In-App Guidance for SaaS: Best Practices, Examples & Tools [UPDATED for 2024]

in-app guidance 101

In-app guidance is at the heart of the SaaS industry. It enables new users to quickly get comfortable with your product and allows existing users to find new features and get more value from your product.

In this post, we discuss:

  • different types of in-app guidance prompts that help users navigate your app
  • examples for each type and how to best leverage them
  • best tools for onboarding users and introducing new features

Let’s get right to it.


  • In-app guidance helps onboard new users in your app and allows existing users to find new features and get more value from your product.
  • It helps drive new user activation and boost user engagement and adoption for advanced users.
  • In-app guidance comes in multiple types: product tours, interactive walkthroughs, tooltips, checklists, or a resource center.
  • Product tours showcase all the key features and indicate what users can do with them.
  • Interactive walkthroughs prompt actions rather than just demonstrating features – so users can learn by doing.
  • Tooltips are individual in-app messages that explain a single feature and help users learn about it.
  • Checklists guide users through key activation steps and set them up for success.
  • Resource centers allow users to learn products independently by accessing user guides, tutorials, videos, and more from an in-app resource hub.
  • Good in-app guidance is interactive, personalized, and contextual. Avoid front-loading information with boring tours. Always guide users in the context of the goal they need to achieve at a specific stage in their user journey.
  • A product adoption platform allows you to create quick in-app guidance without code. This saves a ton of money in development resources, gives you the flexibility to change, and allows you to A/B test your guides.
  • Userpilot lets you create customized in-app guidance flows along with several other product growth features so your users always get the best version of your app. Book a demo now to learn more.

Try Userpilot and Take Your In-App Guides to the Next Level

What is in-app guidance in SaaS?

An in-app guidance prompt offers contextual support to new and existing users in your app with short messages and walkthroughs that drive user engagement and product adoption.

There are several types of in-app guidance prompts that you can combine to guide users inside your software, including product walkthroughs and tooltips.

Types of in-app guidance found in SaaS

In-app guidance appears in many forms. These all serve a different purpose so can guide each user as per their needs.

1. Product tours

A product tour shows a sequence of messages to demonstrate various features so new users know where to find them. It is a popular form of user onboarding.

Rocketbots linear in-app guidance product tour

An example of a linear product tour from Rocketbots

But do end users need to see all the features at once? And how much will they remember after a tour like that?

Once the product tour is over, end users are essentially left with no contextual help or in-app support messages. And that’s where the problem lies.

tweet product tours

Ramli John’s tweet explaining why users hate product tours

Product tours have several issues that impact the user experience:

  • They are boring – who likes clicking on all the ‘next’ buttons, and seeing all the irrelevant features? This works horribly for user engagement and user adoption.
  • They ‘frontload’ information – instead of ‘teaching by doing’, they show all the features you may not even need until much later in your user journey. This goes against the “just-in-time” user behavior psychology.
  • They only touch the surface – showing you “what”, but not “why” and “who”.
  • They don’t encourage user adoption – introducing too many features might overwhelm users and potentially discourage them from using your product.
  • They don’t provide contextual guidance – they aren’t well-adapted to new user needs.
  • They are not personalized to the user’s needs – they are a “one-size-fits-all” and aren’t interactive – the next step doesn’t change based on what you did in the previous step.

User comments about linear product tours

And people often simply hate them…

That’s why fewer and fewer product teams include product tours as part of their onboarding. The State of SaaS Onboarding report found that less than a third of companies used a product tour.

Creating walkthrough guides instead can make a huge difference to your digital adoption process.

Example of a product tour

Here’s an example from Get a Newsletter to help highlight the issues we just discussed.

In app guidance with a linear product tour from GetANewsletter

In-app guidance example with a linear product tour

2. Interactive walkthroughs

If product tours are so ineffective, what’s the alternative? Let’s see why interactive walkthroughs are more effective.

An interactive walkthrough is similar to a product tour but with one key difference.

Product tours are passive, interactive walkthroughs aren’t. They require user input after showing each step and don’t progress until the user takes the action, making them a more effective UI pattern in the user onboarding process.

in app guidance example from trello with an interactive walkthrough

Trello’s interactive user onboarding

With only a quarter of SaaS companies currently using interactive in-app guidance, this presents a great opportunity to one-up your competitors, improve your onboarding process, and provide training without developing comprehensive training webinars.

