Educating first time users

Github starter instructions

This is what you see as a first time user on github. It is a quick run down on the features of their product. I know I didn’t look at them in detail when I first signed up, I was too busy setting up a new repository. Anything else that github could do was not my concern. However, as I got more familiar and comfortable with using the product I did start to tune in to the other features they had on their site. By that time, given the nature of github, I had already accomplished most of what it was trying to teach me about.

This is why it is so important to nail your key feature. As long as the user comes back because you are solving their problem, you have plenty of opportunity to educate them as they use the product. Another great example is how Stackoverflow has notifications when you unlock certain privileges.

Stackoverflow header

This slowly educates the user on the other things they can do on the site besides ask and answer questions.

At the end of the day our users should not have to take 5 minutes out of their day to figure out how different features work. That also isn’t how it works. Users want to find one feature that interests them and use it asap. It is our job to introduce additional features as the user needs them.

Here is an example of what Google+ implemented to educate its users.

Google Plus welcome callout

Notice how it focuses on the 3 core features of their product even though they have several more? Focus on engagement first! You will have several opportunities to educate later through subtle notifications, javascript fadein’s, and social interaction as people share and enjoy the product together.