Inline Manual Blog

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Take control - Part 1 - When DIY is not A-OK

7 months ago

Though some of our customers are new to creating guided tours, many do have experience with building walkthroughs developed and controlled by their product development and engineering teams. At some point, they outgrow this process and come to Inline Manual.

Naturally, one of the most common questions we hear when they join our webinars and demos early in their search is “How much control will I have?” Or as one client put it more plainly: “Can I get this out of the hands of engineering?” Ouch.

DIY is not A-OK

At the start, development or engineering teams implement open source libraries to build tutorials, tooltips and tours right into their applications. This works really well for a little while. Marketing teams see people are completing their onboarding, the support teams see less tickets. Everyone is happy! This works for a little while, until suddenly it just doesn’t.

Especially when the teams are small, it means communication is easy, and any required changes can be made quickly. As a small company grows, or of course in larger companies, the people who see the need to build those tours are based in the marketing or support teams.

This means requests for changes to tutorials get filed alongside bug reports and feature requests. In terms of priority, this means they may have to wait days or weeks to see their changes made. Each request must be carefully communicated, because any further change means yet more delays.

This means they have a number of problems.

What are some problems a DIY approach creates?

  • Authoring and creating content is slow.
    • Requests for changes can take a long time to fulfill. Even with simple text changes, each new alteration is a new “work request” or backlog issue, subject to the prioritization of product development.
  • It’s not possible to change content on the fly.
    • Depending on the workflow, it can sometimes mean a marketing team member must hand over a document which carefully specifies the text, directions, and click actions to design a walkthrough. They have to include marked-up screenshots to even show where to place the launchers or tooltips. Then this has to coded and developed with skills only a developer has, and precious developer time is tightly time-boxed.
  • Not on the same schedule
    • Because of the reasons described above, though the marketing team might need a tour to be updated now, they still have to wait until the planned release to see their changes live.
  • No Analytics. Lack of visibility into results.
    • The teams who need to track results have little insight into which content is performing best, and where people are getting lost in drop- off funnels. They may be using site analytics, but it’s difficult to identify where the content is helping or not.
  • It’s time-consuming to develop and test.
    • Selecting the right elements, testing, and managing the tours - it all gets complex when you’re taking a code-only DIY approach to managing the content.

We hear about these issues from our new customers. These are not terrible tales of woe. These are normal, practical problems and friction they deal with day-to-day. And, it was all probably manageable until it became clearly too costly and time consuming. Small frustrations like these seems to build up until it’s just too much.

At some point, they come to the conclusion that the time spent in communication, coordination and development of product tours could be better spent by moving control over to the marketing and support teams who are closely monitoring user engagement and needs.

The problem is, our potential customers must evaluate all of the onboarding solutions out there, find a good one and then finally, convince their engineering teams it’s time to let go.

What is engineering concerned about?

Considering the amount of friction a DIY solution can cause, you have to wonder then, why would engineering teams be so unwilling to let go of this? When their response is delayed, it can make marketing and support teams feel like communicating with customers is must be considered low-priority by engineering teams.However it’s more likely the opposite, that the engineering teams do hold this as very high-priority, and they want it to be as high- quality as their app, QA tested, and seamlessly branded.

In fact, engineering might be afraid that using a third-party solution will mean it would be inferior to what they can craft bespoke for their application. Let’s consider their concerns.

  • What about the lack of design control?
    • They want to be able to control of the CSS entirely. They want to inherit or reuse the existing CSS from their application so updates are easier to manage. They don’t want a third party solution confusing their brand experience.
  • What about the display, positioning, placement?
    • They’re concerned about being unable to control where tips appear, by either choosing selectors, or manually editing selectors, and placing where they appear.
  • Do we want to do maintain yet another third party service?
    • They might worry about having to reconfigure every time a third party service updates. Or having to engage a third party service who charges for yet more professional services just to make the basic features work as expected.
  • What about the lack of QA and testing? Don’t touch the live site!
    • They’re worried about letting support and marketing teams edit interactive elements which will be edited LIVE on a LIVE site. That is crazy talk. They prefer clear points for QA, testing and deployment. They don’t want to deal with kludgy workarounds of copying or re-creating tours.

