Top 6 Help Design Patterns for iPhone Apps

Users of most of the iPhone applications often use first-time use help screens to help users learn how an app works.  This help can come in a wide variety of styles: demos, tutorials, single screen overlays, walkthroughs, tips, or short screen summaries.

Below is a look at how different apps have leveraged these help patterns to introduce functionality to their users upon first use.

1. Demos

A demo animates a series of screens showing the primary functions of the application.  This can come in the form of an animated walkthrough in which key interface elements are called out within each screen, or in the form of a short (up to 30 seconds) video demonstrating functionality.

2. Tutorials

Tutorials allow the user to tap, scroll, and/or swipe through static images of the application that point out key interface elements and interactions.

3. Single Screen Overlays

Single screen overlays serve to point out key interface elements in context of viewing a specific screen.  The overlay is typically used to explain the use of 1-5 controls in a way that is quickly read and then dismissed.

4. Walkthroughs

Walkthroughs help users learn actions used throughout an application by guiding users to complete a task step-by-step.  Walkthroughs help users accomplish a task quickly. By doing so, walkthroughs encourage additional application use and exploration.

5. Tips

Tips provide the user with descriptions of functions within an application.  Tips are generally displayed one at a time, with the ability to optionally view additional tips.  Tips can appear either appear immediately upon launch, or appear upon the user actively opening a tips screen or overlay.

6. Single Screen Summaries
Single screen summaries are a very basic way of introducing what you can do on each of the app’s primary screens.  An overlay containing a very short amount of text appears for a couple of seconds that describes what the screen represents. This overlay is typically only displayed once upon first visit to the screen and does not return upon subsequent visits.
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