Principles of product tours

A product tour is a kind of onboarding. They introduce users to changes you’ve made to their experience. But unlike onboarding (in which you help a novice get set up for the first time), a product tour is helping experienced users navigate changes to a flow they already understand.

Here are four principles I follow when thinking about this experience type.

Respect the user’s time

The user doesn’t care about your launch metrics. Prioritize features that impact a user’s most common workflows, pick 3 to showcase (5 max), and free them to explore on their own.

Don’t overwhelm the user

It’s tempting to enumerate every new feature and capability. Don’t do this. Introduce one concept per tooltip. Information overload trains users to ignore similarly-presented content in the future.

Resist the urge to explain in favor of affordances that make features discoverable, e.g., the introduction of a button labelled Save all” doesn’t need pointing out.

Provide information in context

Introduce features at the moment users need them, instead of firehosing them on first launch. Relevant and timely content is more likely to be understood and retained.

Show don’t tell

A product tour shows users where to find the new stuff. It’s not a a sales pitch. It’s not an instruction manual. Save the slogans for landing pages and put heavy details in documentation.

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