The olympics kicked off on Friday, just around the time I wrote my article about good and bad onboarding practices. Because of this timing, I had onboarding and design on my mind as I downloaded the official Sochi apps. You see, me and everyone else on the Taplytics team really enjoy our fair share of olympic coverage. So we make sure we know the complete schedule for broadcast, network and web-based streaming. This means we dove in to check out all of the apps available right away and I just thought I'd use them as examples of good and bad onboarding, messaging and overall usability out of simple interest sake.
Official Sochi App
The first app I look at has to be the official Sochi app. It's also a good place to start, because it had the worst overall experience. It started off with a loading screen telling me it is downloading something. Then it goes through a seven step setup process and finally delivers me to a page with small text, cells and images. And through this whole process I am never told what to expect, where I should be going in the app or what I should be doing. This is an example of a poorly designed app in my mind. This is from both an onboarding perspective and a pure design perspective. It will clearly get a lot of use and be considered a success, because it is the official app of the olympics. But if it were just a random app for organizing and delivering information on sporting events, it would be deemed a failure. Not only that, but the sister app to this one, the Sochi "Guide" app, crashes every time I try to get through the same seven step setup process if I don't allow it to access my calendar. Take this as an example of bad design and bad optimization of user experience.
Official NBC/CBC Olympic Apps
These ones took me a bit by surprise. I don't know why I expected otherwise, but the NBC and CBC apps essentially exactly the same. So this makes me wonder whether all official olympic broadcast partners are using the same app. I won't speculate any further on that, but it's interesting. It also probably makes sense, as that keeps cost down and generally few people would notice. But to the point at hand, design, flow, onboarding, all that fun stuff. These apps are light years better than the official app. That isn't to say they are perfect. At least they have standard design cues that let me know where I can find more content and how to navigate the app.
Where they again lack in the most basic aspects is any type of guidance as to what I the user should expect and how I should take advantage of the app. I may be sounding like a broken record, but I think it is important to note that users shouldn't be left to their own devices in an app. When that happens a lot of users just end up leaving and never coming back. As a designer, developer or product manager you can't take understanding for granted. Your users will never understand your app the way that you do. So you need to take the time to explain the ins and outs to them. If you do, and you test different ways of explaining your app and the different features, I promise you'll be rewarded with higher retention, more engagement and users that are generally happier about your app.
Visa 360 - Bonus Content
I won't comment too much on the Visa 360 olympic app as it is just a commercial in an app, and I was debating whether or not to post anything at all given that. But I must say the tech that this app demonstrates is quite impressive. As a former FIS level skier I was blown away by the 360 camera view through the race course. But again, this is just a Visa commercial in an app. Check it out to see some cool tech, but be warned. And of course, notice the general lack of instruction and onboarding. At least the app explains every time how to take advantage of the 360 degree technology.