Finally, and this might sound harsh, but some extent Engineering teams feel guilty about adding tutorials to apps. It’s a delicate subject to broach. Admitting your UI needs a tour is like saying there’s an inferior user experience that needs an interpreter. User experience designers may, as Kathy Sierra said, think a product should be so good it doesn’t need a manual.

Engineering teams therefore might feel the issues could be fixed with a better design. Maybe they have to tweak the UI or add another feature? And this explains why product-specific issues can take precedence when there are requests for updating a product tour.

Of course engineering will continue the conversation with users to find tweaks and improvements to the interface. What engineering teams don’t know yet is that by having contextual help, tutorials and auto-launching tours they can provide a more empathic user interface which gives support to different customer groups even better than they can in their UI.

For example, new users might leap delightfully into a new UI or feature, and yet existing users might need more hand-holding to manage the change to un- stick their habits. There are also certain kinds of users to playfully discover in a UI, and other users who really want assurance the entire way.

Perhaps there isn’t even a clear way to tweak the UI to help all users. But a guided tour can, and perhaps even smarter by providing specific user groups the right messages. When the engineering and product teams give control of this layer to their customer-facing colleagues, they can have a more emotionally responsive and helpful UI. And, it can save hundreds of support requests from existing users asking “who moved things around here?”

In Part 2, we’ll answer your questions about how much control you’ll have when you’re using Inline Manual.

Continuous user onboarding - Part 3 - In-app trouble spots for redesigns

7 months ago

In Continuous user onboarding, we explored how to take what we do with new user onboarding, and apply those same techniques to keep users engaged and informed.

Our customers are looking at ways of improving their customer retention. They want to make it easier to tell their users about the benefits of their new features. To do that, they auto-launch greetings and offer their users step-by-step tours, as we showed in Part 2 tutorial on adding personalized greetings.

In this tutorial, we’ll see how to place tooltips and step launchers in potential trouble spots in your application.

Why do you need tooltips or launchers anyway?

It’s ideal to design “a perfect user experience” which tests well with new users and is clearly going to be a major improvement to your UI. However, it might not be perfect for everyone.

When you roll out a new version of your application, suddenly users can get lost in this new workflow. It’s not working as they expected. You find out when they start sending support tickets. And those are only the ones who took the time to contact you.

Our customer, Bannersnack, recently relaunched a new UI design. Their development team had researched user needs to improve the UI to help their users create effective ad banners even without graphic design experience. Of course the loyal users did love the new UI because it addressed each one of their concerns in the new design. Yet they needed additional help, and it’s no wonder. What had become automatic actions were now interrupted, meanwhile, new users would have no built-in expectations, and they took to it easily. “Most support requests about the redesign came from existing users,” said Andrew Tiburca, Marketing at Bannersnack. So they decided they wanted to have a tool to explain new features to their users. That is where Inline Manual comes in.

Here are some ideas of how you can add tutorial in potential troublespots in your new redesign.

  • At a point where the UI has changed
  • Around the location of a new feature
  • Draw attention to a new section or tab on your UI

What are tooltips and step launchers?

Launchers sit patiently in your app, inviting curious users to click them.

A tooltip provides additional information and help for users without cluttering up your UI with explanatory text. A step launcher on the other hand can guide users into a step-by-step tour or tutorial to help them get their work done. You can launch a tour from the start, or add a launcher to specific step so the users can skip ahead.

Both tooltips and step launchers contain two parts:

  • There is a launcher, for example a small question mark is commonly used.
  • There is content.
    • Create a Tooltip if you have a pop-over message you want to share.
    • Create a Walkthrough and add the launcher to a step.
Next we’ll show you how to create a tooltip.

