The competition between web apps and products has never been as fierce as it is today.
Your favorite tools have countless alternatives that relentlessly try to be better than their competitors. Although the functionality of products 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 related to user onboarding of web apps and products.
Below are the main questions we will discuss:
- 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 defining what a product walkthrough is.
What Are Product Walkthroughs?
A product walkthrough is an interactive experience that takes the user through the steps they need to take in order to complete key tasks within the product.
Product walkthroughs can be highly effective when done well. When we are simply given information, (like on a tour), it’s only human nature for retaining that information to be difficult. We are much more likely to retain information when we complete the task ourselves, and product walkthroughs utilize that.
Product walkthroughs are very similar to user set-up 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 walkthroughs are also quite different. For setup, users generally expect to be spoon-fed and follow fairly rigid instructions. Users tend to be less patient when it comes to using the product itself.
Which Products Should Utilize 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 generally only one single route that will bring value from the product. Walkthroughs are highly effective in helping users easily discover and understand the steps or these kinds of products.
Walkthroughs can be less effective for more creative products, that offer many different working 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 therefore unlikely to show the user how to do what they actually want to do.
That’s why Canva first starts with just one design in their product walkthrough, which is something you should keep in mind: You can split product walkthroughs into different pieces. (More on this later…)
With 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 also 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 who 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 three 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 occurs ultimately depends on the product.
Take Instagram for example. Does the “value” moment happen when you’re liking someone else’s photo, publishing your own photo, or having the photo that you published liked by someone else?
Product owners should dig deep into their analytics to identify what the value metric for their product is. This is the point of engagement that the user needs to reach within the product for them to understand its value to them. After that moment, they are more likely to continue using the product rather than abandon it.
For example, Twitter has determined that users who follow at least 20 accounts within the first three days of joining the platform are much more likely to become regular users. So, their onboarding approach is focused on getting users to this point.
Walkthroughs should focus on enabling users to complete the task needed to reach 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. As mentioned before, it all depends on what the product is designed to do.
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 more like a bother rather than helpful if the route to success doesn’t have any barriers to circumvent.
For example, you shouldn’t need the camera 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 useful when it comes to more sophisticated features, but the user has probably already met their value metric at this point – so will they even be interested?
Onboarding should focus on what- (if anything)- is standing between the user and their value point, and then 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.
Walkthroughs 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 relying 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, with 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, and they may already be an expert. While you have identified the barriers that exist for most users, not everyone will be affected by them.
- 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
Now that we know the principles of a good walkthrough, what does it look like in practice? Let’s take a look at three examples from web products..
GhostwriterAI is an AI-based platform that helps marketers identify their target audience and involve them 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 no guides or tooltips here because this part is fairly self-explanatory.
After you create your brand and your target audience, their walkthrough starts by introducing the profiler tool to the user. This shows the main elements you can use in this feature.
What GhostwriterAI does differently than other products (which I find the most interesting) is that they do not rush the introduction to their product’s elements. Instead, they take the time to explain the value that an element can provide, as you can see in the walkthrough step shown below.
Additionally, a well-placed GIF or image can help keep your users interested.
In the last two steps of the walkthrough for the profiler tool, we can see that they continue explaining the elements, this time by using custom images to help strengthen their point.
Now that this walkthrough is finished, are we done?
Not quite: There are still many features on the sidebar that we don’t have a clue about. Let’s click on the 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 before by dividing the walkthrough into pieces. GhostWriterAI has many features that function very differently.
If it were to have a single walkthrough that showed every part of the product, it would take a long time and lead to the user becoming extremely bored. Reaching the “aha” moment would be nothing short of a miracle.
GhostwriterAI does a good job guiding users by:
- Creating separate walkthroughs for each feature
- Explaining the value of elements during each steps
- Using GIFs and custom images to keep the user interested
Every walkthrough and onboarding element shown in the images above for GhostwriterAI were created using UserGuiding.
The CEO of GhostwriterAI, Ester Liquori, recently did an interview with us explaining the value that 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.
While creating my first to-do list, the walkthrough guides me around the editor.
What Evernote does wonderfully is that they don’t just show where the elements are – they demonstrate the different things you can do with them using GIFs.
I have to admit that this design is extraordinary.
Another example where they demonstrate the different functions of an element is shown below.
As soon as the guide for to-do lists ends, a user onboarding checklist appears on the left side of the dashboard, which you can toggle on or 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 good example of that.
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 then 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 of:
- 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 by walking you through the main dashboard in just five steps. Once you have completed these five steps, a checklist appears.
Did I mention that checklists are great?
There is another promise on the checklist – it says that you can get started with Ninox in just three 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 really does get you started with the product in only three minutes.
The attention span of 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 on it)
- Keeping the walkthrough simple and pushing the users to their “aha” moments in the least possible amount of time.
Benefits of Product Walkthroughs
Hopefully, having read through the ins and outs for product walkthroughs, there is little doubt in your mind of the benefits of well-executed product walkthroughs related to the challenge of creating the right type of product education.
Good user onboarding and product education means that users start receiving value from your product more quickly, which means that they are more likely to continue using it and will be happier with the product. That 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 just by showing the user what to do, but by getting the user to actually do it themselves. This 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 software to create Product Walkthroughs?
There are many product walkthrough software on the market. But with UserGuiding, you can not only create interactive product walkthroughs, but user onboarding checklists, tooltips, surveys, and much more, without breaking the bank.