one particular critique posted on Twitter thread caught my eye. The author describes how differences between “plotters” and “pantsers,” two writer archetypes, could have been at the heart of the issue.

In short: plotters start by creating a detailed outline before writing a story, and pantsers, who “fly by the seats of their pants,” jump right into story building, unearthing main plot points as a byproduct of character development. Per this thread, the final seasons of Game of Thrones suffered because the showrunners, who were plotters, had to fit the looser character arcs from Martin, a pantser, into the fixed-timeline outcome of their show outline. …


As artificial intelligence and its many variants become core to our products, we need to think about how to onboard users to automated experiences. The principles that underpin good user onboarding for AI aren’t that different from the principles that underpin good user onboarding for anything else. But, because of the unpredictable nature of AI, we must embrace interactive, multi-part guidance more than ever before, instead of the information-heavy approaches that still dominate onboarding for traditional products today.

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When can onboarding help an AI experience?

Whether the use of AI would benefit from an onboarding experience depends on how novel that experience is compared to people’s expectations.

Straightforward implementations of AI, therefore, may not require onboarding. Duolingo, which uses quizzes to teach people a new language, uses deep learning to adjust to the pace of learners, allowing it to personalize which question to show them next. While Duolingo may have a higher-level onboarding experience about its general teaching process, it wouldn’t need to familiarize the user with the idea that it auto-generates the next question in a quiz. …


Originally published at www.kryshiggins.com in 2018

Instructional presentations in the design and tech world often benefit when they include examples outside of a speaker’s own work. If you’re a presenter or working towards being one, chances are you’ve realized how helpful 3rd-party screenshots and recordings can be in illustrating a point, and how easy they are to capture from sites and apps. You were probably trained to get permission before adding 3rd-party music, photos, and other creative works that aren’t already in the public domain or under an open-sharing license like the Creative Commons copyright license in your slides. …


Originally published at www.kryshiggins.com in 2018

My process for designing workshops is never the same from one event to the next. But one thing I frequently include is storyboarding. I took some notes on why and how I storyboarded for a recent workshop, “Creating a user onboarding compass,” in the hopes that you may find it helpful in your own process.

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Why storyboard?

Before I became a UX designer, I was studying and working in the world of animation. Animators use storyboards as a planning tool because it’s very expensive to change animated content after it’s in progress. …


Originally published at www.kryshiggins.com in 2018

In an earlier post, I covered how onboarding is more than just a one-time event in a customer’s journey. In this post, I’ll be making the case for applying more than one onboarding method. Just as students will fail to learn if taught with a one-size-fits-all approach, trying to onboard every user in the same way is bound to fail.

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Until midway through junior high, I was an all-A’s student. I didn’t worry about my grades. Then, I started taking algebra and within a few weeks found myself desperately trying to hold on, failing most of my assignments and averaging a D- in the class. …


Originally published at www.kryshiggins.com in 2018.

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Onboarding won’t succeed if it’s a passive, standalone, rigid flow. It needs to be well integrated into your core product experience. To achieve this, onboarding must focus on the key actions that lead users to long-term success, retention, and engagement. And, to accommodate users in different situations, it needs to be flexible enough to allow these key actions to appear in different orders.

In an earlier post, I covered how to identify key actions. In that same post, I also covered how to break key actions down into modules so they can be scaffolded with guidance. The 3 parts of a key action module are its trigger (the part that initiates action), its activity (the heart of the action), and its follow-up (the part that closes out the action and moves people on to next available key actions). …


Originally published at www.kryshiggins.com in 2017

In a previous post, we looked at multiple opportunities over time for user onboarding techniques to be useful in our products. If we design for those opportunities ad hoc, we risk unscalable designs and frustrating users with fragmented education. Instead, let’s see how to tackle onboarding design so that it fits into a long-term approach to guidance.

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When designed as part of a long-term approach to guidance, the seam between everyday user education and onboarding can be invisible.

Start at the end to map key actions

To avoid an onboarding experience that forces all users to follow the same path in the narrow window of the first run experience, we want to focus on finding the key actions that signpost various paths to success. It’s tempting to identify key actions by starting at the beginning of the user’s journey and plotting a path forward. But I prefer the perspective of designer Jonathan Korman who, in a recent thread about first-time use…


Originally published at www.kryshiggins.com in 2017

I often evangelize the importance of first time user experiences. After all, not all of the users acquired to a product will stick around, but they’ll all experience its first run design. To encourage return use, that first impression must be solid. But it’s also very common for designers to overemphasize the first run experience at the expense of long-term user support.

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Clippy, the Microsoft Office Assistant, failed partly because it catered to first time users. It didn’t scale gracefully as those users became acclimated to the product. As James Fallows describes “…Clippy suffered the dreaded ‘optimization for first time use’ problem. That is, the very first time you were composing a letter with Word, you might possibly be grateful for advice about how to use various letter-formatting features. …


Originally published at www.kryshiggins.com in 2014

In a recent presentation, I discussed the role that guided interaction and coaching can play in onboarding new users to a product. Playthroughs and user-guided tutorials are some examples of guided interaction. Guided interaction allows users to start playing with a new product quickly in an authentic context (instead of wading through abstracted coachmarks, instructions or intro tours), but also gives them enough coaching so that they’ll be motivated by an early success.

To help teams explore the right cadence of guided interaction for their product’s new user experience, I created a template to help with judging that interaction between a product and a new user. I’ve been calling it the coaching cadence worksheet. This can be used to audit an existing experience, or to explore variations for a revision or completely new first time ux. The worksheet follows.

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Originally published at www.kryshiggins.com.


This post was originally published at www.kryshiggins.com in 2012

Designing good first time user experiences (FTUE) is not a project unique to mobile. It has history in out of the box experiences, software installs, even workplace new hire onboarding. But designing the first time experience for a mobile app does present additional challenges. It’s an important exercise for mobile product teams because it:

  • Refines the elevator pitch. Going through the exercise from a newbie perspective forces teams to think hard about their app’s value proposition. …

Krystal Higgins

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