Do you remember Clippit (better known as Clippy)?
Microsoft’s overly eager virtual assistant who couldn’t take a hint—incessantly popping up to help users with menial tasks. Clippy’s algorithmic heart may have been in the right place, but his unannounced drop-ins delivered more annoyance than assistance. Clippy met his demise in 2007 after he was officially fired (we’ll say early retirement). His famous last words? “It looks like you’re writing a letter. Would you like help?”
As New York Magazine shares, during a postmortem, a Microsoft employee attributed Clippy’s fatal flaw to being “optimized for first use”—only taking into account novice Microsoft users. Had Clippy targeted his help based on users’ behavior and engagement, his saga may have ended differently.
Don’t make the same mistakes as our clingy clip friend. Your in-app tutorials and guides, such as walkthroughs, need to be segmented, well-timed, relevant, contextual, and clear. Here’s our walkthrough tips to ensure your guidance helps, and doesn’t hurt, your product adoption.
But to start, let’s walk through the basics. (If you’ve got this down, scroll ahead to the tips.)
What is a walkthrough?
Walkthroughs are multi-step guides that integrate into your product’s web interface and direct your users through specific features, showcase the application for new users, or simply display content to the right person at the ideal time.
- Make sure your walkthroughs integrate with systems that contain customer data (including applications, CRMs, support ticketing systems, finance systems, email, and more), so it has a very deep and broad understanding of customers’ behavioral data. This makes your walkthroughs smarter and more targeted, and therefore, more relevant to customers.
Why use walkthroughs?
Walkthroughs accelerate time to value (the amount of time it takes a customer to realize value from your product), which drives feature adoption, and ultimately, customer loyalty. As a self-service guide, walkthroughs lighten the dependency on Customer Success and Product teams to demonstrate functionality while still providing a personalized user experience at scale. Their primary use is during onboarding to teach new users how to navigate the features that are most relevant to achieving their business goals This is important since we know that your churn rate is deeply connected to the quality of the onboarding journey your users go through. The section below outlines the common use cases for walkthroughs.
Walkthrough use cases
Onboarding and product tours: This is the most popular (and critical) use of walkthroughs. Onboarding needs to sell users on adoption by focusing on the benefits. Showcase sticky features that shorten time to value and achieve the greatest effectiveness.
Ancillary features: During onboarding, your user is getting acquainted with your product. Don’t overwhelm them by introducing ancillary features that aren’t vital to achieving their primary goal. Highlight non-essential features, such as shortcuts, during a subsequent session once your users’ engagement is steady and they’ve had a chance to poke around. Providing too much information, too soon, is a surefire way to get ignored and forgotten.
- Example: Show the “Did You Know?” walkthrough the third time a user has searched in your system but has not saved that search for quicker results.
- Example: Show the “Super Admin” WalkThrough for users who are “Admin” users at “Enterprise” accounts that have been “Onboarded.”
Proactive support: If your support team receives many of the same feature-related questions, create a walkthrough to proactively show users how to use a feature that may be less intuitive. This will alleviate the influx of tickets to your Support team and offset redundant requests.
Tech-touch: Use walkthroughs to augment support for your tech- or low-touch customer base and provide valuable tips while limiting direct Customer Success and Support interactions.
New features: When you release a new feature or redesign an interface aspect, walkthroughs are a timely way to debut your latest enhancements—reaching customers in your app when they’re most engaged.
Underused features: Power walkthroughs with your customers’ behavioral data and deploy in-app guides for high-value, sticky features that are underused. Feature usage will differ depending on the account’s or user’s goals and product proficiency, so it’s crucial to target these variances.
- Example: Show the “Don’t Forget About This Feature” walkthrough after a user has been with you for three months or more, logged in five times, and has given you an NPS score of six or above.
Upsells and cross-sells: For users who are highly engaged with your product or a specific feature, use walkthroughs to promote relevant upsell and cross-sell opportunities. Analyze your power user’s product usage data to find the leading indicators of those most likely to upgrade and expand.
Increase your product adoption with these walkthrough tips
Walkthroughs need to begin to materialize the value proposition that was sold to the customer in just a few quick steps. With finite, shortening attention spans, provide your customer with only the absolute essentials to avoid diluting your message and weighing them down with excess information. When creating a walkthrough, you must consider your target audience, value, copy, offer, and distribution. If one component is lacking, its detrimental to the walkthrough’s effectiveness. Walkthroughs are pivotal to successful product adoption—don’t make your customers hunt for value, lead them directly to it.
Maintain relevance with segments
As with any message meant to convince and compel action, you must know your audiences’ personas, goals, behaviors, and motivations. It’s important not to generalize customer data and create the same walkthrough for everyone (like Clippy). Here are a few examples of smart segmentation that put the user first.
- Administrator user vs. end user: Both roles need guidance, but the level of detail will differ. Consider their daily tasks, usage frequency, and key performance indicators to tailor your guides. An administrator likely needs additional instruction on how to configure permissions, reports, and integrations as well as access user data and logs.
