Inline Manual Blog

"Lets sort out the murky world of documentation!"

Write great calls to action

8 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.

Planning in-app help - Part 2 - Use the right tools

9 months ago

Unfortunately, we all have devastating experiences which started with the click of a button. That is where a friendly, guided tour can help users reach their goals. In the previous post in this series, we talked about the real fear people have when they use software. In this post, we’ll look at how you can identify potential trouble spots in your app, and which Inline Manual tools you can apply to help users.

Today, we idealize software that doesn’t need training. It wasn’t that long ago when most business process software was rolled out with multi-day in-person training. It was costly, time-consuming, and didn’t “stick.” Now, we expect software to be self-service, and work intuitively, like Twitter.

The problem is, some things are just complex, take multiple steps, and we cannot simplify them. And some barriers can’t be solved in the UI. The best example is the fact that there is are many one-day courses to teach people how to use Twitter. Twitter, with one text field!

It’s likely that the users of your software do want training and do need guidance. If you're using Inline Manual, you know that helping people in the context of getting their work done is effective and cost-saving.

Identify trouble spots - and apply the right tool

In our previous post, we looked at some well-known trouble spots in your application and thought about ways we can empathize better with users.

We can see patterns where users struggle:

  • Doing anything which has wide-ranging effects such as global configuration.
  • Doing anything which is “undoable” such as sending something.
  • Taking any action which involves communication, broadcasting, or publishing.

It's at these points where you'll want to add in walkthroughs which help people through these more onerous tasks. Once you have your walkthroughs set up in Inline Manual, you'll see precisely how you can help users make it to their goals.

Need to offer assurance to first-time users?

Our customers often start with a welcome screen, Automated to auto-launch for first time users.

By starting and continuing with this pattern, you can update consistent messages for all users across your application. You can give users news, new offers, and updates. Our customers also report being surprised the level of granularity they can get by targeting users from a specific client, or users of a particular role. What information you have available depends on how you configure People tracking.

Need to help users sift through knowledgebase content?

Use a knowledge base article with context path to make the article appear in the right place.

The Widget is available by default in the lower right-hand corner of your app’s screen when you install the Inline Manual Player. The Widget includes a list of all content such as Articles and Walkthroughs by default, but you can hide it manually. When you click on Articles, they load in the widget. By setting the context URL for an article you can make it only appear within certain sections of your site. This is potentially a huge time-saver for your users because they can get relevant help content without having to search for it.

You can customize the position of the widget and the widget button text. In addition to Articles, you can also list links to walkthroughs, tooltips, or redirects.


Need to offer a beacon of help to users in trouble spots?

This is where Tooltips and Launchers are helpful.

Launchers sit quietly in the UI, offering a familiar “help” icon. When users click it, the launcher can start a complete tutorial, or you can launch users directly into a step further along in a tutorial with a Step Launcher. A Step Launcher can save you time in duplicating steps, so someone can start half-way through a walkthrough, and pick-up in the tutorial in context. These are as helpful for new users as they are for the continuous onboarding experience of existing users.

Start small, test, and iterate

These patterns and solutions give you some idea of how you can help users. The best thing is to start small, test, and analyze. Find one trouble spot, make one small change, and review the results in Analytics. Even in the space of a 14 day trial, with segmentation on a selection of users, you'll be able to see if Inline Manual helps your users.

What you create and how you evaluate your efforts will depend on your objectives.

  • Want to reduce support requests for a specific feature, or for a particular user segment? Try using a combination of in-context Articles and walkthroughs.
  • Want to encourage more users to convert from free to paid accounts by telling users about advanced features in your application? Try using a launcher to highlight a new feature.
  • Want to encourage feature-adoption among long time users? Try using a welcome screen for users who haven’t logged in for a while, and offer them a walkthrough.

The more specific you are with your experiment, the clearer it will be to know if you’re getting value. And we certainly hope you do.

Contact us if you have any questions. We’re always happy to help!

New Release: Now it's easier to browse your analytics

9 months ago

We’re delighted to announce our latest release. We're laying the groundwork for some exciting developments which you'll see soon. We're making improvements to the Analytics features in Inline Manual because this is how you make your products better.

Whether you're using Inline Manual to ensure users complete onboarding goals, or if you're using it to improve conversion - data is the key. You can tell many stories by looking at your results. Reviewing your data in Analytics shows you how to improve your in-app guidance which is part of often in pivotal moments in your user experience.

In this post, we’re highlighting two user-facing changes we know many customers want. And we have an opportunity for beta-testing iFrames support. We’d love to hear from you!

Sign up to our webinar, Wednesday, November 16, 8:00 AM PST/4:00 PM GMT to see updates from our latest release and find out what's coming next.

Browse and access more data

With Analytics enabled you can view the performance of your content, and see where you can make improvements.

Up until this release, if you wanted to review your past Analytics results you were limited to the last 14 days.

Now you can select from the default time periods. Or you can select a date range.

Guess what, we kept all the data from previous dates, so that you can browse further than two weeks already!

Date select in Analytics

There’s a limit of one month if you’re on a legacy Single Site Plan or the Lite Plan. Check out our pricing page to compare the plans.

Who viewed this topic last?

Each topic has its own Analytics results. For example, with multi-step walkthroughs, you can view the drop-off funnels showing how many steps were completed by users.

Now you can also see the last ten people who completed your walkthrough.

Last 10 plays

Search across user interaction

With People tracking enabled, you'll be able to see which users have interacted with your content such as articles or walkthroughs. You may want to know if a client has seen a particular message, or if they have run into trouble and where.

What you can search for and how you sort that data depends on how you configure People tracking. In the screenshot below, we can see the segments we're using in Inline Manual, as well as options based on data we're bringing in from the application: their company and user role.

People search

iFrames support in Beta - Seeking testers!

Are you using iFrames in your applications? With iFrame support, 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!

Join our live demo of this new release, Wednesday, November 16, 8:00 AM PST/4:00 PM GMT.

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

9 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!

9 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!

Upcoming free webinar

Inline Manual Product Demo

Thursday, August 3, 2017
4:00 PM - 4:45 PM GMT (BST) - London
8:00 AM - 8:45 AM PST

Sign up for webinar

Notify me about tips and new features