Product Tours: Everything You Need to Know to Create Effective Walkthroughs

Product tours are in-app tutorials that guide new users through a SaaS tool’s user interface (UI) and key features. Also known as product walkthroughs, they help enterprise SaaS companies simplify the user onboarding process.

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What Is a Product Tour?

The common misconception is that product tours are simply automated versions of traditional user onboarding. But product tours are more than just pop-ups that provide feature overviews—they’re integral parts of SaaS user experience that combine different design elements to make onboarding more efficient.

A modern product tour combines different UI patterns like pop-ups, interactive walkthroughs, beacons, tooltips, and explainer videos to allow new users to learn in the flow of work. These patterns offer more contextual guidance that creates a stronger first impression with new users. That strong first impression improves product adoption rates compared to traditional user onboarding.

Why Use a Product Tour for User Onboarding?

A well-designed product tour streamlines the onboarding process. It helps new users understand features and UI elements faster than if they had to learn entirely on their own. The more sophisticated your product, the more important it is to have a product tour that guides users through the learning curve.

The main goal of user onboarding is to get users to recognize the value of your product as quickly as possible. This recognition of value is also called the aha moment, and it propels your users toward activation and full product adoption.

product_tour

Effective product tours streamline the path to that aha moment in three key ways.

  • They simplify the user experience. Product tours simplify enterprise SaaS learning curves by teaching users how to use key features that are most relevant to their roles.
  • They drive meaningful action. Effective product tours guide users to take meaningful action instead of providing passive overviews of key features. This “learning by doing” maximizes knowledge retention so users can master your product faster.
  • They improve engagement. Well-designed product tours reduce friction in the user onboarding process. When the first experience with your product goes smoothly, users are more likely to remain engaged and recognize the value of your tool.

Product tours are core components of self-serve user onboarding. And when done well, they increase product adoption while reducing inbound support calls and the need for manual training.

Key Guidelines to Build the Most Effective Product Tours

The most effective product tours adhere to a few key guidelines. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to designing product tours. But focusing on these basic principles will help minimize time-to-value for new users:

  • Personalize as much as possible. Don’t create one generic product tour for all new users. Segment product tours according to user roles to create a more personalized experience.
  • Trigger product tours with user action. Not all product tours should initiate right when a user logs into your product. Triggering product tours based on specific user actions ensures tutorials appear seamlessly in the right context.
  • Match UI patterns with use cases. Choose the right product tour UI pattern to keep tutorials from becoming disruptive. For example, a pop-up modal window might make sense for an initial welcome message, but subtle tooltips might be more appropriate for quickly explaining a feature or button.
  • Maintain design consistency. Focus on design consistency when adding product tour UI patterns to your SaaS tool to maintain a seamless experience. Mismatches between colors and styles can lead to disruptive experiences for users, hurting engagement and overall adoption.
  • Limit the length of product tours. Avoid creating product tours that give users a long list of steps to walk through. Your goal is to quickly show users the value of your product. If they abandon the product tour before taking a key action, you risk missing out on a key piece of activation and adoption.
  • Focus on the “why.” Motivate users to take action by focusing on the “why” of your tips, prompts, and tutorials. Don’t just provide generic steps that tell users how to do something. When you convey the value of their actions, they’ll be more motivated to engage with your product and continue the adoption process.
  • Update as necessary. Continuously monitor the performance of your product tours. Are users abandoning them halfway through? Are they working better for one segment of users than for others? Study the data from your product tours, and update the steps for more efficient onboarding.

There’s a fine line between a product tour that efficiently drives aha moments and one that is simply a disruptive experience for users. The guidelines listed here will help you design product tours that fit seamlessly into your UX.

The Primary UI Patterns for Designing Great Product Tours

There are two steps to deciding which UI patterns to use for your product tour: learning the different UI patterns available to you and understanding their unique strengths.

digital adoption platform (DAP) gives you access to the five key UI patterns that make up effective product tours. Combine these different options to create the perfect product tour for your unique SaaS experience.

Pop-ups

Quickly engage users and explain the value of your application with pop-up elements in your product tour. Pop-ups can be simple splash screen graphics. Or they can be modal windows that require users to take action.

product_tour_popup

Interactive walkthroughs

Provide step-by-step instructions for key workflows. Users see these instructions as they follow the steps of your product tour, learning about processes as they work.

