ROI·DNA Reads: Mobile Apps & Instructional Overlays

March 25, 2014
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Our take on digital marketing news and trends


We read it:

Nearly every app you download comes with a user’s manual in the form of an instructional overlay: a transparent layer of coach marks and tips that falls directly over the interface and explains where to begin. We like the design of app instructional overlays that have very little text and a single cue per screen. Nielsen Norman Group explains why this minimalist approach works best.


Here’s what we think:

Among the many reasons why following these guidelines makes apps more user-friendly:

  • Use visuals – App experiences are better, functionally and aesthetically, with super-short text
  • Keep instructions short and sweet  – Don’t a) increase cognitive load or b) bore your users with detailed instructions
  • Don’t describe multiple functionalities per screen – Your users are more apt to absorb tips in small doses
  • Consider using a different font for coach marks and instructions – You don’t want to confuse anyone or detract from the main UI

The best app experiences don’t overdo it when it comes to tips and tutorials. When it comes to using instructional overlays, opt for the bare minimum of text and pair that with some strong visuals. The rest of your app design should be intuitive enough for users to figure it out from there.

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