The competition between web apps and products has never been this fierce.
Your favorite tools have countless alternatives that relentlessly try to be better. Although the functionality of the product is crucial in this race, being able to effectively demonstrate the value of your product offers an easy way to get ahead.
In the increasingly important world of product education, product walkthroughs have risen to the top of the stack as one of the most effective ways to get your users to their “Aha!” moments. In this article, we will focus on the part of product walkthroughs in the user onboarding of web apps and web products.
Below are the main questions we will answer:
- Which products should use Product Walkthroughs,
- How to create the perfect Product Walkthrough in 3 Steps
- 3 great Product Walkthrough examples,
- Benefits of a Product Walkthrough.
Without further ado, let’s start by the definition of a product walkthrough.
What are Product Walkthroughs?
A product walkthrough is an interactive experience that takes the user through the steps that they need to take in order to complete key tasks within the product.
Product walkthroughs can be highly effective when done well. It is human nature that when we are simply given information, like on a tour, it can be difficult to retain. We are much more likely to retain information when we complete the task ourselves, and product walkthroughs exploit that.
Product walkthroughs are very similar to user setup experiences, which take you through the steps required to register to use a product – such as providing an email, setting up a password, uploading a profile picture, and so forth. But these are generally considered separate parts of the user onboarding experience.
This is because user setup is a one-off task that needs to be completed by a new user, but they do not need to retain the knowledge to complete this task repeatedly. User expectations for setup and walkthrough are also quite different. For setup, users generally expect to be spoon-fed and to follow fairly rigid instructions. Users tend to be less patient when it comes to using the product itself.
Which products should use Walkthroughs?
Teaching users how to use products is always essential for success, but the best way to teach a user how to engage depends on the product.
Specifically, product walkthroughs tend to be highly structured and rigid, and therefore work best when there is more or less only one single route to gaining value for the product. Walkthroughs are highly effective in helping users discover the steps on that route.
Walkthroughs can be less effective for more creative products, for which there are many options.
For example, take a design tool such as Canva. There are hundreds of different design templates, and thousands of different feature options. Walking them through a generic design task is unlikely to show the user how to do what they actually want to do.
That’s why Canva starts with one design at first in their product walkthrough, which is something you should keep in mind; you can split product walkthroughs in different pieces. More on this later…
That said, the utility of interactive walkthroughs is not limited to onboarding new users. They can also be effectively leveraged to instruct existing users about updates and new features. You can target walkthroughs at different user segments. For example, you could have:
- Walkthroughs for new users;
- Walkthroughs for all users after the launch of an important new feature;
- Walkthroughs for users that have been using the product for a month or so, but still haven’t advanced beyond the basic features, showing them some of the more complex things they can do;
- Walkthroughs for users returning to the product after a long break.
Create the Perfect Product Walkthrough in 3 Steps
Now, there are 3 steps to creating product walkthroughs that can make you stand out in the competition.
1- Start with your Value Metric
The best product walkthroughs aim to get users to their aha moment – the moment when the product is delivering value for the user – as quickly as possible.
What that moment is, very much depends on the product.
Take Instagram for example: is the value moment liking someone else’s photo, publishing your own photo, or having the photo that you published liked by someone else?
Product owners should be digging deep into their analytics to identify what the value metric for their product is. This is what point of engagement that the user needs to reach within the product for them to understand its value to them, and therefore be more likely to continue using the product than abandon it.
For example, Twitter has determined that users that follow at least 20 accounts within the first three days of joining the platform and much more likely to become regular users. So their onboarding approach is focused on getting users to this point.
Walkthroughs should focus on getting people to complete the task that they need to get to this value point as well. For an online store product, it might be the user listing their first product. For task management software, it might be setting up and sharing the first task.
2- Define the Barriers
No one likes to be spoon-fed, it can feel patronizing and like a waste of time. A rigid walkthrough can seem like a bother rather than a help if the route to success doesn’t have barriers.
For example, you shouldn’t need your camera all on your phone to show you how to take a photo, switch to video, or switch between front and back cameras. All of those steps should be obvious from the UI. Instruction could be more useful when it comes to more sophisticated features, but the user has probably already met their value metric at this point, so will they be interested?
Onboarding should focus on what, if anything, is standing between the user and getting to their value point, and be designed to guide the user past those obstacles. Identifying these obstacles will probably require a bit of user research, usability testing, and seeing where they struggle. This process does not have to be time-consuming – research shows that we tend to identify 80 percent of usability issues from the first five user tests.
Common barriers include:
- Users are unaware of the most important features, where they are, and how to use them.
- Users do not understand the value that they will gain from using particular features.
- Users are missing important steps along the way to completing a vital task.
- They overestimate how difficult it will be to reach a certain point.
- They do not understand the terminology used.
Once these barriers have been identified, you will have a good idea of what needs to go into the walkthrough (and whether a walkthrough is the best approach for educating your users).
Just as much attention should be paid to the design of a walkthrough as the product itself, as it can make all the difference when it comes to successfully onboarding users.
It should be developed iteratively and tested with users, just like every other feature of the product. The best product walkthroughs are:
- Clear – they tell the user exactly how to use the features, and don’t do things such as rely on unexplained jargon.
- Concise – users want to get to the value point as quickly as possible, so walkthroughs should be comprehensive, but as short as possible.
- Engaging – interactive walkthroughs should already be engaging, by definition, they require users to interact and complete tasks. The tasks should be meaningful. The amount of guidance appropriate to the complexity of the step in question, graphically appealing, and using appropriate language.
- Skippable – not everyone wants to have to complete a walkthrough before using a product. They may have used the product before, they may be an expert. While you have identified the barriers that exist for most users, they will not exist for all.
