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What can game mechanics teach us about interactive walkthroughs?

12 days ago

Interactive walkthroughs are one of the key user engagement patterns that came from gaming. Game designers discovered a way to get players up-to-speed quicker. Instead of referring players to manuals - interactive walkthroughs put the user in control. A player sees a sparkling door, they click on the door, and the adventure begins!

What can we learn from gaming to apply to application design, user onboarding and interactive walkthroughs? First we'll look at why we should take gaming seriously. And then we'll look at three simple ways you can make your interactive walkthroughs more engaging.

Make interactive walkthroughs more engaging

Taking Gaming Seriously

The brain is still mystifying scientists. One theory suggests that “dopamine invigorates actions toward desired goal” and another that “dopamine is a teaching signal.” Either way, it looks like dopamine plays a vital role in motivation and learning. And now scientists are looking at how games stimulate dopamine, and how that in turn, increases motivation to continue playing.

We can learn a lot from gaming about stimulating motivation in users. The notion of gamification conjures up ideas of employing game mechanics like badge collecting and point scoring. Yet, Product Marketers and Product Managers don’t need to be so literal with interpreting game mechanics.

Games demonstrate social psychology and concepts in behavioral economics that product designers can build into their applications. So this weekend, why not spend some time playing a game? All for research purposes, of course. The next time you do, observe these concepts in action and consider how to apply that to your user onboarding experience.

Apply Game Mechanics in Web Applications to increase User Engagement

With the first time user experience in mind, here are some tactics you can employ in your plans to slowly reveal advanced tools, functionality and concepts at just the right time in the user's journey.

Each of these game design tactics correlate to design concepts in web applications. For example, the sparkling items or “pulsing circles” in games indicate what players can interact with. In a web application, a Product Marketer can place cues like Launchers which are “baked into the gameplay” of someone using an application. Users can click, launch the tour and learn-while-doing.

Other game mechanics correlate well to web application design.

  • Starting areas in games are like your Blank or Empty States in a web application. Deliberate gaps and clear calls to action motivate users to complete and fill out the missing items.
  • Leveling up in a game can be like Progressive disclosure in a web application. As your skills improve, you get ever more complex spells and harder but appropriate challenges.
  • Immersive game play is like the consistent branding and experience of an application.

Find out more here:

Product Marketers are looking for ways to create custom user onboarding experiences and interactive walkthroughs, which they can’t build into the application.

How can you apply this ideas to the user onboarding experience?

Three simple ways to make user onboarding more engaging

Over at Gamasutra, they applied theories from motivational psychology to explain gamer behavior. What made some activities more sticky and addictive?

Perhaps some concepts are quite gaming specific: “Rewards that are unpredictable (loot drops) are generally more motivating than rewards that are predictable (100 xp per monster)” That type of advice might be trickier to apply in the context of using an application.

There are three ideas Gamasutra highlights which are immediately useful to apply to user onboarding.

  1. Show users progress.
  2. Provide a meaningful reward.
  3. Reinforce the message.

Where’s the best place to demonstrate these three? As part of your walkthrough! Let’s break these down.

1. Show Users Progress

After your users complete tasks, keep track of their progress. Here’s an easy way to do this:

  • Start step 1 of your tour with a check list. This is an outline of what they will accomplish.
  • After each task is completed, display the checklist again, with one item marked off.
  • Continue through the steps until the tasks are done.

This is a simple trick - but it also gives you an easy way to reinforce your message.

2. Provide a Meaningful Reward

Use encouraging words and graphics - but make sure to connect them to a real result. “Great job!” really should mean something.

Start your tours by offering a tangible benefit. We looked at crafting that offer in our post on how to create short and practical interactive walkthroughs.

When users opt in, they should know what the offer is. For example:

“Do you want to [do task] so that you can [gain benefit]?”

When they finish, you should be able to demonstrate the meaningful reward of achieving that benefit. If they signed to get a free valuation or to create a free asset, that is your meaningful reward.

3. Reinforce the message

Don't miss out on the chance to reinforce your message. The final step in your user onboarding tour should relate back to the promise you made.

