How to Build An Amazing SaaS Product Walkthrough (with Examples)

product walkthrough how to

If you’re a long-time product manager, you’ll know that your product walkthrough can make or break your SaaS business.

The key objective of a good product walkthrough is to promptly direct the user to their first “Aha Moment,” thereby maximizing the odds of both activation and Day 1 retention.

Ideally your walkthrough is an interactive one so that the user is engaged and feels like they are an active part of the process.

Today, we’ll take a look at what makes a good walkthrough and give you a few examples!

TL;DR

  • A product walkthrough introduces a new user to your product by encouraging them to take specific actions that will lead to activation.
  • Walkthroughs are more personalized and less top-down than product tours. Tours tend to show people tons of features they don’t actually need, which is overwhelming and annoying.
  • To build your own product walkthrough, list all the use cases of your product and create personas for each one. Identify what it takes for a user to activate. Then build a welcome screen that segments users by persona and deliver them a personalized walkthrough that leads to activation. If you need more than one experience flow, make sure the second flow is delivered only to users who have completed the first one.
  • Experience flows in a walkthrough should be triggered according to whether users have completed custom events. They should not be excessively linear or time-driven.
  • Some examples of companies that built successful walkthroughs with Userpilot are Postfity, Kontentino and Rocketbots.

What is a Product Walkthrough?

New users always experience some kind of learning curve at the start of their product journey.

user adoption flywheel
Source: Userpilot

They need to overcome the friction associated with this learning curve before they are able to activate and use the product on a regular basis.

As a product manager, one of the main parts of your job is to make sure that as many users activate as possible.

This is where a product walkthrough comes in. The purpose of your product walkthrough is to introduce a new user to your product.

This doesn’t mean showing them all the features at once, since this will likely overwhelm them.

Instead, a good product walkthrough will teach users the UI by encouraging them to take specific actions that direct them towards experiencing the core value of your product.

This is often referred to as the “Aha Moment.

 

Why is an Interactive Product Walkthrough better than a Product Tour?

When a typical product manager thinks of a product walkthrough, they often equate it with a product tour that shows each user all the product’s features in the same, linear way each time.

This is a huge mistake. Everyone hates product tours!

Product tours have notoriously low completion rates. As many as 80% of your users will skip your product tour if it consists of more than 5 steps!

Here’s why product tours are problematic:

1. Product tours lack personalization

The more personalized the user experience, the more your customer feels special – like you care about their individual needs.

Product tours are generic by design since each user gets funneled down the same path, regardless of their needs.

2. Product tours are top-down

bossy saas
Be SaaS-y, not bossy.

If you use a product tour, each new user will get the same onboarding experience that you have determined ahead of time.

The key point here is that you, and not your user, are taking the lead on what to show them.

By contrast, an interactive walkthrough is usually more reactive. It’s customer-led. You can set this up in such a way that you can respond to the in-app actions of your user.

This means that an interactive walkthrough will feel less like a lecture and more like a conversation.

3. Product tours go against how humans learn

It’s well-understood by psychology that we learn best through first-hand experience.

Product tours take a product’s features out of context… and then dump all those features on the user at once!

This is a sure way to bore and overwhelm your user.

By contrast, an interactive walkthrough shows the user only what they need to get to the point of activation, and because it is interactive, the user is an active participant in the process.

4. They show features to people who don’t need to see them

By showing so many features to each user in the same way, traditional product tours often end up showing people features that are just not relevant to them.

This is generally for one of four reasons:

  • The user is too early in their product journey
  • The user is too advanced in their product journey
  • The user has already seen the feature and engaged with it
  • The user has already seen the feature and dismissed it
Intercom tour
Source: GetaNewsletter

In this Intercom product tour, the user is being asked to create their first email list (step 1) and then send their first newsletter (step 2).

gan product tour gif

Seems reasonable enough at first glance… until you realize that there’s no conditional logic at work. It makes no sense at all to show step 2 until step 1 has been completed.

Without completing step 1 and creating an email list, the user is too early in their customer journey to need the newsletter feature in their product walkthrough.

(Aside: this is why we would never recommend building product tours on Intercom!)

