I’d like to talk to you about a small indie game that you may not have heard of. It’s started to catch on a little bit and I think that if they can do a good enough job marketing, they might finally get somewhere. Perhaps, if you’ve really got your ear to the ground, you may have heard of it. It’s called Pokemon Go.

If you don’t play, don’t worry. This post isn’t overly technical when it comes to the game. Rather, this post is about how poorly that game is built when it comes to teaching its users, commonly referred to as onboarding. The game is a lot of fun…if you can just figure out how the hell to play it.

The first time I made it to a Pokestop (a place in the game where you collect various items) I didn’t have a sweet clue what to do. I tapped and clicked over and over again, trying to figure out what the hell to do. I visited 3 Pokestops before (totally be fluke) I discovered that you had to swipe side to side on the stop in order to generate items.

Then, finally, my first Pokemon. It was a VERY exciting time. I mean, there it was, right on the screen. All I had to do was…well…to be honest, I didn’t have a sweet clue what I was supposed to do. And neither did a lot of people.

One of the things I’ve always hated about a lot of games is how much and how long they walk you through things. For example, my son and I are currently playing Micro Machines (I steer, he works the weapons) and close to 25% through the game it’s still telling me when and where to click. I don’t love that feature but I’d rather you tell me how to play for too long than not tell me at all.

Pokemon Go has been one of the fastest growing video games in history, iOS or otherwise, but what blows me away far more than 8 million users within the first two weeks is that, from a game play and onboarding standpoint, it’s really quite terrible. The game is buggy, frequently crashes and you have to do a solid amount of research just to learn how to play it in the first place.

So what’s the lesson? Well, unless you’re game or app or software is backed by millions of nerds (not judging, just pointing out the fact) worldwide, it’s not ok to have terrible onboarding. Pokemon Go isn’t the only app to do this. I’ve tried out hundreds and hundreds of apps and the one thing I notice all the time is that in many cases it feels like they’re built for people who the developers presume already know how to use the app. Many of these apps are incredibly powerful but suffer from low usership numbers because they simply don’t explain themselves very well.

So whether you’re building an app, designing a website or creating any sort of online resource, think to yourself, “could I use this easily, if I didn’t already know how to.”

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