- Trained user vs. untrained user: For a user who attends a product training, you might create a simple three-step walkthrough as a quick refresher. Whereas for a user who didn’t attend the same training, you might create a walkthrough with two to three times as many steps.
- First-time user on a new product vs. legacy user on a new product: If you’ve recently moved to a new version of your product or feature, you can create a walkthrough for users who are entirely new to your product and a walkthrough for users who have experience with the prior version. For brand-new users, you may want to start at the first step in the process, but for experienced users, a simple popup reminding them that the “Save” button has moved from the top left to the bottom right would suffice.
“What’s in it for me?”
This is what your customers ask themselves every time they interact with your product—and your walkthroughs are no exception. To engage your customer, you need to answer their foremost question: What do I get of out this? Focus on their motivations and use their knowledge gap to your advantage by positioning your walkthrough as the bridge to take them from disempowered to confident expert. For example, see how the below tool tip positions using the blog feature to become a thought leader (the customer’s real motivation).
Image: ChurnZero’s WalkThrough tool tip
Walk, don’t run
It may be tempting to show a new user all the functionality that your product has to offer but you need to teach them to walk before they can run. Going from zero to 100 will cause your user to stall out or veer off course—and suffer a disorienting whiplash.
- Aim for no more than four steps in your walkthrough. Caveat: This figure is meant to serve as a baseline since the number of steps will vary based on product complexity. Remember, you can invite your users to learn more by linking to relevant outside resources, such as a knowledge base, instead of cramming your copy or adding extra steps.
- In your first message, tell users the level of effort involved in completing the walkthrough, so they don’t feel like they’re aimlessly clicking through with no end in sight. For example, we describe our onboarding walkthrough as a “quick 5-step tour.”
- Avoid making your walkthrough a tour of hodgepodge features. Guide users to achieve one goal to reach a faster time to value. Your user shouldn’t feel like a ping-pong ball darting around your interface with scattered objectives.
Using GIFs in your walkthroughs can be both instructional and fun. If you can’t easily explain a feature in a short description, add a GIF that captures the functionality in action to supplement your instruction. You can also add encouraging or celebratory GIFs, when thoughtfully placed, to complement your message such as the last pop-up in an onboarding flow or a new, long-awaited feature announcement.
Stay on brand
Walkthroughs live within your product so they should have the same brand look-and-feel. For onboarding walkthroughs, this will likely be the first interaction a user has with your product so make a good first impression.
- Use bright background colors to make your messages stand out and demand attention. Avoid shades of the same color as they tend to blend.
- Showcase your brand personality in copy (where appropriate) but not at the cost of concision and clarity. “If your product sounds human, it’s easier for people to trust you. Open up to your users, and they can open up to you,” as UX Collective shares in their article on the magic of microcopy. Don’t underestimate the power of small details.
Use first person and action verbs
- Use second person (you, your) in body copy, but use first person (me, my) in call-to-actions (CTAs).
- Use merge fields (especially in your welcome message) to address your user by their first name or company. This small, personal touch grabs their attention.
- Instead of “Next,” use inspiring, conversational CTAs that put the user in the driver’s seat, encourage their progression, and reinforce the action’s outcome (WIIFM). For example, try “Got it.” “Awesome. Keep going!” “Show me.” “Take the tour.”
Image: ChurnZero’s WalkThrough tool tip
Don’t undermine users’ intelligence
This goes back to knowing your audience and their technical adeptness. If your users are proficient in application basics such as recognizing that a leftwards arrow (←) moves to a previous screen or an “X” exits a screen, then don’t waste their time reexplaining elementary functions.
Try time-based guides
Most walkthroughs are triggered by a page view or feature click, but you can also add a conditional rule based on time parameters. This is helpful to guide users through features they don’t use daily, but still need to access on a monthly or quarterly basis, such as creating a report.
- Example: Show the “End of Month Reporting Automation” walkthrough when a user signs in during the last week of each month.
Do the hard work
You’re likely not going to nail your walkthrough the first time—and that’s to be expected! You’re making educated guesses and using best practices to inform your execution, because you can’t know what works (for your specific product and audience) until you try it. The biggest disservice you can do to your walkthroughs is setting and forgetting them. Adopting an iterative mindset is the only way you’ll achieve an optimized user experience.
- A/B test walkthrough factors like length, color, images, videos, sequence, copy, screen placement, and timing.
- Test your onboarding walkthrough with new employees who have a fresh, impartial opinion of your product. Once they gain adequate product knowledge, their objectiveness is compromised. You can also test with other internal departments that are infrequent product users.
- Regularly review your walkthrough analytics to stay on top of your flows, understand how customers engage with your touches, and prove the effectiveness of your efforts.
Image: ChurnZero’s WalkThrough report
Walkthroughs reduce adoption friction while empowering users to be self-sufficient learners as they discover the power of your product. With step-by-step guidance, walkthroughs allow users to navigate your product with ease and stay focused on the features that will drive the most value.
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