The UX kerfuffle du jour surrounds the alleged evil of UX walkthroughs…you know, those screens that come up when you first launch an app, showing you where to poke, pull, pinch, and tap. The gist of the complaints, summarized pretty well here, is that the very need for a UX walkthrough implies the interface itself has failed to provide enough clues and cues about its utility. Put another way, UX walkthroughs are kind of like helping someone get around a darkened room after you’ve intentionally turned off the lights.
I’ve seen examples of UX walkthroughs that were either gratuitous and unnecessary, or were implemented because the UI lacked adequate affordance. That said, I’ve seen UX Walkthroughs that are very helpful. Case in point: the Feedly app recently introduced a new way to mark an article as read by swiping from right to left (previously, it was a downward swipe). It’s a great trick, but one I would not have learned easily had there not been a walkthrough tip when I launched the app after an update . Likewise, the insanely cool Rise app provides a simple UX walkthrough that expedites one’s ability to get going. In both cases, the walkthrough simply sped up my ability to be productive and engaged.
The argument that all UX walkthroughs are evil is silly. Some tools tell you how they are to be used just by their very form…a hammer, for example. Others, like a carpenter’s plane, perform a more sophisticated function and therefore have a more sophisticated form factor. Wouldn’t it be nice if they explained themselves before use? Think of it this way: if you’ve designed a hammer that requires instruction, you’ve probably failed. A plane? Not so much.
As I’ve said before, and will likely to continue to say, in UX there simply are very few hard and fast rules. Whatever works, works.
Let me know what you think on Twitter: @mmcwatters