Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Dos and don'ts of first use experience

With the massive numbers of Android apps in the market it is highly likely that every app has at least two to three directly competing apps. In that situation first impression might be the only chance for an app to convince users that it is the app they should pick.

With paid apps the situation is even more critical. Under current Android Market rules users can get automatic refund only if they return the app within 15 minutes of installation. During that time users will likely be overly critical of everything they see. Especially with expensive apps pressure to return it for refund can be reasonably big for the user.

Although first user experience is much more than just the app's first launch (Market Place promotion material, icons, reputation, website, etc) I'll concentrate on the first launch of the app in this post. So, what are the dos and don'ts of first use experience?

Don't make users wait
If users download the app they are probably keen to try the app and see what it can do. It is very unlikely that the users want to read about apps functionality or user interface features. They just want to try the app.

For example Google Goggles first forces user to go through multiple pages of app features before the user sees even a glimpse of the apps UI.

Another way to make users feel that the app isn't letting them access it is to use splash screen that takes long time to load. This example app's splash screen can often take up to ten seconds before the app UI loads. Instead of a long download and UI initialisation the app should launch the app UI immediately and then start loading what is needed on the background.

Don't offend users
Although I don't think users get confused by EULAs anymore they are very disruptive and offensive. Try to avoid this being the first thing user sees when he opens the app for the very first time.

Don't confuse users
First screen of the app should help users to understand how they can perform the task the app's Market Place page promised. The following example app has two major flaws. Firstly, it hides the status bar. Secondly, the page is very confusing.

It is a note taking app. The page looks like a page from a note book and users expect that they can start taking notes but that is not the case. The page is actually a table of content page of an empty notebook. Only function that user can perform is to press the plus icon on bottom left corner.

Don't force users to login
I've written about this topic exhaustively so I won't repeat myself. Previous post about the topic can be found here and here.

Do provide content
When user first time launches an app that is meant to be used to consume media or information the app should provide content by default. If the app is empty the users won't directly be able to try any functionality.

Aldiko and pulse both do this thing very well. Aldiko comes with a free book and pulse has a nice set of feeds preset from the first launch.

Do provide help in context
Instead of a tutorial screen it is much better to provide help in context. YouTube app is a great example how to do this right. On the first use user is gently notified by using custom toast popups about the app's functionality.


  1. Hi, i think google goggles must present its privacy policies first although they could be optional available for selection under a contextual menu. However i think that in some cases its important to let the users know what the app can and cant do before they try to use it such as google goggles when it says it doesnt recognoze people.

  2. Hey Zuka,
    Yeah. I'm not a lawyer and cannot really answer from that point of view. If your lawyer says that you need to display the EULA or privacy statement before anything you probably should do so... On the other hand many apps don't do it and they haven't got problems from it.

    My point about the goggles tutorial screens is that users are more likely to skip it than read it. Well designed contextual info like the youtube app is much more helpful as it is displayed when users can actually use the information.

  3. This is really true "It is very unlikely that the users want to read about apps functionality or user interface features. " which you have mentioned inside the "Don't make users wait" section.

  4. Lawrence D'Oliveiro19 December 2011 at 18:16

    Looking at Open Source software at least, there is a clear difference between a “contract” and a “licence”. All Open Source software is released under licences, not contracts. The licence is the only thing giving you permission to use the software, so using the software automatically means you accept the terms of the licence, no need to present any dialog, or force the user to click any “Agree” button—they can just download it and immediately begin using it.

    Of course, IANAL.