Hey there, I'm Jonathan, a freelance digital consultant, specialising in UX/UI Design.

I help companies design and develop beautifully simple user interfaces. I work with a huge variety of clients including companies like, Smith & Nephew, KLM, Durex and the National Aids trust.

Designing a Blank slate for your Web Application

Posted By Jonathan Clift on 04 July 2014

The blank slate is the page/space your users land on once they've signed into your web application for the first time. If you think back to the last application you designed or developed, how did it look when users signed up and logged in for the first time? Did you provide useful hints to get started? Did you use sample data or screenshots to show off how things will look? If you did then great, if you didn't then read on to find out how you can make your blank slate better next time.

We often ignore this 'blank slate' because as designers and developers we're usually working on an application that has already been populated with good data. Designers will always include good data to highlight different interactions in their designs and developers will always add test functionality. This means that things already look great and it's not necessarily obvious what things will look like for a brand new user. The problem is, whilst most users will only see your 'blank slate' once, ignoring it is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. The good news is that there are a number of easy steps you can take to create a solid design for your 'blank slate', some of which I've covered below.

First impressions and getting started

How will you impress users when they first log in to your web application. A well designed app will emphasise how easy it is to get started and clearly highlight what the first actions are that users should take first. One way to achieve this is by creating a checklist of steps showing what a user needs to do to get started. You could also highlight a key action button, drawing the users attention to it for the first time.

Show sample data or screenshots

Even if you don't have any real data to work with, maybe you can pre populate your web application with sample data for your user to see how things will look. Explain to them that they could play around with this dummy data to help them understand how things work before they add their own real data. Alternatively, a screenshot showing a well populated view might be a great way to impress users with how things will look once they have a decent amount of data.

Incremental steps to get users involved

Don't overload your users with options, try to educate your users in small chunks, allowing them to progress at their own pace. Set clear goals that you're trying to get your users to achieve and provide helpful feedback to keep them updated on their progress.

What will users want to know before they get started

Explain to users where they have landed, what can they do there and what should they do next. A lot of applications will show FAQs or tips the first time they sign in to answer popular questions that all users ask. Whether you're designing a new application or wanting to improve your current one, implementing the suggestions above will certainly improve your Web Applications blank slate. This will significantly improve the User Experience of your web application and set a great first impression to all your new users. If you have any other tips on how to design great blank slate, I'd love to hear about them. [cm_ajax_subscribe id=1]