Dropbox Paper for Web

The good bits:

  • Instead of an interruptive modal dialog or other prominent treatment, Paper is introduced with a subtle, inline “NEW” cue appended after its Dropbox menu item.
  • New users are proactively encouraged to start by choosing from 3 templates. The templates implicitly educate about the hero use cases for Paper while giving them concrete examples to build from. Proficient users can choose to skip this step and go to their empty directory list, or start with a blank document.
  • Templates include inline cue text to indicate the content that could be included in each major section of the doc.
  • A non-blocking user-guided tutorial encourages a user to conduct 3 actions, automatically giving feedback and progressing as steps are completed, and without blocking a user’s interaction with other parts of the experience.
  • At the end of the initial first run experience, a hint points out where the user can go to learn more about keyboard shortcuts. This also implicitly points out where access to other types of help content, like the “Paper guide,” lives. This is a good approach of closing out a first run experience with a hook into next learning opportunities.
  • Another way that Paper provides onboarding support is by including a folder of “Example Docs” within every new user’s directory. Unlike the templates provided at first run, these example docs are fully composed (yet editable) samples that show the full extent of collaborative content that can be created.
  • Example documents also utilize interactive hints that invite users to click to learn more. This provides additional on-demand and inline education, without cluttering a user’s own document as they type. .
  • After a document is created during first run, the table of contents is exposed by default. On subsequent opens, that area is collapsed by default, to get out of the way of writing. This is using gradual reduction to de-emphasize elements that displayed or behaved prominently for introductory purposes.

To be improved:

  • The first run experience offers the user a selection of starter templates. However, after first run, or if this step is skipped, there is nowhere a person can go to find these templates again. The “Example docs” are already populated with content, unlike the ready-to-fill-in templates. Onboarding experiences should only introduce concepts that can be revisited; these templates should be made available any time a user wants to create a new doc.
  • As soon as a file is opened from the “Example docs” folder, a copy is immediately added into the user’s primary work directory. The product is assuming that a user is opening an example with the intention of editing it. However, moving items around automatically is a very confusing concept, and is even more confusing if the person is just opening the document, and not editing it.
  • The hints on example docs exhibit bugs that could make them unusable, including an inability to stay anchored to their source as the user scrolls. Educational content should behave as reliably as the rest of a product, or else users will ignore it.