first time user experience


Google’s “Cardboard” First Time User Experience.

Cardboard has both a physical and a digital component. It is a piece of cardboard (complete with lenses and NFC) that folds into the shape of VR goggles, and a person’s phone is dropped in to provide the digital side of the experience. The person then downloads the Cardboard app which runs VR-optimized experiences such as Google Earth, Street View and more. 

The good bits:

  • Cardboard provides both physical instructions and digital instructions on how to assemble the goggles. There are steps numbered on various tabs of the cardboard pieces, and a series of images provided on the website and in the Cardboard app.
  • By visiting the website or downloading the app first (access to both is printed on the outside of the physical Cardboard component as a URL and QR code) a person can see an animation that shows how the flat piece of cardboard builds up from its beginning state to its end state. There is also more information about what it is used for.
  • Once the user has assembled Cardboard and placed their Android phone into its slot, the included NFC sticker on the box tells the phone to go into “Cardboard mode”. At this point, instructions begin appearing on the screen and the user simply puts on the goggles to use them. The instructions teach the user how to return to a main menu (by tilting Cardboard) and how to select menu items (by pulling and releasing a magnet mechanism on the left side).
  • Cardboard provides free samples. Google likely realizes that people don’t already have 3D-ready content on their devices, so the company has provided sample content like a Google Street View playthrough. Kudos to Google for not falling prey to the typical intro-tour approach, instead taking users immediately to the sample content they can experience.

To be improved:

  • The printed instructions for assembling Cardboard do not provide clear next steps for a new user. While the numbering system (put tab 1 into the corresponding tab 1, for example) is meant to provide in-context instructions, and the illustration at the top to show the end state, this is not a familiar device to most people. Therefore, it’s not going to be intuitive how one can progress from step 1 to step 6—for example, there were moments when I wondered if I should be detaching parts of Cardboard to get it to bend in the odd directions suggested by conflicting tab angles. What would be clearer to the user is a series of stepped illustrations of how the device should look at the end of each step (which the website/app animations do well, but I am sure not everyone downloads those first).
  • Although the website animation is helpful, a user may not realize how to run it completely from beginning to end. There are no visible controls. Instead, the animation is scrubbed as the user scrolls down the page. Unfortunately, if a user scrolls very quickly (which many do) all they will see is a quick jump from the first state to the end state, missing the steps in between.

Chromecast Onboarding

The above screenshots and flows show my first time user experience setting up a Chromecast (using an iPhone as the companion setup device).

The good bits:

  • The product packaging was hassle-free and informative. I appreciated that the outer side of the box introduced the value proposition and setup procedure in broad strokes, while the inside flap of the box revealed more details about the setup process.
  • The hardware was easy to connect to my TV.
  • I did not have to read a manual or introductory tour; instead I was walked through as part of the setup process.
  • The TV messaging was kept very well in sync with what was happening on my device. The use of the 4-digit code to confirm communication between the Chromecast and my network was helpful.
  • The setup flow makes intelligent use of the various devices at play. The TV is leveraged for status messaging, requiring no input from the user, while the smartphone (or whatever the user chose to drive setup) manages the complex actions of connecting to various networks.  

To be improved:

  • The app setup flow did not have any signposting. There was no indication of how long the process was going to take, or how many steps were involved. While this may be because the number of steps could fluctuate based on a user’s choices, a few signposts would have been helpful.
  • I faced numerous connection issues that, at times, reset my position in the flow. There were moments where it was not clear to me if my device had been set up or not, and so I was confused about whether to select “Set up a new Chromecast” or “Pair an existing Chromecast”. The app should better handle connection issues with clearer messaging.
  • When I got to the end of the setup, there was very little understanding of next steps. Even the TV messaging barely changed at all. Tapping “Discover apps” simply took me to a web list of apps that would require me to log in to those with other accounts. I would suggest really playing up the finishing stage of the Chromecast connection; maybe a video could automatically play on the TV, or some other freebie that demonstrates the newly set-up technology.