How Microsoft’s Secret User Onboarding Process Fooled Us All

user onboarding process

What happens if you make software too difficult to use? Probably the same thing that happens if you never made it at all — no one uses it.

It’s easy to get users to adapt to familiar concepts like drag-and-drop, but what if you made something totally new? You need a creative user onboarding process, like the one Microsoft used back in 1992 and the others I’m going to look at in this post.

The Software User Onboarding Process

I already talked about concierge onboarding, so this time I’m going to look at the total opposite — a style known as low-touch user onboarding. It’s not always possible to work with every customer, especially if you’re distributing software on a massive scale like Microsoft Windows, so writing onboarding into your product is a necessity.

James Hunt‘s excellent article on Mental Floss reveals the true purpose of Minesweeper, Microsoft SolitaireFreeCell and Hearts: a gamified way to teach users concepts vital to success using Windows 3.1.

Let’s take a look at exactly how they did it.
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