Remind users of what they have achieved e.g., “You’ve just finished…” or what they received, e.g., “Here’s your new... “ Games tally up experience points to remind uses of the time and work they invested, and what they achieved. In the same way, remind users of what they've already invested in your application. This helps them connect what they did to the value they experienced.

Now you can reiterate your overarching message and the next call to action.

Conclusion

Game mechanics are already widespread in application and software design.

If you take gamification too literally by building in point-scoring or other gimmicks, it might not fit your application. And even game designers can improve their user onboarding game, as Samuel Hulick shows in his recent tear down of the Super Mario Game onboarding,

We should look to games to inspire designs of interactive walkthroughs. By giving your first time users clear goals (quests!) and rewards, help them stay motivated to get their work done, and bring them closer to success with your application.

How many things are truly rewarding in our daily work? We have multiple tasks on our plates every day, loose threads, and open feedback loops. Getting something useful done with a tangible benefit is incredibly valuable, and why not celebrate it?

With a few simple improvements we can make an interactive walkthrough more engaging, motivating. Users will get a greater sense of accomplishment, and the path to success will be immediately visible.

So the next time you play a game, think of how the game shows you progress, gives meaningful rewards, and reinforces the message.


Your product tour is probably too long. KISS it with Task-based user onboarding.

14 days ago

Product Managers and Product Marketers come to us when they realize they need an interactive walkthrough or a product tour for user onboarding. However, we advise our new customers to consider task-based user onboarding. That is, instead of “onboarding features” try “onboarding goals.”

Your product and service value proposition addresses the overarching pain points and needs for users, with your products many features and capabilities. How can you make that tangible for new users without overwhelming them? Tours should offer clearly articulated benefits. Each tour topic can break down a lofty goal into manageable tasks. These tasks- representing the tangible value of your product - get your users on the path to success.

In this article, we look at how to lead your first-time users to the highest impact features to them experience the value of your product.

User onboarding from the users perspective

Change the perspective: Focus on users’ needs instead of your product features

If you’re creating user onboarding content for new users, you’re probably thinking about feature adoption.

We noticed that when product managers and product marketers start using Inline Manual, they dive in deep. They create multiple interactive walkthroughs and product tours with 20 or 30 steps. They pull users across their application with enthusiasm: Here’s this feature! Here’s that feature!

It’s is a classic mistake in product marketing, to focus so much on the bells and whistles of product features rather than the benefits and results that users need.

It also presents a danger. A long product tour is tricky to maintain and hard for users to follow. Long tours present information out of context. You may show them configuration options or features they don't even need yet. Because of that, long product tours also run the risk of failing to demonstrate the key value of the product at all.

Prompt users with an offer they can’t refuse

Turn the tables with your user onboarding content and look at onboarding from the user's perspective. Users don't need learn everything about your product when they first sit down with it. They have a specific problem, and they want to solve it. How can your web application help? To help them, make a reaching goal the result of your first tour.

Start creating your offer by articulating the user’s goals.

  • What are your customers’ most important goals?
  • How do they describe these goals in their own words?

Next, connect those goals to tasks they can complete and actions they can take right now in your application.

Then you must narrow it down. Choose one to start with. An ideal task would be something which has a clear result or end point. Then the final step will demonstrate: “HEY! You did it!”

Now, make your offer by providing a clear motivation. Rather than a vague “Welcome tour” - you invite users to gain a tangible benefit.

  • Do [task] so that you will [achieve goal].
  • Or swap it around to say: [Reach goal] by [completing task].

Here are some examples:

  • Do you want to connect your account to see where you can save money? (Do you want to ___ so you can ___?)
  • Complete your profile so that clients can find you. (Do ___ so that you can ____.)
  • Take the first step to financial freedom by calculating your budget. (Reach goal by _____.)

The offer is the first part of your first onboarding walkthrough or tour.

KISS it: Start with your offer and then deliver it.

Keep these three parts in mind when you’re planning your tour. KISS it. (Keep it simple, stupid.)

  1. Start with the offer as outlined above. Demonstrates your product’s value proposition.
  2. Next, guide users to take the minimum steps in your app.
  3. Land with success. Show them results and congratulate them on what they achieved or created.