Moreover, you don’t need a special software platform to start building them. You can use almost any digital adoption platform.

Why are interactive walkthroughs more effective than product tours?

Since people learn better if they learn by doing, interactive walkthroughs have a lot of advantages over linear product guides:

  • Interactive walkthroughs are far more engaging because the user needs to act. They have to click certain buttons or enter text to proceed. They can’t see step 4 before they complete steps 1, 2, and 3.
  • App walkthroughs provide value upfront – they drive users to perform actions that show them the value of your product (the key activation points) – and experience the Aha! Moment.
  • Product walkthroughs increase user engagement by actively involving each person in learning new features.

Proof that interactive walkthroughs are more effective than product tours

Take a look at this data from one of our customers:

in-app guidance data

Interactive walkthrough performance vs linear product tour performance

The black rectangle highlights a product tour. Less than half of the users who were shown the product tour went on to complete it.

The red rectangles are showing you the interactive walkthroughs. The difference here is clear.

With in-app guidance messages, roughly two-thirds of users continue to the end and engage with your software in a way that they understand the value.

Example of an interactive walkthrough

It’s hard to capture interactive walkthroughs on a GIF as they require actions from the user to proceed. This makes them longer than the typical 15-second GIF frame. Here’s a video featuring an interactive walkthrough (compare it to a product tour from previous sections.):

3. Native tooltips

A native tooltip is an in-app guidance feature that offers a single prompt. It helps users gain a better understanding of a specific feature of your product. You add docked prompts to a specific element on your UI that is not self-explanatory pushing for deeper feature adoption.

ahrefs native tooltip

A native tooltip in Ahrefs

Here are use cases that can benefit from native tooltips:

  • Offer in-app guidance for the later stages of the customer journey to increase the adoption of more advanced product features.
  • Power product launches by adding prompts to new features so users who missed your announcement email still discover it.
  • Drive new users to adopt features that you have launched in the past.

Examples of native tooltips

Here are a few examples of how you can use native tooltips for in-app guidance.

in app guidance in userpilot with tooltips

A tooltip created with Userpilot

Here’s another one from SurferSEO, a popular tool for content marketing, promoting their new AI text suggestions.

in app guidance with tooltips

A tooltip in SurferSEO

Creating in-app guidance tooltips

You can hard-code your native tooltips (this is hard to scale and takes up development resources), or use a code-free digital adoption platform to quickly create them. Here’s an example of how to accomplish this with Userpilot spotlights.

  • 4. Onboarding checklists

    Onboarding checklists are especially effective in new user onboarding – they push new users to explore certain features in a specific order – leading them to complete a set of actions.

    attention insight checklist in app guidance

    Attention Insight’s onboarding checklist built with Userpilot

    You can also use them to offer in-app guidance to more advanced users and encourage them to adopt advanced features of your app, thus driving product adoption.

    Nobody said you could have only one checklist – you could build one for every area of your product, and trigger them at different times, depending on when your users are ready.

    How do you build checklists for in-app guidance?

    Building checklists using a no-code digital adoption platform is super-easy and takes minutes:

    • Create a checklist widget (use your in-app guidance settings to decide if it’s supposed to open automatically, or be triggered by the user manually).
    • Add tasks for users to complete and link the respective interactive walkthroughs to them OR direct users to a specific page.
    • Decide if you want the item to be ticked off once the user engages with a specific feature, OR when they complete a specific goal (by performing a certain tracked event – or even a combination of events – also known as custom events in Userpilot).

5. Resource center

Resource center is a self-service in-app guidance hub that offers instant answers without real-time human involvement.

It often appears as a pop-up that features videos, guides, tutorials, and more. Users can look up articles simply by searching for a relevant topic. If you’re using an app guidance tool such as Userpilot, you can also personalize resources for each segment to enhance user experience.

resource center example of in app guidance

Userpilot’s resource center

Resource centers are proven to massively reduce the number of customer support tickets. In our case studies, Osano managed to shave off 25% of their support tickets – while Growth Mentor reduced support ticket volume by a whopping 87% after implementing our resource center.

How do you build a resource center?

