The Google Earth app for iOS and Android provides an optional interactive tour when you first launch the app. A message box appears asking if you want to take a short tour. Electing to take it displays a text overlay with five sequential tips on how to use your fingers to manipulate the app. In addition to the text, circles appears on the Earth to show you where to place your fingers. Arrows appear to show you how to move them.

I think this effect is really helpful to those who choose to take the tour. It limits the tips to a number that won’t create impatience. The five items that were chosen as tips are important ones to present. Most importantly, the interactivity provides much better engagement and knowledge transfer than text alone.

When I originally saw this effect, I assumed the “guided Help” interactivity would require a lot of programming effort to coordinate the finger placement graphics and tips with the movement of the Earth.  Looking at it again, I think the nature of the app ends up simplifying the development effort. The circle/arrow overlays are just that – overlays. There doesn’t have to be any special programming. The map is already set to be moved around by your fingers.

This is a good example of how to build helpful information into an app while keeping the user immersed in what makes the app interesting in the first place.

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Google Earth 2