Notion’s “blank page” challenge

Notion

Notion is facing a challenge that any developer of creative software encounters. I call it the “blank page“ challenge.

What I mean is when users first open the program, they’re faced with a blank page, an empty workspace. They have access to a myriad of unfamiliar tools that enable them to create many types of information. But it’s hard for a beginner to know where to start.

The blank page quickly becomes intimidating to newbies.

“I could create anything if only I knew what it’s possible to create,“ they say. “And even if I knew what I could create, I don’t know how to do so.“ This is the lament of the new user of creative software.

I’ve seen this happen before in the mind mapping software space, where each mind map begins with a central topic. But it takes a bit of thought to decide what you want to add to it, and how to arrange these elements.

How to overcome this challenge

Fortunately, mind mapping software is a lot like Notion in that you can do a brain dump first and organize your ideas later. You can drag and drop map topics into just about any configuration to create a hierarchy of ideas. Similarly, Notion enables you to use the “move“ command to arrange your documents, tasks and other information at will.

In both cases, the only way to get over this hurdle on your own is to play and experiment.

But a savvy software developer can help you through this fear of the blank page by providing tutorials and examples. These resources can give users a better understanding of what they can create and how to do it, step-by-step.

There are two ways to provide tutorials: as text and images, and in the form of videos. Both have their pros and cons:

Words/images

Pro: Users have something tangible in front of their eyes that they can parse through at their own speed.

Pro: E-books and manuals enable users to do searches for specific keywords and phrases – very useful when they get stuck using some aspect of the program.

Con: The user’s ability to follow the steps is only as good as the written instructions and screenshots provided. Sometimes, they aren’t as clear as they ought to be and cause more confusion for the befuddled newbie.

Videos

Pro: Users can see exactly what’s going on within the program’s workspace as the narrator explains what he or she is doing. This can be very helpful to new users, who may not know where certain toolbar icons are located or how to invoke certain commands.

Con: It’s harder to parse through a video a little bit at a time as you try to follow along and replicate what the instructor is doing.

Con: If you get stuck using the program and are looking for a specific tip on how to solve that problem, finding it within a specific video can be very challenging.

Case history articles

Another helpful type of content for new users of this type of software is case histories. They explain a specific problem that a business person faced, why they selected Notion to solve it, how they are using the program and the results they’ve been able to achieve with it.

This type of information is especially useful to people who are still considering whether or not they should invest in it.

You’re in good hands

So what does all this mean for Notion? I recently had a web chat with the company’s new director of marketing. She assured me that a big part of her efforts in the coming weeks and months will be creating content to help new users get on-boarded quickly and to understand how this powerful, flexible tool can be used in a variety of business settings.

For my part, I will be trying to do the same on the Notionist blog. You can help me do so: If you need to know about how to use Notion to perform a specific type of task, or have an idea for a blog topic, please contact me.

The more I know about your needs, the better I can help you! I look forward to hearing from you.

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