Tutorials are a common feature of sophisticated interfaces in websites and apps. They can point out useful features and walk users through complex workflows and interactions so that they can accomplish tasks quickly and without frustration. If your tutorial is not designed well, however, it can cause annoyance and frustration and users might ignore it entirely. So how do you create an effective user tutorial?
1. Get an Outside Point of View
User testing results almost always include some piece of feedback that surprises me. It’s hard to look at your own projects with the fresh eyes of a new user, and your experience and habits might not be the same as your target audience. It’s easier to see whether users could benefit from the guidance of a tutorial if you can see how they actually use your tool and where they need assistance.
2. Reevaluate Ineffective Design
Before trying to clarify things for users through tutorials, explore ways that the interface could be improved and remove the need for clarification in the first place.
3. Get to the Point
An unfortunate reality revealed by user testing is that if you give users too much to read, sometimes they won’t bother to read it at all. It helps to keep tips and tutorials brief and avoid overloading users with too much information up front. If there’s more direction that could be helpful to a small subset of users, consider giving them the option to view it only if they need it, such as by placing it in a separate “help” section.
4. Avoid Creating an obstacle
For a user who needs direction, a tutorial can help them make sense of an interface faster. For a user who already knows what they’re doing, a tutorial can be a distraction which slows them down. Consider giving users the option to skip or disable your tutorial if they don’t need it.
5. Confirm Your Goals Are Met
Just as code goes through quality assurance testing to catch problems, user testing can be quality assurance for interfaces and workflows. Getting your tutorial in front of real users can confirm that the tutorial is solving the problems it set out to address or provide direction for improvements.
If your site visitors could use a helping hand, consider adding a user tutorial to your interface.