For example, say you have an application with brilliant analysis tools, but users can’t see how they work until they connect to a data source. Your interactive walkthrough can prompt the user to authorize the integration. Then show them the results. In these quick three steps, they get to that “A-ha! Moment."

Here’s example user onboarding walkthrough

  • Step 1: The first step is the offer which makes the benefit and task clear. Do you want to [task] so you can [benefit] right now? User clicks "Next" to start the interactive walkthrough.
  • Step 2. Prompt users to take action, by highlighting interaction in your app. User clicks the element, which goes to the next step.
  • Pro-tip: Skip steps which say “click here to go somewhere." Instead, redirect users if needed to the right place in your application.
  • Step 3? Be careful adding each step - keep the tour as short as possible.
  • Final step: Show the results of what they have completed in the interactive walkthrough, and reiterate the benefits they have just experienced.

The great thing is, if this is your first user onboarding tour, then continue to build these task-based tours. Collect them in the Widget where users will refer back to them later.

Widget showing topics and tasks in sidebar

Conclusion

It seems to make sense to focus on feature adoption during free trials. However, that perspective makes it difficult to communicate value. Turn the table and look at it from the user’s perspective. Instead of long product tours, you should start with the simplest tour and make sure it’s goal-driven.

Starting with the offer is important. In this way, you invite to opt-in to taking a tour, so you’re not highjacking their experience. Then when you’re finished, you get another chance to reiterate that benefit and put it in the context of your overall product value proposition.

When your free trial users see that the benefits outweigh the cost, they are closer to conversion. We’ll look at communicating that value in our next post next week.

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Dezrez: Exceeding customer expectations

about 1 month ago

We spoke with Ross Liddell, Operations Director at Dezrez about moving from a Hybrid software model to a fully cloud based SaaS model for their new software, Rezi. As the market has changed, users have become more sophisticated and have different expectations about user experience and onboarding. Many of Inline Manual's customers can relate.

Training Dezrez

People’s expectations for software onboarding have changed

A lot has changed in 16 years of software development. Dezrez has developed software for the Real Estate market in the UK since 1999. Though they were the one of the first in their market to use the web until recently their software was a “hybrid” model, utilising both the cloud and local machines. Moving to a fully cloud based API platform & SaaS model meant more than just changes to software distribution. “We saw an opportunity to change the way we do things,” said Ross.

Ross brings a background which includes both an education in software training and experience in real estate sales to his role overseeing the smooth running of operations there. He also had delivered in-person training for their clients, which suited the old model of distributing Dezrez. They always supported their products with traditional methods such as manuals. However, it takes a lot of time to create them and keep them up to date.

Ross understands well what's required to ensure the internal adoption of business-process software. The fact is, any relatively complex software will require training, and there’s a lot of anxiety around adopting new software. He knew he couldn’t replace training entirely, but they needed to augment it and give people more options for self-service. “My plan is to take away that fear of ‘What do I do now?’” Ross said.

Moving to a fully cloud based SaaS model meant reconsidering how they approach onboarding and training their users. “People’s expectations have changed,” Ross said. “If you look at any traditional products, a big part of their revenue stream is training and onboarding your staff. People don’t want that anymore.” And the requirements of in-person training also meant their ability to scale was limited, and as Ross said, “it was holding us back.”

Ross knew the SaaS model combined with in-app guided onboarding would mean they can meet user expectations and it also allows them to grow and scale faster. He just had to find the right tools.

Why Dezrez chose Inline Manual

While reviewing in-app onboarding services, Ross had a clear checklist:

  • It had to tick the box of being able to be utilized by non-developers
  • It had to be malleable enough to interact with their software the right way.

“The reason I chose it was ease-of-use. I’m not a techie,” Ross said. Inline Manual also needed to be able to interact with how their software worked, and some of the services he tried couldn’t cope. “Inline Manual just worked,” Ross said it was easy to use straight out of the box.

Ross has also enjoyed the Customer Success experience with Inline Manual. He’s found that when he does have feature requests, they are in the pipeline and or the features have even been released since he started using Inline Manual.

