NIUs face a unique set of challenges as they learn to navigate their devices and the internet due to their low digital literacy and confidence. When it comes to teaching them how to use a new product, it helps to shift from an onboarding mindset to what we call “upboarding”.

Onboarding is traditionally a process suited for users with prior digital experience, who are accustomed to learning by exploring. During our immersion research, we found that NIUs do not have much digital experience and need more continuous and self-reinforcing instruction as they build their digital confidence over time. They are also less likely to explore a product or technology by themselves.

While onboarding essentially gives users a tour of a product or tells them what it can or cannot do, upboarding goes beyond that and invests in upleveling a user’s digital skills.

For example, in an onboarding scenario, product tutorials are minimal, often optional, and would likely disappear after the user used a feature for the first time. In an upboarding model, tutorials are aplenty, teach broader concepts, and live in perpetuity someplace where users can easily find them again if they need to.

A focus on upboarding enables teams to give critical thought to how a user would naturally progress through a product experience, placing emphasis on the key points where users will want and need to learn new things.

Camera Go and Google Go Apps

In 2020, Google unveiled Camera Go, a camera app built for the NBUs with features like portrait mode and the ability to take photos in dim light, much like many camera apps. The difference? Camera Go is built to deliver a powerful, high-end, and yet easy-to-use camera on an entry-level device. Its simplicity is all by design, and upboarding was part of the plan from the start.

The “take photo” button in Camera Go, for instance, displays text and an illustration to indicate which mode the camera is in, such as portrait, night, or HDR. And when the Camera Go app is opened, an animated guide explains how to use it, emphasizing imagery over text for those who struggle to read.

The user sees these tutorials each time they open the app, and over time, upboarding screens become less frequent and eventually disappear when the user becomes more familiar with the features of the app.

In another example, we introduced in Google Go – a “lite” version of the Search app created for NIUs – a set of short videos that live on the app’s home screen. These videos don’t just teach people how to use the app; they also educate them on the larger concepts.

Unlike most onboarding tutorials, the Google Go videos never disappear, allowing users to learn at their own pace. Ultimately, our hope is that novice users will be set up for success to attain their learning goals and confidence without the need for sometimes unreliable or unavailable informal teachers and that eventually they can teach others themselves.

Jiny, the World’s First Assistive UI Platform

Backed by Google Launchpad and launched in 2019, the idea for Jiny was originally conceived when its founders were conducting a study asking people on a train platform in India why they preferred standing in a queue for tickets rather than booking online. The question revealed that many of the barriers preventing users from adopting a digital product could be overcome with a simple voice prompt given at the right time and place.

When reserving a seat on a flight, for example, users might not understand which seats were designated as taken. The answer might be quite simple, actually, but without assistance, they could only guess. Jiny senses when and where a user might be struggling with UI and offers a gentle nudge in the users’ native language. “The white seats are taken” might be a prompt in the aforementioned situation, for example.

Jiny exists entirely within the app on screen, so there’s no need for an active connection or to disengage by being sent to another page or a third-party tutorial. Jiny is also hyper-contextual — it understands where the user is within an app and what roadblock they might be encountering. Jiny walks the user through the entire transaction, subtly nudging the user in the right direction, easing apprehension, and building self-assurance every step of the way.

Link to Youtube Video (Visible only when JS is disabled)

Digital Transformation with Jiny.

Watch Jiny provide helpful, contextual assistance in-app, upboarding NIUs and building their digital confidence with each new interaction.

Research shows that NIUs tend to learn more effectively with the help of instruction (see Teaching) as opposed to free exploration. Jiny represents just one way technology can leverage the mechanics of informal instruction to create a positive upboarding experience that can mitigate frustration and build digital confidence seamlessly. Moreover, it represents what can happen when we check our assumptions and look at challenges from new angles.


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