How to build an Interactive Product Walkthrough for your SaaS

Now let’s walk through how you might go about building your product walkthrough for your SaaS business.

1. List the different jobs that your product can do

Businesses that design linear product tours neglect the fact that most products have multiple use cases!

Put another way, most products contain many different “Jobs To Be Done” (JTBD).

For example, a typical project management tool could be used to:

  • Segment to-dos by board
  • Create complex workflows with multiple dependencies
  • Visualize the entire workflow with a Gantt Chart
  • Track the time of employees

Each of these JTBDs appeals to a different user persona in an organization that might use your product.

  • The time tracking feature is probably going to be most useful for the accounting department.
  • The complex task dependencies will probably only really be understood in detail by the project manager.
  • And the CEO will value the Gantt Chart because it enables him to get an overview of the big picture.
  • But all users need to know how to create boards and tasks.

Action: Make a list of the JTBDs and associated personas for your business.

2. Make a list of key activation events in your product

A huge KPI for the success of your interactive walkthrough is going to be the percentage of users who activate.

Here’s the problem: you can’t measure how many users activate until you define what activation is. And what that is will vary by user segment.

user stages - product growth goals chart

For our project management tool example, let’s say that most users begin activation by creating their first project management board and filling it with 5 tasks.

From there, what constitutes activation will depend on the user persona.

  • The CEO will want to see the Gantt Chart
  • The PM will want to create task dependencies
  • And Accounting will want to learn how to track time

Your turn: what does activation look like for your specific user segments?

3. Create a welcome screen that separates the different users and JTBDs

Your welcome screen will be the first thing that your new users see when they log into your product for the first time.

To maximize Day 1 retention, it’s essential that you find out as soon as possible who they are and which segment they fall into.

In this example, Quickbooks’ welcome screen aims to segregate users by JTBD:

quickbooks welcome

You can even go as far as to gamify your welcome screen so that it looks like the user is choosing an avatar for a video game:

choose avatar
Source: eset.com

Userpilot makes it super easy to build welcome screens.

Simply go to the Experiences section, navigate to the page where you want your welcome screen to pop up, and choose “Modal” from the available UI options.

Userpilot Modal
Source: Userpilot

Then, select one of the templates and start customizing it to fit your needs.

userpilot modal template
Source: Userpilot

Over to you: it’s time for you to build a welcome screen for your SaaS product! If you want to use Userpilot for this, we suggest signing up for a free demo first.

4. Create your first experience flow

To recap: most product tours fail because they show users features that don’t match where they are in the user journey.

It wouldn’t make sense to get project management users to create a Gantt chart, make tasks with dependencies, or track time until there are already some tasks and some task boards in existence.

Therefore, the first experience flow for this product should probably show the user how to set up a task board and make a few tasks.

teamwork board
Source: Teamwork

Your turn: set up a primary experience flow for your product that facilitates activation.

5. Create your secondary experience flow

To make sure that the next experience flow is only shown to users who have actually set up some tasks and boards, Userpilot makes use of something called “custom events.”

Your dev team can define a custom event and pass it to us, after which Userpilot will be able to show you whether users have completed the event or not. You can then serve or not serve the next experience flow accordingly.

userpilot backend
Source: Userpilot

In this example from a social scheduling app, Userpilot only shows the secondary onboarding flow to users who

  • have signed up less than 3 days ago
  • have seen the welcome screen
  • and have not added social accounts themselves yet

So in our project management app example, you might want to show an interactive walkthrough about using a Gantt chart to someone who:

  • has set up a PM board and 5 tasks
  • indicated on the welcome screen that they are the CEO
  • and has not yet set up a Gantt chart themselves

Over to you: set up your next experience flow. Make sure that the second experience flow is ONLY shown to users who have completed the first experience flow.

Once they have completed this product walkthrough, your users will have activated.

They will have seen the main value of your product, but without being exposed to tons of features that they don’t care about or need yet.

What NOT to do in a SaaS Product Walkthrough

A word of caution before you get too excited and release your product walkthrough into the wild.

A common mistake with product walkthroughs is to make them too linear. That is to say: a walkthrough contains multiple experiences that are all triggered consecutively.

