When it comes to Apple’s Shortcuts app, many new users are caught off guard. They hear about the potential, but the application is very complicated. When presented with a blank slate, many often go no further to understand it.
For such an important app in Apple’s ecosystem, the company needs to do a lot more to onboard new Shortcut users and familiarize them with the app and how to integrate it. Here are three areas where the business could improve and why these are important for beginners.
Description of actions
One low-hanging fruit that Apple could leverage to improve the onboarding experience is an overhaul to the quality of action descriptions in the app.
When you tap the information icon for any action in the app, you will see a short description provided. However, the description often just rephrases the title of the action in another sentence and doesn’t explain much more than what you can already type from the title – actions like “Open Tab Group” are explained with “Opens the selected Group tab, e.g.
Another example is the Set Play Destination action, which can be used to create multi-room speaker pairs for AirPlay devices. If you hadn’t played around with the action and tested its settings, you wouldn’t know this ability was possible.
Apple should go through and update the documentation for each action in the Shortcuts app and give it a detailed explanation of what it does, how it works, and how it can be used with other actions.
This way, users can actually learn about shortcuts in context as they build them, and it doesn’t require a reading session or separate tutorial to figure out what’s right in front of them. We have plenty of shortcut tutorials here at iMore, but users shouldn’t have to search for them as a first step.
Debugging step by step
Second, the flow of information in the Shortcuts app is still very confusing and not immediately obvious to new or even intermediate users.
The actions are connected by a thin gray line that represents the information flowing from one to the other, but there’s no way to actually see the results of each action without adding script steps to debug as you go. road.
Apple is expected to implement a step-by-step mode like the one implemented in its Swift Playgrounds app, which allows users learning the basics of coding to see what happens between each step. Then they can slowly move from step to step in order to understand the progression along the way.
If implemented in Shortcuts, users would be able to better understand the flow of their content, which would allow them to build with much more confidence in Shortcuts and have those moments of success that give real value to their lives.
Beyond those two things, giving more timely and relevant examples of how the app works would go a long way in explaining the best use cases to people.
Many categories in the Shortcuts gallery haven’t been curated recently – I literally programmed them myself when I worked at Workflow – and there are many more examples, including third-party apps from the App Store that might show people the power of shortcuts beyond simple use cases.
Many people don’t understand the depth of the thousands of apps that already support Shortcuts, and when more developers adopt it with Apple’s new APIs in the fall, there will be even more.
The opportunity is there, but it needs to be discovered for people to actually take advantage of it.
Overall, Shortcuts’ new user experience hasn’t really outgrown the initial growing pains that Apple overcame after acquiring the app as Workflow in 2018 and integrating it as a native app. .
These days, Shortcuts has a ton of Siri functionality, has expanded its capabilities dramatically, and even spread its wings to a whole new platform with our favorite Macs. But new users new to the app have much of the same first experience as when it was still called Workflow all that time ago.
In many ways, Shortcuts “teaches to code” for the masses, and Shortcuts as a programming language should get the educational support, technical resources, and community development that Apple’s user base deserves. At least to match the quality and values the company infuses into all of its other products.
I really hope Apple continues to invest in bringing its new users into the Shortcuts fold, expanding training and guidance on how best to use Shortcuts. Breaking this learning curve is necessary for everyone to harness the power of personal automation in their own lives.