Pendo Features – An Honest Review
There’s a product tour system that guides users towards feature adoption.
And there’s also a checklist function that summarizes the most important activation tasks each user needs to accomplish.
In this article, we’ll assess the quality of Pendo’s analytics, product tours, and checklists, so that you can see if this tool is a good fit for your business – and if it’s really worth coughing up the $30,000-50,000.
We will also suggest an alternative and more cost-effective solution: surprise, surprise – Userpilot.
- Pendo’s product adoption platform analytics includes the following 4 features: Paths, Funnels, Reports, and Retention.
- These analytics features are good overall, but they are not very actionable – the dashboard updates only every 1 hour, and you are not allowed to target user segments that use in-app events with experiences (or trigger experiences based on user actions – in-app events occurrence – at all).
- Pendo could be more user-friendly and lacks NPS in the free trial.
- Pendo’s product tours allow you to build lightboxes, banners, tooltips, polls, success messages, and welcome screens. Pendo doesn’t offer you a Chrome Extension to build the experiences directly on top of your product, so it might be more difficult to use than products like Userpilot or Appcues.
- Compared to Userpilot, Pendo’s product tours lack interactivity, advanced UI patterns, and segmentation options that focus on real customer needs.
- Pendo’s checklists include multiple different tasks which can be divided into multiple steps and numerous ways of tracking progress through those tasks.
- The checklist functionality looks professional and does everything a checklist needs to do but is hard to find for SaaS companies and end-users of Pendo alike.
A quick look at Pendo’s free trial
Before we get into the 3 main features we mentioned, it’s worth briefly touching on Pendo’s free trial.
When you initially sign into the trial, you’re given the option to choose between product tours that cover one of the following options:
Each one comes with its own product tour, which you can see in the screenshot below. The product tours are not especially interactive, being based on static tooltips, but they do get the job done.
The Guides, analytics data, and product tours in Pendo’s free trial are all based on made-up dummy data.
See this post for a good explanation of what dummy data is and why you should consider using it in your SaaS product.
If you want to add real data from your own business, you’ll need to connect Pendo to your app, which does require some code and adding a JS snippet to your app.
Pendo Analytics features
There are four main elements of Pendo’s analytics.
There’s Paths, which shows you every possible sequence of events before or after a specific user action.
Next, we have Funnels, which allows you to monitor users’ progress through a pre-specified sequence of steps, including how many users drop off at each stage.
Then there’s the Reports feature, which is divided into 4 types:
- Page Views
- Feature Clicks
- Track Events
- Guide Views
You can save any Reports that you create for future reference.
Finally, there’s Retention, which shows the number of customers who return to your app over time.
How valuable are Pendo’s Analytics features?
Pendo is best known for its analytics, so it’s unsurprising that it performs well in this department overall.
By showing all the different routes into or out of a particular event, Paths helps product teams identify common patterns in user behavior. Any insights uncovered can feed directly into iterating your product.
Retention provides easy to read data and is useful in terms of tracking retention rate over time.
Funnels is useful for tracking drop off in pre-existing funnels that you’ve built for them. This allows product marketers to intervene to reduce the drop-off rate with intelligent onboarding automation.
But none of these features are perfect, and in sum – it’s a bit hard to justify the $30,000 per year price tag with them, especially that they are not very actionable – the dashboard updates only every hour, and you cannot target users segmented by custom events with in-app experiences, nor trigger experiences based on user actions in-app.
Retention is great for graphing out the changes in retention rate over time, but shows you nothing about WHY some customers churn and others don’t.
To be fair, you can get this data from Pendo as well, assuming you know how to create a qualitative poll using one of the lightboxes in the Guides part of the product (more on that later).
But Pendo would benefit from making the connection between the quantitative and qualitative parts of their offering clearer.
Funnels can sometimes be a bit clunky to use, seeing as you have to specify which Funnels report you want to run and enter the desired parameters manually.
As for Reports, the product feedback you get from it is quite generic, almost to the point of being vanity data. It’s not entirely clear how to use it.
What Pendo’s Analytics is missing
The biggest flaw of Pendo’s analytics is that it doesn’t allow you to target users based on their in-app behaviours with the in-app experiences you build in Pendo. It kind-of buttereses the purpose of having an all-in-one product adoption platform (and paying a hefty price for it!).