For our project management tool, you might have:

  • Welcome screen
  • Build a board
  • Build a task
  • Build 4 more tasks
  • Build a Gantt chart
  • Use the time tracking feature
  • etc

If you show your users all these experiences consecutively, with no thought as to whether they have actually completed one experience before moving on to the next one, your walkthrough starts to look conspicuously like a product tour!

Another feature of linear walkthroughs like this is to make them triggered by time only.

So the first experience might be shown to someone who just signed up, then the second one 10 minutes later, and the third 10 minutes after that, and so on.

Let me be absolutely clear: triggering experiences by time will be a huge turn-off to your customers. They will ask themselves why they are being subjected to this torment.

And if you don’t make the X button visible on your walkthrough UI, they will probably rage-quit before activating. You have been warned!

computer destroyed
Don’t be this guy.

For the best user experience, you want to trigger experiences based on custom events and the actions that a given user has already performed.

That means remembering to ask users what their desired JTBD is in the welcome screen, and segmenting the user experience accordingly.

Product walkthroughs that instead serve one generic experience flow will be viewed with disdain by users – and rightly so.

3 Product Walkthrough Examples

If you’re still struggling to think of what your walkthrough should look like, here are some examples to give you some inspiration.

1. Postfity’s Product Walkthrough

Built with Userpilot. It begins with a welcome screen:

postfity walkthrough
Source: Postfity

User activation for a social media tool like this happens in two steps:

  1. The user connects their social media accounts.
  2. The user schedules their first post.

In this initial walkthrough, there’s no need to show the user any other features apart from those two. Otherwise, they would get overwhelmed and this would degenerate into a product tour.

Here’s what the walkthrough to connect a social media account looks like:

postfity connect account
Source: Postfity

Note the nice intuitive tooltip in the top-left corner that points the user to what they need to do.

Once users have completed the custom event of connecting their account, they are moved to the next step of scheduling their first post:

postfity schedule post
Source: Postfity

In the Userpilot dashboard, Postfity can see how many users have completed each of these two goals. Users who have completed both are deemed to have activated.

Postfity can also use Userpilot to A/B test new features of their walkthrough to see if they can make incremental improvements.

2. Kontentino’s Product Walkthrough

Kontentino is another social media scheduling app. Let’s take a look at their interactive walkthrough – which was also built using Userpilot.

It begins with a welcome screen. Note the nice microsurvey built into this to help with user segmentation.

kontentino welcome
Source: Kontentino

Next, there is a welcome screen, built using the Modal feature in Userpilot that we mentioned earlier. The picture of one of their employees adds a nice personal touch here.

kontentino welcome hana
Source: Kontentino

Then comes the first part of activation for a social media scheduler: connecting social media profiles. Note the Userpilot tooltip again in the top-left.

kontentino connect accounts
Source: Kontentino

Finally, the user is directed to schedule their first post.

kontentino schedule post
Source: Kontentino

It’s really that simple.

In a few clicks, Kontentino has shown their user the value of their tool, without overwhelming them with endless features that they don’t need for their use case.

3. Rocketbots’ Product Walkthrough

Rocketbots is a messaging platform that connects all your inboxes in one app. Again, their product walkthrough was built using Userpilot.

The first step is to create a “Space,” which is essential so that their app runs properly.

Rocketbots space
Source: Rocketbots

Next, you’re shown a short tutorial so that you understand how their messages work.

rocketbots tutorial
Source: Rocketbots

The tutorial uses characters from the Office as placeholder data so as to avoid confusing the user with empty states.

Activation happens for Rocketbots when their users connect an inbox. So Rocketbots next invites you to do just that.

rocketbots channel
Source: Rocketbots

The walkthrough ends with the user being directed to invite a collaborator. This seems like a smart way to build virality into the onboarding flow.

Ready to create your own product walkthroughs?

It’s really simple to implement once you learn to see things through the eyes of your users.

Just avoid showing users features that they don’t need, and think of the walkthrough as a conversation where you respond to their actions in an automated manner.

It’s a nice mix of emotional intelligence meeting technology. And it will improve your activation and retention, because users will feel like you care about their individual needs.

To build a personalized product walkthrough for your SaaS company, sign up for a free demo today!

 
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