Optimising the Out-Of-The-Box Experience

I’ve recently noticed several systems that go out of their way to optimise the out-of-the-box experience:

  • A FreeView TV box . When I turned it on for the first time, it came up with a menu asking me a few basic questions, like what area I’m in. So the main preferences were done, and I didn’t have to spend half-an-hour diving into the menu system and poring through the manual. The rest of the preferences could be filled in at my leisure, or never.

  • Tried out Copernic today. It provided a wizard-type interface to get st up quickly. And when I tried searching for something soon after, it explained that it’s not finished indexing yet. I’m not 100% sure, but it certainly sounded like a message optimised for first-time usage.

As people are drowning in choice, it’s critical for product designers to optimise the out-of-the-box experience – put an explicit check in to see if this is the first usage (and let the user reset it somehow). Especially for software downloads, where it’s so easy to give up and try one of the hundred alternatives. A few patterns are suggested (“virgin usability patterns”?) here:

  • Virgin Wizard: Provide a really quick wizard to focus the user’s attentions on the most important settings. Just taking the time to tune a few key settings can have a big impact on the subsequent experience.

  • Still Moving In: If there are exceptional circumstances – e.g. empty lists or high delays – occurring during first-time usage, make that explicit to the user.