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Planning in-app help - Part 1 - Help users over scary steps

3 months ago

It’s a scary prospect, clicking buttons. After years of teaching how to use software, we’re never surprised to hear: “What happens if I click this?”

There’s nothing instinctively fear-inducing about clicking a button; it’s not like the fear of heights or fast moving objects hurtling towards you. However, negative experiences reinforce this fear. Unfortunately, we all have devastating experiences that all started with the click of a button. How can we design a more empathic user experience?

The “send” experience in Mailchimp is charming because it demonstrates empathy for users. Sweat drips from the chimp’s hand onto a RED BUTTON while it hovers… as it’s waiting for you to click send. Mailchimp reminds you that you’re sending an email out to 1000, 5000, or even 1 million subscribers. And you know: that is the multiplier of any mistakes you may have missed.

Jennifer Riggins recently wrote “Why Empathy is the Secret Sauce of Good Software Development” in The New Stack. She advises taking a more empathic approach to all aspects of software development, and bringing the user closer to architects, the QA team, and even Ops. We can design a more empathic user experience.

It’s not UI; it’s me. Where do people need guidance?

Over 20 years ago, Jakob Nielsen outlined 10 Heuristics for User Interface Design which still hold true today. Users are still confronted by unforgivable UIs which cause anxiety:

  • Unclear statuses and states,
  • Lack of control and freedom,
  • No undo option, lack of error-recovery,
  • Lack of error prevention, No checklists or confirmation.

You can design applications to avoid these user experience pitfalls. Can even the best UIs overcome these scary things which cause friction, and slow people down? It seems no matter how hard we try, there are points of friction which ultimately might make people abandon their task altogether.

The fear is real. Many people can relate to this feeling:

Identifying points of friction

Our Analytics can reveal drop-off funnels in user experience. What if your users are sitting there, getting to the point of completing some process, and then... they stop. Is it doubt? Is it second guessing? Perhaps most are variations of feeling like the risk is too great to click that button.

Hotjar is a service which lets you see the frustration and prevarication, click by click, scroll by scroll. Step 2 of their recommended action plan is to look for “barriers” on pages with the highest traffic and biggest drop offs.

You may find that many of the issues are related to issues of trust (in your application or service) and confidence (error prevention, sharing).

Watch out for these scary things:

  • Inputting in personal information
  • First-time configuration
  • Changing global configuration
  • Administering access
  • Sending something
  • Publishing something
  • Uploading something
  • Inviting or connecting to someone
  • Chatting with someone live

With services like Hotjar, you can observe your potential users sitting there, getting to a point and then finally deciding that clicking a particular button isn’t worth the risk. They may need to delay, pause and maybe come back later after a cup of coffee. If they do come back, that is.

Mapping your user experience, where do you need to build a bridge?

These are the points where a friendly, guided tour can help users reach their goals. Imagine the benefit if you could reach out during any of the scary tasks with a step-by-step tutorial, providing confirmations and clear statuses at each turn. Using a walkthrough you could guide your users through some of the trickier steps to offer assurance and encouragement at each stage. The nice thing is, it won’t clutter up your UI for users who are more confident. That’s how you can make your UI more empathic with in-app guidance.

Here are some other ideas for how you can reach out to users at gaps, and help them make the next move:

  • Place Launchers around potential trouble spots.
  • Use Automation to autolaunch tours for first time users, or for existing users when a new feature is rolled out.
  • Offer inline knowledge base articles so users can see help without having to leave the site.
  • Let users dismiss tours with a clear “Got it!” so you can make sure they know help is available when they need it, and doesn’t get in their way.

In the next post, we'll look at how you can apply these techniques to help users, and use the right tools in Inline Manual.


Goodbye, Free tier!

4 months ago

We’re preparing for the next stage of growth at Inline Manual. To meet and exceed the challenges, we need to grow our team and invest in design, development, and support for our customers. Preparing for growth also means we've made the hard decision to discontinue the feature-limited free trial. Many of our customers are also managing SaaS businesses and we wanted to share our thoughts with you on this.

Moving away from free tier

Across the SaaS industry, there's been an evolution in the idea of a Free Tier. “Freemium can be a great growth vehicle,” wrote Liam Gooding, CEO of Trakio, but it can be a deadly killer for SaaS companies. Some SaaS companies have moved away from Free where it didn’t have a good fit. Free plans don’t work and Screw Freemium: Use a Free Trial

Since we started offering our service, we experimented with both a feature-limited free tier and a time-limited free trial. “If someone values a product they'll pay for it” wrote Dave Nevogt about Hubstaff pricing. (Though they still do have a feature-limited free version!) The question isn't free-tier or not, it's about finding the right fit and pricing for your market.

Whether or not to keep a free tier depends on the total cost to maintain the free users versus the conversion rates of free tier users as compared to 14-day free trial users. It also makes a difference if your company benefits in any way from the network effects of having a large no-pay user base.

Scaling in a sustainable way

Often new clients ask us how we’re funded. They ask because they care that we've been around since 2012, and they want to know we're going to be around longer. Though we've been approached by investors, we are self-funded. This means we're not aiming for high-growth, but rather high-sustainability. Our customers are our investors, and now is a great time to thank our customers for using Inline Manual and helping us grow.