How to add a tooltip

In this example, we will add a tooltip to highlight changes to this form. We have content editors adding products to this site, and we’ve added a new feature for out of stock products.

The tooltip launcher appears in as (a question mark on the left). The tooltip content appears as a popover to the right.

Add the tooltip

Open the authoring tool and add a new Tooltip.

Configure the tooltip

In the Tooltip panel you can adjust the position of the launcher and the step popover.

  • Assign Launcher, I assigned the launcher to appear to the right of the sidebar title.
  • Assign Step, I assigned the step to point to the slider which is my new feature.

Set this launcher to always be visible. Next we can set it so it’s only visible on this particular page.

Configure the launcher

In the Launcher panel, set the context path to make sure the launcher only appears on pages at this path: /node/add/* This is a good thing to do with every tooltip or launcher to add. This optimizes the performance.

In this case we had to slightly adjust the positioning, which is set under Offset. If we wanted to, we could change the content here from a question mark (?) to an exclamation mark (!) for example.

Now you can save your Tooltip and you’re ready to go.

Other ways to use tooltips:

Imagine a case where you have many changes in the UI. You can create multiple tips to highlight what is different in the UI.

  • In this case, users can click one topic launcher to activate the tooltips.
  • And then all the tooltips are active and visible.
  • When they dismiss one tooltip, it deactivates all of them.

How to do this

Add several tooltips which are only visible when Active.

If you’re already using tooltips, this is a handy way to group them together and make them easier to manage as well.

Next, add a Launcher

Set this Topic Launcher to always be visible, and make sure to configure the context path, so it appears on the right page and subpages.

Now when users click the launcher, it will activate the rest of the tooltips on the page.

Launchers are really helpful. You can add them to any step, and launch users right into a step-by-step walkthrough. See how to add a Step Launcher for more information.

Responding to a worst-case scenario: Fast

It’s natural to be optimistic, and hope everything is going to go smoothly. Sometimes with redesign launches new bugs are reported, which it seems can only be discovered after you’ve gone live. Murphy’s Law seems to be in effect!

When things don’t go smoothly, many companies put on more support staff, extend their hours and wait for the improvements which can take weeks or months.

The great thing is, you can respond quickly by creating a launcher in a trouble spot in your application. The marketing and support teams can be fully in charge of building tooltips and launchers. They don’t have to wait until a new version of the application is deployed. Inline Manual runs completely independently.

The development team can focus on the important bug fixes and improvements, and meanwhile the users can have a better experience.

If you’re wondering how to get started with Inline Manual, please sign up to our webinar Thursday, 22nd September

Read the other posts in this series on customer retention.

Triggers now with branching - react to user activity with more flexibility

8 months ago

The trigger is the most important component that advances a user’s progress through your walkthrough. With triggers, you can react to user activity and bring users to the next step in reaching their goals.

How do triggers work?

A trigger has three parts

  • An event: What does the user do? Click something, hover over something
  • A destination: Where should we go? Jump to a step in the walkthrough.
  • An assigned element: What are users interacting with in your UI? By default this is the step element, but each trigger can be assigned to its own element.

For example, you might have a step where users click the assigned element, and the walkthrough advances to the next step. Or you may have a step where users have several potential options to choose from, and each should go to a specific step in your walkthrough. These are examples of when you’d use Triggers. Without triggers, you have no way to get users to the next step in a walkthrough.

Check out the help page for an in-depth look.

Major trigger update!

We’ve just updated Triggers to give you more control over the types of events you can respond to and also where users can go.

