The water below is a sheet of glass. The sun is just peaking up over the trees, but it is already hot out; hot enough to consider jumping in the lake this early in the morning. From where you stand, there is a 3m drop to the water. It’s easier to get in by the dock, but the water is a deep enough here to safely jump in from this height. There’s a thrill jumping from this height, a little trepidation too, for the first jump of the day.
You jump feet first. Within a second, you’re in the water; the serene surface broken by froth of your entry, ripples in the surface emanating from where you entered the water. You did it: the first jump of the day.
Great. But why doesn’t anyone think about the poor water?
Imagine you are a lake. It’s a pleasantly warm day so far, but even if it gets really hot, you’re a lake; it’s ok. There’s no breeze. All of a sudden you’re surface is wrecked with a big splash by some doofus in board shorts and a bad haircut. Right in your good water! You love that water. Now it’s all over the place. What a mess.
Any software project that you’ve been working on for months becomes a part of you. It becomes hard to imagine your life without that project. Near the project’s end, there’s nothing you don’t know about it. You are intimately familiar with every detail, every interaction, every concept underlying that project. Everything makes sense to you.
Then you ship it or show your friends a beta version. Chances are you are met with blank stares. OK, maybe if you’re building Facebook, but for dogs or Uber, but for bakers, they might be able to grasp it. Otherwise, there’s a disconnect from your familiar use—the ripples in the lake—to their very first use—the giant splash. If you just throw them right in, the experience might just turn them off your app completely.
Reducing that disconnect is the difference between high user churn and a successful app.
This is typically called onboarding, but I recently saw the acronym FUX (First User Experience) to describe the same concept. I like this name much better. Juvenile, perhaps, but will you ever forget the concept, or its importance, if it’s called FUX?
The underlying principle to the FUX is: get them most familiar with the app with minimum friction.
They’ve heard of the benefits of the app from somewhere: you’re marketing efforts, your app description, a friend; something somewhere has compelled them to install your app. This is a hot lead, folks. The FUX should keep them hot. We don’t want to dent their enthusiasm.
The FUX let’s them know: there’s a splash coming but everything’s fine.