For that reason, sustainability is central to everything we do. And the free tier wasn't sustainable.

We pride ourselves on outstanding customer service. We made a choice to grow our Customer Success team to ensure everyone who uses Inline Manual gets support from a real person. There was no way to offer tiered support for a free plan. There’s awesome support or it’s just not support. Scaling this to the extensive free tier is not feasible as we continue to grow.

The free tier was also a limited version of Inline Manual which didn't reflect well on the features and capabilities of our service. We realized it is better to limit the trial by time and not by features.

Instead, we’re extending the hours of the support, and we’re building the team. By eliminating the free tier, we can ensure all of our customers get the full Inline Manual experience.

What about the benefits of a huge audience?

Software services like Facebook or Twitter gain network benefits from having large amounts of non-paying users because they resell user data to advertisers.

For us on the other hand, our audience is made of the customers who pay for their service and the thousands of interactions their customers have with our application every day.

When comparing users on the feature-limited free tier and the time-limited free trial, our free tier users were less likely become paid users. Many of the accounts also turned out to be dormant; they were created and then abandoned. These users needed only a free trial.

Instead, we’ll be focusing on delivering a better onboarding and demo experience for those who are trying out Inline Manual with the free trial.

What about referrals?

We did place branding on the free tier accounts, but referrals from this link were limited in comparison to the great word-of-mouth referrals we were getting from paid customers.

Free tier users could not experience the entire application, such as Analytics, because we could not invest in making this feature available to everyone for free, forever. We suspect that means they would be less likely to recommend Inline Manual and become potential word-of-mouth advocates. Paying customers, on the other hand, tend to come to us for one purpose, and then find the tools can be used effectively in other areas. They see the value when they connect their user data to our application.

Instead, we’re offering flexible pricing which means companies can maintain their costs in relation to their needs. The flexible pricing model helps us keep Inline Manual as one of the most affordable when compared to our competitors.

What we’ll be doing:

We’ll keep in contact with free users during this time to make sure you’re prepared. Here is the schedule:

  • Free tier closed to new users: Users can no longer create free tier accounts effective as of today, November 7, 2016.
  • Free tier end of service countdown: Current users can stay on the free tier until 12 am Jan 1st, 2017. The tours will no longer be available publicly on the end-point websites, but users may still log in to upgrade their accounts.

We do hope you’ll consider upgrading with our new pricing that we hope you'll find is transparent, flexible, and fair. All free tier customers can initiate a 14-day free trial even if they had previously tried it before. We want to show you our new features!


eToro - Learning a new way to invest

4 months ago

eToro, an online financial services company, is an example of creating an entirely new product and service from software, quite different from its traditional analog. eToro takes the best from trading apps and the best from social apps to provide an exceptional service. Research has shown social trading produces better results than trading without guidance and it also yields an improvement over following a single trading guru.

Trading is complex, and using eToro does require understanding essentials about investment. However, eToro provides a free social trading demo account with a virtual $100k budget for practicing.

They use Inline Manual to walk users through the steps to create their first demo account as they learn how to use the platform, and learn about investing in this new way. They also provide a shorter guide for more experienced users.

eToro welcome screen

Much of the functionality of eToro wasn’t even possible before social trading. With eToro’s patented “copy trading” users copy the trades of another investor. The transparency of eToro allows users to see statistics about what individuals invest in, their eToro risk score, and how successful their investments are. Copy trading allows you to take the same positions as a selected investor, meaning if they invest 10% in a stock, so do you at the same rate. eToro also provides risk assessment and monitoring.

eToro are planning more Inline Manual guides to match how people use their product. Looking at user behaviors they have determined where they will go next with Inline Manual. They plan to add one guide for Copy, one for Trade, one for Discovery. They are also looking at Inline Manual’s Analytics to see completion rates, and determine which steps could be removed to create shorter guides.

Inline Manual Listens

Inline Manual has an important place in eToro’s service since it’s integrated into the onboarding experience for users. That‘s why Eyal Sheinholtz, ‎Director of Product Management, Social at eToro, has been glad to see how responsive Inline Manual has been. Eyal described a sense of vitality about the support and product teams as they react quickly to his questions and requests. Inline Manual is “something that lives... It listens” he said.

“The best way to judge a product is to see the way it evolves and develops.” Eyal said that they’ve been with Inline Manual for a while, and “every time I look there’s a new feature.”

Feedback from our customers like eToro is mutually beneficial. It’s a relationship which keeps us growing and keeps our product improving, and our final goal is to help eToro’s customers get onboarded quickly and find success with their social trading platform.


Why auto-launch different onboarding tours for different user groups?

4 months ago

It’s rarely a good idea to develop and maintain an application with different UIs for different users. Yet an ideal user experience is one which is tailored and provides the right level of guidance to help users find their way.

Different users: job comprehension versus solution experience

To design an ideal onboarding experience, you have to make some assumptions:

  • The goals of the user.
  • Their experience level with the subject matter.
  • Their awareness of your application.

Knowing this, you can decide what message and experience will function the best for that user.