Building a resource center is simple with an in-app guidance platform. Many tools allow you to drag and drop content into a pre-built widget. Then, you can fully customize the help widget to match the style of your app’s native UI.

Userpilot's resource center editor provides personalization options

Userpilot’s resource center editor provides multiple personalization options

See it in the video below:

Real-world examples of great in-app guides

It’s all well and good talking about how great in-app guidance can be, but let’s observe some real-world examples.


Platformly is a marketing automation tool. Their wide range of features can be overwhelming for new users, so Platformly adds in-app guidance with Userpilot.

platformly in-app guidance

Platformly’s in-app onboarding

As well as providing users with a checklist and utilizing the empty states, Platformly offers an interactive walkthrough to help users get started.

platformly onboarding

Platformly’s interactive tooltips

Rather than simply showing users how to build a dashboard, it walks them through it step-by-step. These interactive walkthroughs exist for all of Platformly’s main features, accessible at any time.

This led to completion rates of over 40%, which is exceptional for a complex SaaS product.


Groupize is a modern meetings management platform that unifies travel, spend, and compliance. The company utilized Userpilot to create a gamified onboarding so new users would be eager to learn their app.

in app guidance userpilot with welcome modals

Groupize’s onboarding agent, G.G.

The same character helps new users progress through the onboarding, guiding them through the product features. Groupize used clever copy and interactive dialogue to make this in-app onboarding stand out.

groupize's tooltips - in-app guidance

A tooltip from G.G.’s product tour


Hootsuite is a social media and customer relationship management tool. It offers a few different “wise guides”. These are essentially interactive walkthroughs, targeted around key features such as “adding a social network”.

hootsuite in-app guidance

Hootsuite’s in-app guides

Users can then choose which guides they want to engage with, based on what they’re trying to achieve.

The walkthroughs then guide and assist users, encouraging them to use the product in a natural way.

For example, rather than providing a direct link to the relevant page, Hootsuite shows them how to navigate to it using the menu.

hootsuite onboarding

Hootsuite’s tooltips

This prepares them for future use of the product.

This is a great example of how in-app guidance can start delivering value to users right away.


Grammarly is a grammar-checking tool.

Once users sign up and install the Chrome extension, they are shown the demo document. This document provides in-app guidance and is (purposefully) full of errors and typos.

Why? So new users can use Grammarly to correct it.

grammarly in-app guidance

Grammarly’s in-app guidance

This way, users learn by doing.

It’s a clever way of building an activation walkthrough, resulting in users who are ready to use the product right away.


The tool is designed to help business owners and managers keep track of their employee’s schedules.

Humanity only works as a product if users add their employees to it. That’s where in-app guidance comes in.

It guides managers towards getting their accounts set up, screen by screen.

humanity in-app guidance

Humanity’s in-app guidance

It shows managers how to add employees and set up their shifts.

humanity onboarding

Humanity’s interactive onboarding

But more importantly, it forces the user to actually do it themselves.

Why should you use tools to create in-app guidance?

Should you write extensive code for your in-app guides, or use dedicated software? Here are the key benefits of using tools for in-app guidance:

  • Offer meaningful in-app messaging without having to code everything from scratch.
  • Access key resources such as an admin panel, version control, A/B testing, team functionality, and more.
  • Free up engineering resources to focus on more meaningful goals, such as working on building and improving your product.
  • Access in-built analytics to measure user onboarding performance, run in-app experiments, and make quick changes when needed.
  • Build tours on top of third-party apps – such as fostering employee productivity by building Salesforce in-app guidance for Salesforce users among your new hires.

Best tools for creating in-app guides

We’ve covered the best tools for in-app guidance extensively in this post (you can read the full comparison here).

P.S. This section discusses tools for user onboarding, not for employee onboarding such as building Salesforce in-app guidance for training purposes.

Here are the best in-app guidance tools according to users from G2 and Capterra.

1. Userpilot

Userpilot is an easy-to-use product growth tool that offers all the UI patterns needed to guide users through your app (product tours, walkthroughs, tooltips, checklists, resource centers) without limitations. Moreover, pricing starts at only $249 per month.