Context sensitive help

Dezrez’s clients in the Real Estate industry have lots of industry experience and are now well-used to using software to manage their businesses, such as booking a viewing or carrying out valuations. The in-app guidance Dezrez offers fits in as part of their personalized service to configure the application to each of their client’s needs. The in-app guides offer users a way to recap on what they learn in training.

They looked at the skills required for creating content with Inline Manual. Ross determined that to build the walkthroughs, you don’t need to be a developer; you have to be creative. They advertised two internship positions, and said they were looking for “a creative problem solver.” Two students on work placement built 300 different walkthroughs for users.

That's a lot of in-depth content, so how do they make it manageable for their users? They take advantage of context-relevant walkthroughs. They can offer the right help relating to where the clients are in their process. When you put a property on the market, you’ll have more options within the widget to offer relevant help and guidance. This prevents people having to sift through user manuals to find appropriate help.

Primarily the most positive feedback Ross has received from his team is that they are now better able to make their clients aware of the new and existing functionality. They’ve had the experience where clients contact them asking for a feature request, and the feature exists, the client wasn't aware of it. Now, they can create a walkthrough showing how to use the feature and meet their user’s needs better.

Beyond onboarding

Dezrez originally chose Inline Manual to augment customer service and support. It wasn’t their intention to use Inline Manual for marketing, but now that they have seen the capabilities, they're using it for marketing. “If we’re going to advertise in a newsletter it might get read at 25-30%. And that is good. If you put it in a pop-up, you get 100% views,” said Ross.

His team was also surprised at the level of detailed information they got once they connected Inline Manual’s Analytics to their customer data with People Tracking. They’ve started to use Segments and Autolaunchers to target key customers with messages, for example, to invite them to events.

Conclusion

Making that move to a fully cloud based SaaS model is opening up opportunities to scale and grow for Dezrez. Making that move also means living up to user’s changing expectations around self-service, and how users expect to be supported. More options for self-service and in-app help is now a key component to their continued success.

This is also a highly competitive market, with other software allowing you to do similar things as Dezrez. “We have to make it more interactive and easier to use than the next product,” Ross said.

It’s been great to hear how they are using Inline Manual to meet that challenge.

If you’d like to learn more about Dezrez’s new cloud-based estate agency software, Rezi, check out Dezrez Services.

You can see a demo of how they built their training up here:

Dezrez Training Hub


First time user experience: Don’t make me think, still!

about 2 months ago

By offering a free trial to decision makers, you give first-time users a chance to experience your product and related services. First-time users can only get these benefits if they know how to implement your product and service. That is where your in-app guidance such as your knowledge base and walkthroughs come in.

They expect to have a smooth experience and to fly through with ease and delight. The truth is, first-time users are often under enormous pressure. They expect to ‘learn on the job’ where previous generations received classroom training. The guidance you offer them can be a lifeline to help them understand your product and gain the benefits of your service more quickly.

Software today

Don’t make me think

Interaction design has changed since Steve Krug authored “Don’t make me think!” in 2000. However, the “first law of usability” hasn’t changed. When Krug said functionality should be self-evident, the websites he was writing about in 2000 were mainly informational. The software was still distributed on CDs and rolled out with training.

Since then, expectations around what people can do with software have completely changed, particularly when software moved into the browser. Whereas managers once expected to roll out business process software with classroom training, now they expect their teams to be able to learn on-the-job. People expect SaaS software, in particular, to be entirely self-service and easy to learn.

Software users today can't neccessarily bring prior experience with them when they learn something new. Most of our customers are delivering SaaS software where users have to learn complex processes which are quite different from anything they have done before. For example, eToro users learn a completely new way to invest. So eToro uses Inline Manual to help guide them through the practical and conceptual aspects of being successful with these new tools.

Guiding the first time user experience

Every user of any service has a first-time user experience (FTUE).

First-time users need to know three things:

  • Where am I?
  • What can I do?
  • Where can I go?

