HowTo is a mobile reference application, designed to be an educational resource for older users struggling with technology. This is a gamified learning tool with meticulous design choices intended to alleviate stress and discomfort. The tutorials are clearly organized, easy to navigate, and bound by consistent brand standards to establish a bond of trust with the user.


HowTo is a mobile app to serve as a reference guide for digital technologies, designed with older users in mind. We deliver vetted instructional content through a consistent mobile interface, intentionally designed to be comfortable for users who are generally uncomfortable on digital platforms. Our app is a gamified education tool which uses the choose-your-own-adventure model with a  helpful, but not overwhelming, list of options. Users have the option of quickly looking up tutorials as they need them, or moving through a curriculum with built-in quizzes to encourage mastery of skills, or any combination.


In the midst of shelter-in-place and social distancing, people find themselves more dependent than ever on technology, and without the in-person sources of support and instruction they might be accustomed to. We worry that people who did not grow up with digital technology or who feel generally uncomfortable with it will find themselves at a high risk of being socially isolated and/or unable to use the technologies necessary to carry on with their work, shopping, news, etc. Through interviews with people who self-identify as “bad with technology” we heard repeatedly that IT support lines, and calling friends and family for help with digital tools were their main recourse, and that these solutions did not work well. Our app is designed with these users in mind, who need a thorough and accessible explanation, who need the same explanation repeatedly to learn a new skill, and who don’t always know exactly what tutorial will teach them what they need to know.

Core Game Design

The platform we are imagining is a combination of a choose your own adventure core loop with many optional quizzes available for users seeking to master the tutorials they are taking. The user is presented with a menu of different products which they can learn, the user chooses among these and then is presented with a menu of core skills necessary to best use that product. The user then chooses the core skill they are interested in learning and is presented with the tutorials on that subject. If the user is looking for a quick answer, they should watch the relevant tutorial. If the user is looking to learn and master a new skill, they should work through the in-app quizzes. Our player experience is primarily meant to be comfortable, we imagine our user coming to this app in the midst of frustration. We worry that existing reference materials on digital technology would exacerbate frustration by being difficult to navigate or so simple that they are redundant. We aim to be a platform with a depth of possibility such that the reference material can be as mundane as the user needs and not more or less.

Core Design Flow Chart

This flow chart explains the content available on our app and a birds-eye-view of how it is organized.


The user is someone who struggles with the digital technology they depend on. They have been frustrated by past education with technology which confused them, or answered their question in the moment but did not teach them for the long term, or was too frustrating to navigate. They are looking for a product with minimal cognitive burden, as they come to it already frustrated by technology, and which they trust to not upset them further, and have the answers they are looking for in a findable place.

The ‘World’

The user moves through a world which is easy to navigate. The app is well-organized by product, service, and tool. Content producers must make tutorials and quizzes which follow consistent brand guidelines, such that the user can begin to intuit how tutorials will be organized and better find what they are looking for. Brand-consistency among the tutorials will also establish trust and familiarity with the user, and ease their cognitive load.


The brand guidelines are sensitive to color schemes which are friendly, but not busy to facilitate the emotional experience of being in a safe environment while still stimulated enough to learn. The app uses logos to identify the tools and technologies at hand, so that the right content is easily findable for someone novice. Light background music at the opening of the video is meant to strike a balance of stimulating the user, but it is short in duration so as not to be an annoyance.


Content creators can create and submit their own tutorials in accordance with the brand guidelines, such that each tutorial follows a standardized format. Content creators therefore become the instructors which the user will associate as the faces of HowTo, they should speak clearly and with levity and come across as warm, confident, and thorough teachers.


HowTo conceives as levels as the process of building mastery over new skills. If a user is stuck and in need of a quick explanation, they should simply navigate to the relevant tutorial and watch it until they can solve their problem. If, by contrast, the user is looking to become more fluent with a new skill or platform, they should watch the curriculum in order and take the quizzes along the way which will ensure that they establish holistic understanding of the tool they are using.


HowTo is careful to provide a user experience which is viscerally pleasant for the user, but not overly complicated, as it is designed for users who feel uncomfortable with digital technology. The process of navigating the reference application is as straightforward and minimalist as can be, we add visceral pleasure in the form of a quick congratulatory jingle played once a user has completed a tutorial, passed a quiz, or mastered a new skill. We also keep a trophy case of quizzes mastered, which facilitates the user seeing an accomplished technology student projected onto themselves.

Screenshot Prototype