  • More mouse events. With the addition of Mouse enter and Mouse leave, you can respond better when users interact with dropdown menus or other elements which appear on mouse hover actions.
  • Go anywhere! Before, the only available action was to go to the next step. Now you can go to the Next step, Previous, any step available in your tour, or even deactivate the topic.
  • Easier to identify multiple triggers. Each new trigger is color coded to make them easier to identify. Click the eye button and the element you have selected which be outlined in that signature color. colour coded
  • Sensible default options, with Expert control available. When you assign an element, our Authoring Tool will choose the best and most specific element. However you might want to manually edit this selection, and you can now by clicking “Expert” mode.

These changes make it easier to create triggers to respond to user actions in your UI.

Easier to manage Dropdown menu actions

Say for example you have a dropdown menu, and by Step 2, you’re directing users to select from a sub-menu of options. What happens if they move their mouse out entirely and the menu closes?

In this case, two triggers are better than one. You can start with one trigger which responds to a click and advances your user to the next step. By adding a second trigger, you can have a fall back to go to Step 1 again.

To find out more, check out this tutorial on managing drop down menus with triggers.

Indicate your final step

Using Analytics, our customers like to track whether their users complete a tour. Usually, this is the final or end step on the list by default. Now with the availability of multiple triggers from a step, you can create a kind of branching in your tours. For this reason you might have multiple valid end points you want to track.

For example, on a specific step, you might offer the user to choose from two possible options. From there, they might have one more step to complete, but each “end step” will be different depending on which option they chose. If a user reaches either of those end steps you want to know they completed their task.

Now you can specify which steps you would like to track as End steps. Under the Misc panel for a step, enable End step. And you’re all set!

Want to learn more?

We’ll take a closer look at triggers in our webinar on Thursday, 8 September. Sign up to find out how to create engaging user onboarding and tutorials.

Sign up for webinar

Continuous user onboarding - Part 2

8 months ago

In our previous post, we laid out our argument that you don’t stop onboarding users when customers are actively using your product. Yes, a multi-channel approach to feature announcements will help; and the more channels, the stronger the multiplier effect.

Users might find out about your new features through newsletters, social media, and your blog. That is, as long as they are opening your emails, checking their feeds when you post, or visiting your blog.

In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to add in-app announcements to help make sure your users see them. You can add step by step walkthroughs, videos or slideshows.

Scenario for this tutorial:

A returning user comes logs into their dashboard of your application. They see a pop-up message with an announcement. If they are interested, they can start the feature tour now. If not, they can dismiss the message, and view the new feature tour from the widget another time.

1: Be quick and earn trust with a quick feature tour

First we’ll build the step-by-step walkthrough. We need to build this first, so that we can link to it from our announcement welcome screen.

Follow the instructions in the help guide to create your tour.

  • Create a walkthrough using the backdrop to highlight elements on the screen.
  • Users click Next to advance through the steps.
  • Add media if you need to show elements users cannot see in the UI, for example if it’s a feature not available at their level of access.

Keep your new feature tour punchy and quick. People are overcome with distractions. If they have opted in to view your tour keep it as brief as possible. Researchers have discovered there is a median duration of focus of 40 seconds before knowledge workers switch tasks.

Backdrop tip!

  • You can use a Backdrop to darken the entire screen except for the selected element. This can call attention to an area of the screen. By default, it also leaves that highlighted section clickable. Usually this is to progress an action.
  • In the product tour, it’s likely you don’t want users to be able to get off track. In this case, you can enable the Cover. Then the highlighted elements are not clickable.

2: Capture with curiosity using an opt-in message

After following the steps in the guide, you’ll have a new announcement tutorial appearing in your widget. Yet, how can you make sure people know it’s there?

This welcome screen links to your new walkthrough, letting users opt-in to your tour.

Follow the steps in this guide to see how to create a modal window message like the one above with custom buttons. This will not appear in your widget. You can control who sees it in the next steps.

Wondering what to write? In our previous post, we wrote about using prompts to spark a user’s curiosity. This helps users decide if information is relevant to them. This let’s users quickly dismiss this announcement if it’s not relevant for their needs right now. You can also use variables to give them a personal, first name greeting.