Much of the art of software design is making the possibilities apparent and easy to use in the user interface. You relay this information through the UI elements such as buttons, navigation, the calls to action, and microcopy. And then you expect users to be able to parse this information in the UI. That is, without you necessarily knowing anything about the user’s prior experience or their goals.

What happens when users delve into your application and find that there are about 30 different things they can do; and that they can go in as many directions? Instead, you can help users identify their goals and give them help without getting in their way.

Focus on goals with action words

Address the three main concerns of first-time users by offering goal-based product tours which show users how to complete a task.

  • Where am I? Let users start from where they are. Offer relevant guidance in-context.
  • What can I do? Make sure each topic focuses on one task. Show users to get something done while learning.
  • Where can I go? Guide users step by step to where they need to go next.

An easy way to make sure you're focusing on tasks is to start with an action verb. Sometimes when you add -ing to verbs they read as nouns or adjectives, and they also sound unclear and passive. Instead of titling a topic "Creating a new product" use "Create a new product," or instead of "Meeting Room Booking" use "Book a meeting room." This makes it more clear what action the user will take when they initate the walkthrough.

When you’re planning the steps in your goal-based walkthrough, tour or task, make sure you’re helping users discover a distinct benefit, or that it leads them to an outcome. A user should be able to see a direct result or change after completing one topic.

Cut down tasks by focusing on goals

We advise our customers to use goal-based content which is brief and clear. Rather than offering a 30 step tour of your entire interface, break it down. Instead, try to offer not one thirty step walkthrough but three product walkthroughs which guide users through distinct tasks and outcomes for each.

Identify which practical activities are the most common.

  • Which key tasks show the biggest impact for first-time users?
  • Which tasks get users creating something new with your application?
  • Which tasks get users to engage colleagues through sharing, inviting users, demoing/publishing/testing?
  • What is the least number of steps in which a user can complete this task?

Cut down steps to build confidence

Reduce the number of steps in any walkthrough, and be as brief as possible. Fewer steps will give users a feeling of moving through the application confidently, guided by your advice. By being brief, you build trust that any task can be completed quickly.

At the start of your product tours, you may have orientation steps which are needed. For example, guiding users to navigate to a section. Instead, redirect users to a different starting area when they initiate a tutorial and remind them where they can access this in the navigation.

You can also reduce the numbers of clicks users need to make. Use triggers such as ‘hover’ instead of click to respond to user interaction.

You may find there are steps which pop up in multiple walkthroughs. Break those out into a different task. For example, your last few steps may be common to multiple tasks, such as publishing. Instead, break that out into a ‘finishing’ task instead.

Learn more

Users still expect a ‘Don’t make me think’ experience. However, they are expected to complete far more complex tasks on their own than ever before. The demands of their ever-changing roles and the software landscape add to the pressure on them. In turn, they expect your software to be easy to learn and smooth.

In this post, we’ve highlighted some ways you can improve the first time experience with guidance, and keep it brief and focused.

You have to decide what is right for your users and their needs. Think about the people you’re serving and their needs, and how you’re helping them.

Sign up to our Six-week Accelerator Programme to convert your free trial users into paying customers.

Join our 6-week Accelerator Programme

Join us, and each week you’ll receive guidance and a simple task to complete. Your users need to know how to make use of your product or service to realize the value. In our upcoming six-week Accelerator Program we will help you with Trial to Paid conversion. Every step will bring your free trial users closer to conversion.
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Decision makers: What they need and what you can do to help

2 months ago

What conditions need to be met before someone will convert?  If we can understand the stages of the decision-making process, we can build up to the close. We can guide decision makers to the right decision for them, and serve them, not sell to them. In this post, we’ll look at the stages of the decision-making process, and what buyers need at each stage.

Five Step Decision Making Process Diagram

The Decision Making Process

An accepted model of decision making defines Five stages people go through in the process of making purchase decisions.

  1. Need recognition
  2. Information search
  3. Evaluation of alternatives
  4. Make purchase
  5. Post-purchase evaluation

Decision makers come to the point of conversion through a blend of experiences during these stages. You can influence their experience in all stages. They will come across your resources and application as they first recognize their need, seek information, and evaluate alternatives until they reach the point of making a purchase. And even then, you can support them in their post-purchase evaluation.