To make the best guess, you try to get as close to your users as possible. Through market research, interviews, surveys and analytics you can see how users interact with your application.

The closer you get you’ll realize there is more than one user group and there is more than one goal. One user may be completely new to the sector you’re operating in, and in need of more hand-holding. Another user may be switching from a competitor’s product. That type of user would be experienced with similar applications and bored by excessive explanation.

Unlike many products, software is one that could respond to someone’s prior experience levels. For example, software can take into account someone’s level of “job comprehension” and “solution experience” as described by Alan Klement in Design for switching. Alan proposes that if a user is switching, their prior experience will be different to a user who is new to that type of solution.

Alan Klement manages JTBD.info where you can learn more about the Jobs-to-be-Done framework and how it can help you understand ‘the why instead of the how.’ That is, why people make buying decisions, and using that to design products.

However, he highlights this is a potential pitfall: “from a software complexity point of view, it’s rarely a good idea to have different UIs for multiple types of users.” Rather, he suggests revealing features to customers when they need it.

Adaptive systems

Marketing teams develop buyer personas to understand who they are selling to, and what the right message is for those users. Product developers and interaction designers spend extensive time trying to understand users to make the most informed decisions about users needs.

This creates a dilemma. In the process of developing one product, you discover you have a variety of different users with different goals and prior experience. There isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all solution.

In terms of marketing messaging, companies have become ever more granular in their targeting specific messages to specific user groups. All of that communication generally happens outside the application, such as in targeted email marketing. There’s increasing investment in personalization at the application-level, yet this is also complicated to develop and maintain.

In terms of interaction design, progressive disclosure can hold back more sophisticated functionality as a new user gets familiar with a system. There are a few negatives, though. You run the risk of over-constraining users who later don’t need to have advanced features hidden away.

Both of these solutions are not straightforward or ideal, and they can create a maintenance headache and misdirect your product development.

Onboarding in an adaptive layer with Inline Manual

If you want to start now to respond to different user groups and buyer personas, you can do this with Inline Manual.

Merely offering a list of tutorials won’t provide the right kind of onboarding experience. A Job-to-be-done isn’t a task or activity because that doesn’t address the motivation of the user, nor their prior experience.

To respond to “job comprehension” and “solution experience” as Alan Klement suggests you can create unique onboarding experiences for specific user segments.

Here are three ways you can build in this adaptive layer with Inline Manual.

If you’d like to see how to build an interactive and adaptive user onboarding experience watch this demo of using Inline Manual.


User onboarding at Vincere - recruitment at a global scale

4 months ago

We contacted Annabella Poon, Marketing Manager at Vincere to tell us more about how Inline Manual fits into their mission.

Vincere is a Cloud-based recruitment platform specially designed for recruitment companies of all sizes. More than just a database of records, Vincere’s intelligent pipeline-based CRM/ATS gives recruiters a heads-up display of all activities happening at every stage of the recruitment pipeline to help them manage the end-to-end recruitment process - from getting jobs all the way to shortlisting, interviewing, placements and ultimately, getting paid.

Vincere User Onboarding

Though Vincere is loved for its intuitive and easy-to-use software, the software boasts many other features and configurability options under its hood. Its SaaS-based model also means that product updates are released on a regular basis. Hence they needed an effective way to train existing users on newly added features as well as onboard trial users on the depth of their system. Their users required “on-demand training to suit their learning pace.” Their user base is global, and this means that support had to accommodate for various timezones and languages around the world.

Annabella and her team started with a free trial of Inline Manual, and determined that the pricing and responsive support made this the best choice for them. “Inline Manual provided maximum control with its fast, out-of-the-box authoring tool for marketing team to create, test and push tutorials live with little to zero help from dev team,” she said.

This mirrors the experience of many of our clients, where marketing teams were having to wait for IT/dev support to implement the wizards built into applications. When the numbers of tutorials increase, or when they need targeted tutorials, these companies come to Inline Manual looking for a way to make this process independent of product development timelines. One of the most common questions, particularly from marketing teams is: How much control will I have?

Annabella said that they liked that “Inline Manual is very much a self-service tool but there is support when you need it most.” That’s reassuring.

They chose Inline Manual to create tutorials and walkthroughs which would allow them to train and onboard new users. By creating step-by-step walkthroughs they are able to “enable users to follow and get a quick feel of how things work,” Annabella said. The good news is, they can see the benefit, “We get lesser support tickets to handle and this frees up time to work on other things that will deliver value.” That’s great to hear!

We love that Inline Manual can work great out of the box, but it’s inspiring to see how our clients extend and integrate it. One thing we really liked was how Vincere uses progression tracking to encourage users to complete the onboarding and training. We checked with their Chief Technology Officer, Nigel Gardiner, to ask how they extended Inline Manual. He told us: “The progression tracking was very easy for us to add to Vincere, we simply needed to supply a unique identifier for each user in an API call to Inline Manual, and Inline Manual took care of the rest!”

To find out why companies like Randstad and Michael Page, plus hundreds of smaller growing recruitment firms across the globe choose Vincere, go to https://vincere.io/.

Vincere User Onboarding





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

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