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

4 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.
Sign up!

Decision makers: What they need and what you can do to help

4 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!

Last minute in-app gift ideas!

4 months ago

For many of our customers and their users, it’s time for that end of year rush. You probably have some last-minute gifts to hunt down. We have one right here for you. We’ve prepared a Christmas or Holiday Greeting that you can drop in and run with.

The end of the year usually means a bit of a rush. You might be eagerly finishing campaigns and projects, and finalizing plans for the next year. It’s also a time for reflection. Perhaps you want to invite users to look at their accomplishments over the year to celebrate their success with your application.

You can use this starter walkthrough to help users get their work done, and also remind them of what they have achieved.

What’s in the box?

Holiday Greeting

If you're logged in to Inline Manual, you can preview the greeting here.

  • Step 1: A welcome screen with two custom buttons.
    • “Open it!” This button will go to the next step.
    • “Maybe later.” This link will close the campaign.
    • When users close the campaign, it will still appear in the widget by default so they can open it later.
    • How to use it: Customize your message and edit the button text.
  • Step 2: Popover with a custom button
    • How to use it: Customize the message. Put in an offer or invitation in the link.

Logged in? Add a greeting.

Customize the greeting

Use this starter Walkthrough to send users a greeting.

You can also customize the artwork to suit your holiday, whether you want to customize it for Hanukkah or use this for a New Year greeting.

Stuck for what to write? Check out this list of 32 sample holiday messages for business.

Autolaunch your message

Auto-launch this greeting for users the next time they login.

Use rules to create segments of users. Maybe you would like to reward users who are on a certain plan. Or you may want to entice users to upgrade their plan with a new offer.

How could you extend this?

You can add more steps and triggers to your campaign. Here are some ideas.

  • Simply say "Thank you", as we're doing, to recognize that you appreciate your customers.
  • Starting on the second step, give users a tour of time-saving tricks which they may have missed. It’s like giving a gift of time!
  • Invite users to look at their accomplishments. For example, it might be to create a report in your application to see what they’ve done to review this years accomplishments.

Give it a try!

We've set up the greeting here on our site so you can see how it works. You’ll need to be logged in to your account to see the tour. This will also give you a tutorial of how to clone a topic.

Logged in? Add a greeting.

Did you use Inline Manual to share seasonal greetings this year? We’d love to see!

iFrames support in Beta - Seeking testers!

5 months ago

Would you like to get access to the next features and influence the direction of Inline Manual? Our beta program is available on request to our Standard and Enterprise customers.

beta program

Thank you!!

First we want to say thank you!

We recently brought our Analytics offering out of Beta. In that time, we received feedback through support requests, wellness calls, and 1:1 screensharing. This constant flow of communication gives customers a chance to voice their feedback, and they also share creative ideas.

So we must extend a heartfelt thank you to our customers provided detailed feedback which means more improvements. We’ll continue to develop this essential aspect of Inline Manual as you use the tools and tell us about your needs.

We have a new beta test running now, and we’d love to have your participation.

iFrames support in Beta - Seeking testers!

One of the features we’re developing right now is iFrame support.

Some applications or parts of application employ iFrames. iFrames allow developers to embed interactive applications within websites, it’s considered a webpage-within-a-webpage.

Up until now we haven’t supported iFrames. Unfortunately for potential customers, few of our competitors offer support so their options were limited. Now we’re stepping up and building iFrame support so we can help customers who are looking for an affordable and robust solution.

We’re offering this feature now on an opt-in basis. This means you’ll be able to target specific elements within iFrames and create walkthroughs across iFrames.

This new feature is now available on request if you’d like to test it out and give us your feedback. Contact us if you want to know more.

Write great calls to action

5 months ago

Calls-to-action (CTAs) are a primary focus in writing marketing copy. And your in-app help is a form of marketing. You may want to include a CTA as link text, but often you want to highlight the action as a button. Why should you do that and when? In this post, we’ll look at how you can write great calls to action.

Write Great CTAs

At each point someone is using your application, they’re making decisions. To click or not to click? And what to do next? The microcopy on your link text and buttons will have a significant influence on users.

Writing clear instructional text on your walkthroughs, and clear calls-to-action will make the choices easier for users. Good CTAs are important no matter what your goals are.

Whether encouraging users to engage more or supporting users to get the most of your application, the calls to action make it happen.

Stay in style

Users don’t see your in-app guidance as any different from the other microcopy within your app. Your in-app help such as walkthroughs and articles appear within your application, and the experience should be consistent.

Usually, people on marketing and support teams are creating walkthroughs and in-app guidance with Inline Manual. It may be that you have a style guide for marketing, and guidelines for User Interface text. Sometimes these guides don’t overlap, nor do they sync up.

Will you capitalize every word or not? Mailchimp’s style guide, indicates their developers should capitalize every word, including articles. Your guidelines may be different. Make sure to stick to your style guide when writing copy.

Now is the time to connect those dots. If your application has a style guide for UI text, make sure to follow it. Keeping a consistent style in your text and CTAs will be a subtle way to maintain a smooth experience for users. Set Guidelines and keep them up to date.

Tip! Translate the defaults for your control buttons. For example, change “End” button to “Finish” or “Done”.

Calls to action

Make it clear. What action will users take by clicking this link or button? “For example, the copy on a button shouldn’t tell users to click it. It should say where they will go next, or what will happen when they press it.” - Gather Content

Tip! Create a custom button in popovers.

Confirmation buttons

Sometimes you use Walkthroughs to invite users to take action such as registering for an event.

Confirmation buttons pose a classic UI dilemma. Which is the best order for confirmation dialog buttons? Should it be ‘OK’ on the left with ‘Cancel’ on the right? Or vice-versa? The point is, it doesn’t and shouldn’t matter.

“It's often better to name a button to explain what it does than to use a generic label (like "OK"). An explicit label serves as "just-in-time help," giving users more confidence in selecting the correct action.” Nielsen Norman Group

Andrew Coyle, Product Design Lead at Flexport wrote about designing confirmation. He highlighted three good practices.

  • Present the action as a question in the header.
  • Explain the outcome of the action in the body.
  • Restate the action in the confirmation button.

Tip! Add custom buttons

Visual design - Making what’s important more obvious

How can you draw attention to the most important actions? The visual design of links and buttons is certainly a way to help draw user’s attention.

Our brains will tend to notice something which is different in our environment. Making the button larger will get attention, but bigger buttons don’t always lead to better results.

Microsoft’s User Interface Guidelines advise making the most important actions and buttons more obvious in two ways:

  • Make less-important actions into Link text, and using a button design for the most important action.
  • Put the key actions first for the user.

Tip! You can use the design tools to change the button appearance, or you can use custom CSS, here's an example of moving a button to the right.

Upcoming free webinar

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Thursday, April 27, 2017
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