What resources you provide for them can help guide decision makers through the process, and light the path for them.  The blend of communication tools you use will include webinars, friend to friend recommendations, online searches, your free trial, and many other options.

Stage 1: Need recognition - Identify the need

It all starts with a particular need and a problem to solve. A decision maker may not fully understand their problem, nor understand know how to solve it. During this stage, they seek expertise.

If they are lucky to find your product or service, they will be looking for clear indications that you do understand their problem well. And they will be looking for signs that you know you can solve it. Through this experience, they recognize they have a need, and that there is a solution out there.

What you can do at this stage:

  • Provide evidence that you understand the problem. What are their pain points?
  • Demonstrate this in your content such as blog posts, knowledge base, and support resources.
  • Provide evidence that you have solved the problem.
  • Use Customer stories, case studies, quotes, and social proof.

Stage 2: Information search - The Paradox of Choice.

In the next stage, they seek to find as much information as possible or required to make a decision confidently.

The array of options available now means that any decision maker is now met with a challenge. As Barry Schwartz describes in The Paradox of Choice more options have led to people feeling paralyzed and unsatisfied with the decisions they do make.

What you can do at this stage:

  • Make your product information transparent and easy to access.
  • It should be easy for decision makers to discover pricing, feature, and service information.

Stage 3: Evaluation of Alternatives - The value outweighs the cost.

Finally, they must determine if the benefit they get is worth more than the cost they would pay.

They will look for competitors to compare within a specific service range. You’re probably most aware of your direct competitors with a similar service set. Decision Makers will also be comparing alternative solutions which aren’t direct competitors but solve the same problem in a different way.

The Jobs-to-be-done theory puts the users' problems at the center. This can help reveal other true competitors. If you’re selling carpet cleaners, you may think your main competitor is another carpet cleaner, but it might be a wooden floor instead. Relating it back to software, decision makers may be considering doing it all in-house or kludging something together. Or they may be considering not taking any action at all.

What you can do at this stage:

  • Make the value of your product or service clear.
  • Help users identify the cost versus value for them.
  • Demonstrate that you know what the alternatives are, and their costs.
  • Compare your product or service against not only competitors but other services which meet their requirements in different ways.

Stage 4. Make the purchase - Understand the costs, finding the right fit.

By this stage, they are ready to make the purchase. At this point, all of their requirements have been met.

They confirmed the demonstrated values and benefits. The A-HA moment. They know the benefit would outweigh the cost. They receive the offer and choose the best.

They know there will be a cost, and they will be willing to pay. They have reviewed the offers available and compared. They may begin a negotiation process, but nothing is certain until they close and convert.  

What you can do at this stage:

  • The sales process has to be smooth.
  • Reiterate the value.

Stage 5: Post-purchase evaluation - Retention

Now your customers move into the Retention phase of the customer lifecycle. In the early stages, they begin to understand how to use the product-service mix to realize the value. They implement it. And hopefully, they reap the benefits. You must continually work to remind them of that. You can help them use your product or service to ensure they reap the benefits.

Consider how you are communicating the continuing value to your potential customers. As customers, they will continue to reconfirm the value of the product throughout their experience of using the process.

What you can do at this stage:

  • Guide customers towards success.
  • Lead first-time users to the highest impact features.
  • Make onboarding smooth and fast.

Learn more

In the trial period, you have a unique opportunity to help the decision maker realize the value of your product or service.

What is your role during all stages of the decision-making process? We’ll look at that in our next post.

Sign up to our Six-week Accelerator Programme to convert your free trial users into paying customers.

Join our 6-week Accelerator Programme

Join us, and each week you’ll receive guidance and a simple task to complete. We’ll look at the decision making process and your role in it. You’ll have a clear action to take each week. Every step will bring your free trial users closer to conversion.
Sign up!





Upcoming free webinar

First-time user onboarding: what works and what doesn’t.

Thursday, February 23, 2017
4:00 PM - 4:45 PM GMT (BST) - London
8:00 AM - 8:45 AM PST

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