- Additional Support – on the flip side, for some users the walkthrough may not be enough, and they might need more support. This should always be clearly accessible within the walkthrough, for example, a live chat feature.
3 Examples of Great Product Walkthroughs
Know that we know the principles of a good walkthrough, what does it look like in practice? Let’s take a look and analyze 3 examples from web products..
GhostwriterAI is an AI-based platform that helps marketers to identify the target audience and involve it with new highly-focused content.
It is perfect for influencers, agencies, and brands’ marketing departments looking to step up their content marketing game. Now, let’s examine their product walkthroughs.
After you sign up with the product, you are required to create a brand and a user persona, there are not guides or tooltips here because this part is highly self-explanatory .
After you go create your brand and your target audience their walkthrough starts by introducing the profiler tool to the user. It shows the main elements you can use in this feature.
What GhostwriterAI does different than other products that I find the most interesting is that they do not rush showing around, they take their time explaining what value an element can provide as you can see in the walkthrough step below.
Also, a well placed GIF or an image can help keep your users interested.
In the last 2 steps of the walkthrough for the profiler tool, we can see that they continue explaining the elements, this time they use custom images to help strengthen their point.
Now that this walkthrough is finished, are we done?
There are many features on the sidebar that we don’t have any clue about. Let’s click on Content Curator feature and see what happens:
A brand new walkthrough designed for the curator tool starts, so each feature has its own walkthrough.
That’s what I meant by dividing the walkthrough in pieces before. GhostWriterAI has many features that functions very differently.
If it were to have a single walkthrough that showed every part of the product, it could take a long time and the user would be extremely bored, reaching the aha moment would be a miracle.
GhostwriterAI does a good job guiding users by:
- Creating separate walkthroughs for each feature,
- Explaining the value of elements during the steps,
- Using GIFs and custom images to keep the user interested.
Every walkthrough and onboarding element GhostwriterAI shown in the images above were created using UserGuiding.
The CEO of GhostwriterAI Ester Liquori has recently did an interview with us, explaining the value UserGuiding provides for them. Click here to read more.
You can easily create not only product walkthroughs, but various onboarding elements such as checklists, tooltips, and self-help centers; segment your users and access detailed analytics and more without any coding.
Evernote is a note taking app that is available as a mobile app, desktop app, and a web product. You can create to-do lists, tables, take notes, and do much more with it.
Let’s sign up with Evernote and access its web app dashboard for the first time. As you can see below, the first thing that pops up is a welcome message.
After we click “Get started”, we are asked what we want to use the product for, I’ve chosen to create a to-do list, and followed along with the walkthrough.
Now Evernote has various features too, so the product asking us what we would like to create first is a great plus as to get us to our aha moment.
Creating my first to-do list, the walkthrough guides me around the editor now.
What Evernote does great is that they don’t just show where the elements are, they demonstrate the different things you can do with them too with GIFs.
I just have to admit that this design is extraordinary.
Another example where they demonstrate the different functions of an element:
As soon as the guide for to-do list ends, an onboarding checklist appears on the left side of the dashboard, which you can toggle on/off.
There are guides for every feature of Evernote, but they are not mandatory. Remember we said that good walkthroughs are skippable, this is a decent instance.
The walkthrough for the next feature starts as soon as you click the related task on the checklist.
When you finish all the tasks, the walkthroughs end with a message that says “Congratulations” and that informs you that help is always accessible. Pay attention to the message box that appears on the lower left corner.
Evernote does a good job:
- Prioritizing the walkthrough of the feature users want to use,
- Demonstrating the funcitions of elements,
- Not pushing users toward the other guides, but giving them a checklist they can follow anytime they want.
Ninox is a cloud-based data management tool that users can create and maintain databases with.
What makes their product walkthrough great is the simplicity of the guides. As you first login to the product, “your assistant” ensures you it will show you around in just a few steps.
And it delivers on the promise, it walks you through the main dashboard in just 5 steps.
Once you have completed these 5 steps, a checklist appears.
Did I mention that checklists are great?
There is another promise on the checklist, it says that it can get you started with Ninox in 3 minutes.
As you complete the remaining tasks, you see the various parts of the product quickly and understand the value it offers.
And honestly, it gets you started with the product in 3 minutes.
The attention spans of the users is shorter than you think, and pushing them towards their aha moments as quickly as you can is a must.
Ninox sets a great product walkthrough example by:
- Promising users it won’t take long, and delivering it,
- Keeping the walkthrough simple, pushing the users to their aha moments in the least possible time.
Benefits of Product Walkthroughs
Hopefully, having read through the ins and out or product walkthroughs, there is little doubt in your mind of the benefits of well-executed product walkthroughs for the right type of product education challenge.
Good user onboarding and product education mean that users more quickly start receiving value from your product, which means that they are more likely to continue using it, and they are happier with the product; which provides opportunities for upselling, creating fans that advocate for your product, and much more.
While this is true for all good onboarding and product education, walkthroughs stand out because they teach not by showing the user what to do, but by getting the user to actually do. Doing makes difficult concepts easier to grasp, and makes what is learned easier to remember.
That is why interactive walkthroughs are one of the most powerful methods of successfully educating users.
Frequently Asked Questions
❓ Why should I use a Product Walkthrough?
In order to educate your users and push them to their aha moments, you should utilize a product walkthrough.
⌛️ When should I use a Product Walkthrough?
A product walkthrough is necessary during a new user’s onboarding, but it can also be utilized to educate lapsed users or after a product redesign.
🔧 What is the best tool to create Product Walkthroughs?
With UserGuiding, you can not only create interactive product walkthroughs, but user onboarding checklists, tooltips, surveys, and much more.