Failed Onboarding a New User

Just spent 15 minutes trying to figure out how to offer feedback on your UX for new users and I see it seems I am not permitted to create an account for the forums and no public contact for people that don’t use Twitter or Telegram… but I like what you have to offer so here I am…

And here’s some experience-based product feedback I want you to consider very seriously…

    You’ve placed way too much faith in your onboarding process to teach your user’s how your product works.


Why I chose Anytime:

  • Saw someone give an example on Youtube as an Obsidian alternative
  • I use obsidian because I used to use Notes & Notion
  • I don’t like Notion having control of my data
  • Apple Notes makes it almost impossible to move to another product (how the turns table)

After downloading it to my Mac & iPhone:
I know I did the onboarding, all I remember is, nothing… maybe you’re “Notion-like”(we’ll get to that), that’s it. I was busy and needed to verify it would be a viable solution before I left for a trip.


What prompted me to launch the app a second time:

  • I have a rare free morning
  • I have 3 project to plan that need documentation and a research reservoir

What I see on launch:

  • “My Homepage” obviously not mine
  • “Task Tracker” obviously not my tasks
  • “Favorites” obviously not mine
  • No way to add a new section, page, or note
  • Left Navbar: A mix of navigating to a page and hiding all the other stuff in it
  • “My Notes” in left bar, empty and no way to add a new note… Says “There are no objects in here, create the first one” but no way to add one

I find the “+” button:

  • I get an “Empty” modal
  • an onboarding modal pops-up on top
  • it’s explaining to me about “Sets” and “Collections” using computer science reference… but I need to make a note.
  • Close it…
  • Never see it again, no way to find it.
  • No way to make a note

    A pop-up walk through that jumps into term definitions is not “onboarding,” maybe it’s a tutorial, but it’s definitely a symptom that actual user onboarding has been entirely ignored in favor of the developer’s or product owner’s needs.

How we get here:
We get too close to things, we engage early adopters that love to fiddle and explore, we focus on the cool stuff developers and product owner’s want to do and we end up cutting off our heads and focussing on the cool shit that comes out the other side instead of making sure we’re making something usable.

Why we get here:

  1. We lean on existing paradigms we think people know and value…
  2. We find likeminded new adopters who know and value these things…
  3. We tell ourselves the best place to start is where someone else left off…
  4. We tell ourselves our new users will have left off where we want to begin.

    Spoiler alert: It’s not to learn a new idiosyncratic system that relies on in-depth knowledge of another platform that needs to start with term definitions.

What Anytype onboarding is doing:

  • Here’s a messy kitchen with dishes in the sink, vegetable off-cuts and general ingredients strewn about the place
  • The knife is dirty, the pots are dirty, something is in the oven
  • The trashcan is full
  • Your kid is screaming
  • The Phone os ringing
  • You have a deadline
  • An email is coming in
  • Let me explain set theory before you can clean up the mess we’ve created for you and get to the reason you launched the app

  • What do you need this app for?
  • What’s the first thing you want to do?
  • Why are you downloading a new app?
  • Where would expect to find clues on how this (feature or whatever) works?

    This is very important feedback and addressing this will decide your future.

I’m not being grandiose or self-important; Plenty of perfect products no one uses or everyone stops using for these very reasons.

I watch CEO’s, Product Owners, and Genius Developers sabotage their products like this all the time…

    I abandoned Notion over a year ago, Evernote 4 years ago, and I can’t remember the other “anything” app and Saas products I’ve used… I don’t want another them so don’t expect to learn your way of doing what they do…

I know, adapting our existing patterns is way easier than learning new patterns, but that doesn’t mean we have to present our solutions as adaptations… we just need to adapt to the existing patterns.

“This is a that,” is typically how most people present advancement that did not solve the problem “that” was designed to solve. “This is a horse, but faster” for instance…

“That was a this,” is how most people think about “this” advancement that solves the problem “that” never did solve. “An automobile is people get where they’re going” for example…

    To summarize all of the above, just give me a way to do what I need to do… not a litany of all the possible ways of doing things and the idiosyncratic terminology needed to establish an understanding of how you conceive your product should work.

I’m not saying I won’t benefit from an understanding of the nuanced differences and finer points behind all of your decisions - I simply don’t care and never have.

I don’t pickup a hammer and get people blocking me from using it until they explain the nuances of the handle construction and the specific metallurgic terms which comprise the head of the hammer… I’d rather use a rock, and will.

I know, not everything is as simple as a hammer, not every need is as simple as “must bang thing!” but every tool has affordances and I’d suggest yours especially.

    Well, step 4, obviously… but also, anything you have to explain is an affordance that should be discovered at the time of need or easily learned about when the need arises.

Find out when and where a user needs that functionality and build an affordance in that place for them to use, discover, or learn about the power of Anytype

EXTRA QUESTION CREDIT: Why does the big question mark in the bottom right have “What’s New” at the top, “Privacy Policy” nearest the cursor, and “Help & Tutorials” buried in the middle of 9 options - no matter what screen your on or which component is in it?

ANSWER: You are prioritizing your own interests over your user’s needs.

It’s a lot, I know, but I really want this product for me and I’m a bit bummed.

If you want a first experience voice over and walkthrough, I’d be happy to upload it somewhere… but only if you’ll actually use it.

All the best


Hi @NateRead thanks a lot for your feedback. We just recently decided it is time to put more time and effort into onboarding process. I was just a matter of priorities. Just a couple of month ago every user had to participate in realtime facilitated online onboarding. Now we have to do the work you describe to make it more humane and we will. Thanks for highlighting the fact it is necessary.
Considering your the concrete pains you described, our plans for the end of this year:

  • Ability to create object from widget
  • Clean up preinstalled onboarding objects and make option to purge them
  • New creation flow with transparent way to choose a type including note
    Hope you will see the difference after this updates :pray:

I also downloaded Anytype this weekend for the same desire for an alternative to Notion. Saw the link for the Forum on the Anytype website, but there is only a Login button no where to join the community and no explanation that I need an invite to join. Saw the link in the YouTube About section, but same read-only forum, no way for a new user to join. Finally found (via lots of searches) a post telling me to join by going to the “?” link in the actual product.
I agree with many points @NateRead made. I want to start playing with the product but I have to delete all the pre-installed stuff first and again had a difficult time finding how to do that. Also I recall seeing the Showcase link in the forum somewhere, would be ideal to have a quick link in the left navigation menu.
Glad to see @ignatovv has already replied while I was composing this.


I don’t know what you guys call an object is or what you consider a widget or why one would want to be the other or maybe not want to be.

Have you asked your users if the first thing they want to do is clean up your idea of example content?

Another new user here. Downloaded the app a few hours ago. My main issue is the documentation as it relies on a lot of videos. When having a specific need I just want to find a solution for that need, not watch a video. If your documentation and examples used more text, I could more easily search them with CRTL + F.

Also I found types not intuitive. Unless I created a type myself it should not be called “My type”. Additionally, I somehow do not have the option to create my own types (on Ubuntu, installed via DEB).

Last but not least, my main use case is the quick creation of to do lists between my mobile (iOS) and desktop (Ubuntu). But the iOS app seems to need some work. My main goal is to open the app, open a collection such as “Work to do’s” and immediately write something down (no template selection or scrolling). At the moment the Notes app on iPhone seems like a quicker way to do this, but I hope that this will change.


Hey, new type creation should work just fine on .deb. Do you mind creating a bug report?

Do you also mind elaborating on why you think the documentation has too many videos and not enough text (with examples ideally)?