How relevance and timing make a great user onboarding experience

How Medium gets it right

As I was logging in on Medium today to write a new post I saw this:

And it’s brilliant. While this is just a small notification message, it gets so many things right in terms of user engagement, that I couldn't pass this opportunity to give credit where it’s due.

Let’s zoom in and examine what makes this little tooltip work so well.

Context
I’ve now been on Medium for a few weeks, so I’m still pretty new to the system. Now remember that entire Medium’s pitch is built on the premise of simplicity, so you just go straight to writing. Which is exactly what I did when I first signed up, meaning that some neat extra features went unnoticed at first.

Timing & Relevance
At this exact moment I’ve just logged in and my intent is to write a new post, so this message hits the spot, because it provides that useful information about the product, which I need and can appreciate right here and now, AND it’s not distracting me from my original path. Instead it keeps me on track, equipping me with relevant information I can put to use immedately.

Length
It’s short and to the point, which is a perfect, because it manages to get a message across within that short moment of attention my brain has made available and which doesn't last long (~4 seconds).

Medium
An animated tooltip like this is a great way to draw attention because your eye automatically catches any movement on this otherwise static page. So when it slides into view you immediately focus on it.

My only pet peeve is that its visual style makes it slightly uncomfortable to read (white on white).

The result is a well timed, relevant help message that makes me learn this new product feature and apply this knowledge immediately, thus making me more proficient. And all of that is served in a subtle, non-distracting tooltip.