Moreover, Pendo product adoption platform doesn’t put enough emphasis on soliciting sentiment feedback from customers directly.
You see this initially from the fact that the free trial doesn’t include the option to send NPS surveys to customers.
Unlike Userpilot, Pendo makes you pay for this feature.
Instead of NPS, Pendo places great emphasis on a proprietary metric called Product Engagement Score (PES). This consists of 3 elements:
- Adoption: the percentage of customers using key features in your product.
- Stickiness: the percentage of monthly active users who return daily or weekly.
- Growth Rate: calculated on an annual basis.
All of these elements are rather left-brained and don’t involve talking to the customer directly.
While automation and behavioral analytics are incredibly valuable tools for SaaS companies, there will always be value in an authentic dialogue with customers, and Pendo could provide better options in this area.
In Pendo, product feedback is quite limited. There’s no NPS in Pendo in the free version. They could stand to emulate Userpilot, which allows SaaS teams to create quantitative NPS surveys and then immediately follow those up with qualitative microsurveys:
We’re also working on paths, funnels and cohorts that will be more robust than Pendo’s for half of the price:
Wanna see how it looks in practice? Jump on a quick call with us.
Now let’s look at the next feature Pendo has to offer.
How to build a product tour on Pendo
Known as “Guides” on Pendo, product tours can be created using an intuitive building blocks system that is reminiscent of products like Divi and Elementor.
You can drag and drop the elements you need, and match the colors and styling to your brand.
The building blocks are situated inside an internal design tool called Visual Design Studio (VDS), which replaced Pendo’s Chrome extension (called “Pendo Classic”) in 2019, against many users’ wishes. Here’s what VDS looks like:
Compared to Userpilot’s WYSIWYG extension, where you can immediately see what your product tour likes inside your product, this is a little clunky, because you have to preview your tours in VSD itself.
Compare this to Userpilot:
This has led some older users of Pendo to continue using Pendo Classic, to the point that Classic is still supported in Pendo’s Help Center:
But, while clunky, VSD does get the job done.
Features of Pendo’s product tours
The product tours that you can build with VDS consist of 3 main elements:
There’s a lightbox, which looks a lot like Userpilot’s modals. It appears in the center of the customer’s screen.
Next, there’s a banner. This is very similar to a lightbox, only that it comes in from the top or bottom of the screen, rather than being centered on it.
This is a short piece of help text that’s attached to an icon called a “Badge” that’s placed next to an element.
Additional pre-made elements
As well as these default UI patterns, Pendo product guidance will also save any previous custom patterns that you’ve created, so that you can use them again.
Examples might include:
- Success messages
- Welcome screens
How valuable are Pendo’s product tour features?
It is certainly possible to build a product tour on Pendo from the elements we just mentioned. But again – is it worth $12,000 – $30,000 per year? I don’t think so.
In my personal opinion, tooltips are what Pendo does best in this department. Attaching them to Badges is a smart idea, and fairly intuitive for new users to understand.
Pendo also makes it easy to test your product tour internally for bugs before releasing it into the wild, and they deserve some credit for that.
Your “Guide,” as Pendo calls it, can be as simple or as complicated as you like, ranging from just one such tooltip to 4-5 elements sewn together into a flow.
Judging by the 3 demo Guides in Pendo’s product guidance free trial, 2 of which have only 1 element and 1 of which contains 3 elements, Pendo is assuming that most of its customers will lean towards simpler product tours.
But if your business needs more complex walkthroughs for your customers, there’s more you should know about this side of Pendo.
Looking at the product tours Pendo includes in its demo, they’re just a bit, well, lifeless.
There’s very little interactivity or personality.
As a user, you just click from purple tooltip to purple tooltip, as opposed to completing actionable tasks which reinforce your knowledge of the product.
It’s like the difference between reading a dry biology textbook in school versus doing a dissection yourself.
And where there is interactivity, such as the “Polls” element within Guides, it feels awkwardly placed.
You’d think that a Poll should be a one-off communication tool for soliciting feedback from users, as opposed to “guiding” users towards completing a certain action in a product tour.
So why Pendo allows you to make Polls as part of its Guides is beyond me.
The segmentation of product tours on Pendo also feels like it’s missing a human touch.
While there are tons of ways you could theoretically segment them…
… so many of these seem excessively left-brained and arbitrary.