Product walkthroughs are especially useful for simplifying the training processes for complex enterprise applications. You can use them to engage users both during initial onboarding and when you roll out new features.

Self-Help

Guided walkthrough with Whatfix DAP

Beacons

Create alerts that draw user attention to certain elements of your application. You can deliver crucial information about feature updates, workflow changes, and advanced use cases with these UI patterns. Beacons allow users to interact with training material when they’re ready, which is key to a self-serve onboarding process.

Tooltips

Give users a quick overview of what a feature or UI element can do. Tooltips don’t prompt action from users. Instead, they convey key information in a way that’s less obtrusive than guided product walkthroughs.

Explainer Videos

Combine this product tour UI pattern with pop-up modal windows to create engaging welcome messages for new users. When users log in for the first time, you can present a video overview of your product’s key features. This is an effective way to engage first-time users and increase the likelihood that they complete key actions.

No matter how you combine your product tour UI patterns, the goal remains the same—give users prompts to learn your application in an interactive way. The most well-designed product tours engage people at all stages of the tech adoption curve without frustrating tech-savvy users or overwhelming slower adopters.

3 SaaS Product Tour Trends to Follow in 2021

In recent years, trends like simplicity, interactivity, and minimal design have made product tours more widely accepted parts of SaaS user experience. And in 2021, there are three trends that can further improve the value of product tours:

  • Greater focus on self-service: Further reduce the friction in product tours by giving users more control over how they learn. Instead of forcing users through a guided tour, let them initiate the process and learn at their own pace. Supplement your product tour steps with self-help content to boost engagement and adoption.
  • Deeper personalization: Take advantage of more advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) through products like DAPs to understand user performance on a more granular level. User-level data helps you create more specific segments for your product tours. The more specific you can make your product tours, the more effectively they’ll engage users and increase adoption.
  • Continuous engagement: Extend the concept of product tours beyond initial user activation. Even after initial activation, you can deliver self-serve training material that helps users discover the deeper value of your product.

The 5 Best Product Tour Software Tools in 2021

The best product tour software tools fall under the category of digital adoption platforms. These kinds of tools integrate with your application to present users with all of the most important product tour UI patterns. Digital adoption platforms give you an all-in-one solution for creating product tours, distributing the content, and analyzing its performance.

Here are a few of the best DAPs that can serve your product tour software needs. Check out the articles linked below linked articles for a full overview of each platform’s strengths and weaknesses:

  • Whatfix: The most flexible product software tool for creating contextual guidance and self-help material that’s segmented for specific user roles.
  • Appcues: This DAP focuses on product-led growth. It fully integrates with your product to make UI patterns appear native and give users a consistent experience. However, the analytics features aren’t as robust as Appcues competitors.
  • WalkMe: This DAP offers one of the most robust feature sets on the market. But it’s not the easiest platform to use. In many cases, you might need help from IT to create your product tour content.
  • Pendo: The main selling point for Pendo is its product usage insights. The platform provides deep insight into how customers interact with your product, making it easier to identify what’s needed most from product tours. However, Pendo offers fewer self-help content creation and distribution features than other Pendo alternatives.
  • Userlane: An easy-to-use DAP that caters mostly to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). This tool has plenty of content creation features for SMB-level product tours. But enterprises with complex SaaS tools may need a more robust DAP that provides greater flexibility and options for customization.

Product Tour Examples That Drive User Adoption

Thinking about investing in a DAP to fill your product tour software needs? Here are three examples of companies that increased user adoption by creating self-serve onboarding processes with a DAP:

Dimensions UK

Dimensions UK increased three-month user adoption for its product from 10% to 50% after implementing comprehensive digital guidance for users.

84%
Reduction in Content Creation Time
10 Min
Time taken to Update Content
5/5
User Satisfaction Score
20%
Increase in Data Accuracy
10% to 50%
3-month User Adoption

451 Research

A variety of self-service content and features helped 451 Research streamline product adoption by eliminating the time-consuming process of manually teaching customers how to use their platform.

Corrigo

Interactive walkthroughs helped Corrigo cut its rising customer training costs and lower its time to productivity. According to former Training & Content Development Manager Scott Mandery, “All our customers that have seen our product with Whatfix interactive guides have loved it!”

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