Here are some features worth noting:

  • Build interactive in-app flows and personalize them based on images, colors, text, and more. Add multiple UI elements and tooltips in one flow for an immersive walkthrough. Here’s a hypothetical example we created on Notion to show you the builder.
in app guidance with Userpilot flows

An in-app flow built with Userpilot

  • Create personalized onboarding checklists for your users. Customize the design and track key performance metrics such as completion rates for each checklist.
in app guidance with userpilot checklist

Userpilot’s checklist builder

  • Build resource centers with several customization options and monitor resource center analytics to track user interests and behavior patterns.
  • Create in-app surveys to collect user feedback, understand user needs and sentiments, and make necessary improvements to your app right away.
in app guidance with better user feedback

User survey builder in Userpilot

in app guidance with data analytics

Trend analysis report in Userpilot

  • Access a range of robust analytics for your in-app flows, checklists, resource centers, and even event tracking. The analytics dashboards also let you access all your favorite reports in one place.
in app guidance with better user tracking reports

Product usage dashboard in Userpilot

2. Appcues

Appcues is often praised as the easiest-to-use platform for onboarding users. You can create flows in Appcues really fast, but the lack of a resource center and limited analytics mean it’s not the best value for money (and it limits you to only one checklist and 5 user segments in its basic $299 plan!)

appcues in app guidance

In-app guide builder in Appcues

3. Intercom

Intercom is a popular customer support tool but it also offers product tours for in-app guidance. It comes with support for linear product tours (so no branched walkthroughs). Its limited analytics mean you won’t be able to understand your user behavior with Intercom.

intercom's chat widget in app guidance

Intercom’s chat widget

4. Userflow

Userflow allows you to build in-app guides on its dashboard- but unlike Userpilot, Appcues, and Userguiding – it doesn’t have a Chrome Extension letting you build on top of your product.

Userflow dashboard

Userflow dashboard

5. Userguiding

UserGuiding is a lower-cost, entry-level product adoption tool offering a range of features to help companies onboard new customers and boost product adoption. UserGuiding excels at building simple onboarding experiences for users. It includes a no-code builder, segmentation options, and easily added UI patterns like hotspots, tooltips, and modals.

Although it also has some other goodies like a resource center and analytics, the meat of this product is its onboarding flow builder. If you need a relatively easy way to build simple onboarding flows, this is a great choice. However, people looking for more analytics, customization, or complex integrations should probably look elsewhere.

in app guidance with userguiding

In-app flows with Userguiding

Creating in-app guides with Userpilot

Our in-app guidance tool of choice is Userpilot and we’ll walk you through the “why” behind it. In-app guidance takes only minutes to create with Userpilot. Let’s explore how.

First, create a new flow from either the flow or with the Userpilot Chrome extension. Specify the type of in-app guidance you wish to create. We’ll go with a flow for our demonstration.

in app guidance types

Types of in-app guidance in Userpilot

Then choose your first step. Most interactive walkthroughs use a combination of welcome modals, slideouts, tooltips and driven actions.

in app guidance ui elements

UI patterns in Userpilot

  • Welcome modals announce the beginning of a product tour and appear front and center of the app screen.
  • Slideouts are a less intrusive version of the modal. They appear on one side to display information.
  • Driven actions are unique to Userpilot, and turn a product tour into an interactive walkthrough. They force the user to engage with your product when the prompt appears. Use this to encourage users to click through to the next screen.
in app guidance tooltip and driven action

A driven action in Userpilot

  • Tooltips explain what a user needs to do, and why they should do it, without requiring input from them.
in app guidance with tooltips userpilot

Tooltip builder in Userpilot

Piece together multiple types of UI patterns to create a complete interactive product walkthrough.

Conclusion: How to create good in-app guidance?

Before we part ways, here’s a summary of in-app guidance best practices:

  • Always have a goal in mind – approach onboarding users with a certain outcome in mind. For example, you might want your users to add a team member, or to drive adoption of a new feature.
  • Make it interactive – walk your users step by step, show them what they need to achieve their immediate goals, and avoid front-loading information (e.g. with lengthy step-by-step tours!)
  • Offer in-app guidance to advanced users too – aka continuous Onboarding – (e.g. a tooltip informing them about a new feature) not just flows for new users.
  • Keep it short and sweet, so that users don’t get bored, and you’re good to go.

Want to drive users to adopt your product faster? Book a free demo with Userpilot today!

Try Userpilot and Take Your In-App Guides to the Next Level

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