From Tourist to Local: The First 10 Seconds of a First Time User

Seth Giammanco Seth Giammanco

When launching a new web application, native mobile app, a fundraiser, or an engagement campaign it is easy to focus on all the features and designs that relate to the desired outcome.

You worked to get your visual branding in place, tested to make sure everything works great, and have all your tracking and metrics systems ready to assess progress. All of these are important. But all these efforts and more will be a complete waste of time if no one engages.

There are two efforts that will notably impact initial engagement. The first and more obvious is the external marketing efforts that will drive qualified users to your destination. The second are the efforts to help an engaged user have quick and early success to help them get hooked and see the value of your offering. This article focuses on the latter and of beginning to explore how to start nurturing an engaged user.


We’d like to think that all visitors to our web application or campaign are like "locals". They know exactly where everything is, how to get there, whom to talk to, and what to do when they need something. Though we may all wish it, this is simply not the case. A local may be our ultimate desired persona but even savvy web consumers and browsers can be more like a tourist in a strange land without a guide book

External outreach and marketing is about finding or creating tourists. Designing for first time use is about the tourist and starting the gradual nurturing to put them on a path to become a local.


Instead of throwing the user into the software and hoping they understand it, we should actively craft their first experience. - The Intercom Blog

Continuing the Conversation

When a user decides to engage, your external marketing efforts have done their job. A conversation has been started and the user has responded to click a key call to action. They may register/subscribe with thoughts to create a team for your fundraiser, sign an online petition, share a story, or create something unique in your application. You have a “Tourist” at the gate. What do you do with she/he?

I am firm believer in striving to have a interface that does not require explanation, where the user does not have to think but rather just does. That said, I also believe there are circumstances where doing something “together” can bolster the success of an early experience.

You need to continue the conversation with your new user. Lead she/he further through your solution and create conditions for initial successes to happen.

After a new user is logged into your system and/or have reached a point where interactivity starts there are many things that you can do to support your “Tourist” continuing forward successfully.

The following are but a few techniques to consider.


Create a step-by-step that will guide a user through a series of related actions to achieve a desired outcome.


Create and showcase a video that welcomes the user and shares some specific next step guidance.

"On Page" Tour

Create an “on page” guided tour to introduce the user to elements of an interface that communicate some next step guidance. Check out Zurb’s Joyride which is part of their Foundation framework as an example of code that does this.

Simple Tips/Help

If you just need to keep things simple, at least have a little note or details to help inspire the next actions on the page. An ordered list of steps to take or a clear tip to follow, for example.

Creating a Condition for A Quick Win

You want your tourists to have a good first experience. They are on your island, they are interested and excited, and you want to deliver an outcome that builds on that. When someone registers for your service, community, or campaign they are defining themselves as a Tourist, they are engaged.

You need to consider how to build on that, to guide them to have their first initial “win” with your solution. I likened this to continuing a conversation and a good conversation is nurtured without thinking. It flows from one idea exchanged to another and with ever shifting roles of listener and speaker happening naturally.

The road from “Tourist” to “Local” is a long one. It needs to start immediately and those first 10 seconds are critical. The first win is the beginning of a chain of wins you will hope to inspire through future nurturing efforts. This string of successes will help your customers/constituents continue to learn and engage with your solution on their road to becoming a power user.