How different does a product tour for a Chrome user on a Macbook really need to be from that of an Internet Explorer user on a Windows computer?
More fundamentally still, to what extent would the product needs of these two users really differ from one another?
What’s missing from Pendo’s product tours
Compared to Userpilot, Appcues and other options on the market, the range of UI patterns Pendo offers feels quite limiting.
For example, here are some patterns that Userpilot allows you to build as part of their product tours but Pendo does not:
- Driven actions
- Checklists (Pendo does have these, but they’re not under Guides)
Checklists are an extremely important feature of onboarding software, so we’ll cover Pendo’s take on them in more detail in a moment, but it’s worth noting that checklists are conspicuously absent from Pendo’s Guides feature.
This is a problem, since there is literally no better way to get a user to activate than to give them a checklist that matches their particular user segment and get them to work through it.
Pendo Checklist Features
For all my complaints about the absence of checklists from Pendo’s Guides, it’s worth saying that you can certainly build checklists on Pendo.
You do that by going into the resource center feature and adding an onboarding module.
The checklists that you can build look like this:
Key elements include:
- Title for the checklist
- Multiple different tasks, with a check box next to each
- The ability to divide individual tasks into multiple steps
- A green wheel next to tasks with multiple steps showing how much of the task the user has completed
- A progress bar at the bottom that tracks how far the user is through all the checklist items as a percentage
If you want to match the color, feel and style of the checklist to your individual brand, Pendo will let you do that as well.
How valuable are Pendo’s checklist features?
In terms of the quality of the individual checklist UI elements themselves, Pendo does a good job.
Overall, the checklist UI has a clean, minimalistic feel to it. Once you change the colors around, it will probably be a fit for your SaaS business in terms of visual style.
All you need to do as the product marketer is ensure that you get the copy right (see our post here for guidance on this), and then there’s a good chance that your checklist will perform its desired function.
But… that makes the assumption that you actually manage to find the checklist in the first place!
As discussed earlier, the checklist feature is not in the Guides section of Pendo, which is where you would expect it to be.
To build one as a user of Pendo, you have to go to the resource center and add an onboarding module.
All the checklist segmentation options are in the resource center as well.
What’s more, you can’t find the resource center feature of Pendo in the free trial at all, as this screenshot shows:
You’d have to pay extra for that feature!
This is not the case in alternatives like Userpilot, which put all their features in their free trial so that you can get an idea of how they work before you reach for your wallet.
And the visibility issues aren’t just confined to you as a SaaS company. There’s a good chance that your end-user won’t see the checklist either!
To find the checklist, your end-user would have to manually click on the resource center and look for it there.
While it’s true that this is less intrusive for the end-user than a checklist that automatically displays, it also reduces the odds that they find the checklist at all.
That’s tragic, as Pendo’s checklists actually look really good once you find them, and they’re sure to increase the odds of the end-user engaging with your product.
So you could run into a situation where an end-user churns on Day 1… without having ever seen your elusive checklist!
What’s missing from Pendo’s checklists
In terms of the quality of the checklist element itself, Pendo gets top marks.
But that only assumes that you and your customer both manage to find the checklist.
To show you how much more user-friendly Pendo could be, take a look at Userpilot.
Here’s the checklist UI, right next to Flows, where you would intuitively expect it to be:
You wouldn’t have to pay to see that in the free trial, either, for the record.
The checklist segmentation features are right inside the settings for each checklist, which is also intuitive:
And here’s how the checklist appears to the end-user:
You’re not going to miss that in a hurry!
So now you’ve seen how 3 important features of Pendo measure up. To recap:
- Pendo’s Analytics is its strongest suit, although it’s not always user-friendly and lacks NPS in the free trial.
- Their product tours are adequate for simple use cases but lack more complex interactivity, human segmentation options, and advanced UI patterns.
- While Pendo’s checklists look professional, they’re difficult to find for SaaS companies and end-users alike.
- Pendo costs $12,000 – $30,000 per year!
- Userpilot’s analytics are easy to use and include NPS in the free trial.
- Our product tours have all the UI patterns you could possibly imagine for all the segments you could imagine and are extremely interactive by design.
- Checklists are easy to find and segment on Userpilot.
- Userpilot plans start from $249 per month for up to 2,500 MAUs – all features included!
So what are you waiting for? Give Userpilot’s free trial a spin today!