For example: “Hi {{first_name|there}}! Did you know you can test your Inline Manual tutorials on a development site? If you’d like to see how, you can get a quick 30 second tour, and we’ll show you now.” See how to use variables like first names in your content

3. Targeting

Now you’ll be able to target who sees this greeting.

While you could offer this announcement to all of your users, in this case we want to limit it to a set of users. For example if we have a special onboarding experience for new users, and you want to limit this greeting to returning subscribers. To do that, see how to create segments

Of course, you can keep your tour in your widget, or linked from your release notes.

4. Retargeting with Analytics

With our analytics you can also see who has engaged with your messages. If you find that over time, there are users who haven’t seen your message, you could retarget them with another prompt or reminder.


A continuous onboarding plan will implement the strategies you use for new users across your entire user base, each time you have a key update or improvement.

Having in-app messaging tools which integrate directly with your application will help draw interested users to the right messages. Inline Manual makes it easier to share your message of great service and your vibrant development right in context for your users.

Sign up for a demo

to find out how you can use Inline Manual.

Read the other posts in this series on customer retention.

Continuous user onboarding - Part 1

8 months ago

Use the tools in Inline Manual to keep your users informed and engaged as your application evolves with new features and opportunities, because user onboarding never ends. Here’s some ways you can approach continuous user onboarding.

Your application is always evolving and changing.

Many of our customers start using Inline Manual to launch tutorials for new users, specifically for onboarding to ensure conversion and adoption.

Why put all that effort into attracting new customers, and not so much on keeping existing users engaged as your product evolves? Customer retention is crucial to the success of your application. 70% of companies find it’s cheaper to retain a customer than to gain a new one. Repeat the success you find in onboarding for your entire user base.

As Marc Saunders of Coniq explains, “We have a 3 week release cycle which often comes with new or updated UI features. Inline Manual helps us promote these features and gives us a interactive way of showcasing these to our customers.” Coniq’s users love to see a vibrant application and active development.

When you add new features, it’s another chance to communicate that you listen, and a product tour is another chance to demonstrate how you’re making the user experience better.

Add Inline Manual to your multi channel approach

In terms of customer retention, it’s likely you’re investing in getting support to existing users as fast as possible, and perhaps you’re maintaining a relationship marketing program to keep two-way communication flowing. You’re probably using multiple channels to communicate with your users, and specifically to tell them about your new features.

However, the engagement levels for getting users to engage with announcements is a dodgy bet at the best of times. Typical email open rates hover around 20% and click-through rates are awesome at 5%. Typical click-through rates on social media such as Twitter are at 1.64%.

The most natural place to show existing users your new features is right within your application. Inline Manual can help you do this.

Spark curiosity with prompts

You can use Inline Manual to create announcements for new users, which they can quickly dismiss or engage with depending on their needs.

Pique your users curiosity with prompts such as

  • “Want to know how to X?”
  • “Wondering if you can X?”
  • “Did you know you can X this now?”

Using prompts like this gives all users a hint of what they can expect from your new feature, while sparking the curiosity of those who will want to see more of what you have to offer. Next your users can opt for a tour with quick steps, 1-2-3, to show them how to make the most of your new feature.

Don’t let users miss new opportunities

With your new feature tutorials in place, you will be able to see which users are missing out through our Analytics tool.

You will see those who didn’t click through your prompts, and you can later re-target them with different in-app messages. This could be particularly helpful if your application’s new feature is only available through an upgrade.

Your tutorial could be the key message that helps them discover the benefits of your new feature, and the convincing nudge to get them started.

In our follow up post, we’ll look at how you can implement a feature announcement like this in Inline Manual.

How are you communicating new features to your users?

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Read the other posts in this series on customer retention.

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Learn how to keep users engaged with feature announcements

Thursday, April 27, 2017
4:00 PM - 4:45 PM GMT (BST) - London
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