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We've found that our users have almost universally benefited from actually going through our walkthrough. Obviously, we have some more ux work to do on our service. But, based on this information, we decided to force users through the short walkthrough in the interim. Somewhat unsurprisingly, people have protested a bit :) So, what do you think, is it ok to force users through a brief walkthrough when you know it will benefit them in the end?

Edit We are going to add some mixpanel hooks to find out if users are leaving when presented with a walkthrough they can't exit out of.

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I'd focus on what user tasks they benefited by going through the walkthrough first and then look at those particular tasks to see if the UX can be improved. –  DA01 Jan 17 '13 at 21:12
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It depends on when your walkthrough occurs, whether they have an exit path, and whether the user feels like they got any benefit from it.

If the walkthrough occurs early in the process of using your service, you're increasing the likelihood that they'll give up entirely on your service and move on. People want to try things out, they don't want to have to spend time learning about what they're about to try out. A walkthrough is even more annoying if it is truly forced with no exit. If you don't give people an exit, they've always got the exit of not using your service at all.

If the walkthrough occurs after they've been using the service for some amount of time -- that is, they've had time to try it out a bit and get a feel for what it does and how it might meet their needs -- then you're less likely to raise their ire, and you're also more likely to be able to give them information that helps them use your service until you fix the endemic UX issues that you have that makes you need such a walkthrough in the first place. Even in this case, forcing them to sit through it with no exit means that you're eroding their trust.

As someone providing a service, you have to build trust with those who are using your service. They need to trust that it will meet their needs and that it will allow them to do something that they weren't able to do before (or will allow them to do something that they could do before, but now they can do it better/faster/cheaper/whatever). By forcing them to do anything, you're taking away the trust that your service will meet their needs. You're telling them that you know better than they do, which is very rarely a message that is taken well by people.

Remember, "it will benefit them in the end" is from your perspective as the provider of the service. However, the people who are trying to use your service don't know that there is benefit to be had, and they do know that you're treating them badly by giving them a bad user experience and, on top of that, forcing them to sit through a walkthrough that they don't feel that they should care about.

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This raises a good point. Users who have already adopted your system will be thankful for little bits of help. A new users might not like it. Playing Devil's Advocate for a minute, we are generally the type of people that would get upset about a forced walkthrough, but we are also the people that would benefit from it the least. The people who benefit from walkthroughs are usually the people who want some form of hand-holding (like my father-in-law that needs someone to stand by him when he wants to google something). –  jscheel Jan 31 '13 at 23:33
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It's NEVER a good idea to force a customer to do anything, whether it's automatic updates or a walkthrough. I hate software that insists on walkthroughs and tend to click through as fast as I can without paying attention, because I prefer to learn a new program by experimenting and using the help files when I get stuck. DO have a walkthrough though that loads the first time or even first few times a user opens the program if they don't view it the first time. I suggest when the walkthrough starts immediately have on the page somewhere an option to exit the walkthrough - a nice, clearly visible button. I also suggest though, that there be an easy to find button or link somewhere that will allow them to start the walkthrough at any time.

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Saying you should NEVER do it is quite a strong statement. I'm not sure it's always the case it's a bad thing to do. Such a statement comes across as being just your opinion, not necessarily the most suitable option to take. –  JonW Jan 18 '13 at 12:39
    
Humans don't like being forced to do anything... that's one of the reasons wars happen... I know that users who benefit from walkthroughs won't opt out though, and some users may not need walkthroughs - they may be able to learn the software better through other methods... Users hate to be forced to do anything - remember the fuss when Microsoft was forcing the use of IE to access updates? Jailbreaking phones because they didn't like being forced to use a specific carrier... force a walkthrough and I can almost guarantee that someone will crack the program to remove it –  krazykat1980 Jan 18 '13 at 21:24
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Force users to start an optional walkthrough.

To me, it seems most important to give users the option to opt out of the walkthrough. Some little no thanks button to exit the walkthrough should suffice.

The users that are annoyed by the walkthrough are most often those, that know the service and feel like they will not profit from it - so the percentage of "helpless" users actually going through the walkthrough and profiting from it will remain high, while the negative feedback from "versed" users already somewhat familiar with your product will go down as they can opt out.

Additionally, I think @MJJ has a point in his answer saying that eventually it also comes down to decreasing the need for a walkthrough that your users will profit from the most. Furthermore, @yisela's answer also gives an example of how a less intrusive walkthrough with just little tooltips can also improve the tutorial acceptance.

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If it is really just a walkthrough, there will be users that want to skip it. Not providing them with that option will result in them bashing the next button. One way or the other, these users will 'skip' your walkthough, they'll just end up being more frustrated than they would otherwise be.

A way to create an opportunity for providing walkthrough-type information and face less resistance is when you can guide the user through making choices that that will affect the app. For instance setting certain preferences or configuring certain settings while you explain things to them in more detail.

I think the iPhone app Cue is a good example of an app that can't just throw you in the deep, but can't bore you with trying to explain everything at the start either.

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I think it comes down to whether the user is paying for the service. If your service is free or provided as a perk, then in my opinion any help the user needs should be immediately available, but no - no mandatory walk through.

If, OTOH, the user has paid a single cent for this product - or usage is mandatory - then a walk through will help boost customer satisfaction in the long run (because they can use your product) at the expense of short term grumbling. A paying customer will want their money's worth, and if your product is too complex to be intuitive (which is of course the best possible situation), then you are merely providing good customer service.

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Not so sure if the paying versus non-paying argument really works. Even a paying customer might be disgruntled enough by the walkthrough that their overall impression remains that the software isn't worth the money - even if the OP knows all users benefit from the walkthrough that does not mean that equally all users also know to appreciate or even recognize the efficiency gain from it. –  kontur Jan 18 '13 at 11:06
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is it ok to force users through a brief walkthrough when you know it will benefit them in the end?

Yes, without a doubt it's OK for the employer to "force" them to take training that will improve their work. While it's ideal to make software so obvious and simple that no coaching or instruction will add value, in reality that's very rare.

There's the added benefit of getting a little feedback during the process that can help improve a subsequent version.

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You don't necessarily need an extensive walk-through, it can be a short introduction on how things work.

I found the new Spotify instructions quite interesting and non-invasive. Once you install the program, it shows you 3 simple steps to start listening to music (I think it was Search, Play and Create a playlist). Linkedin does something similar, incorporating some pseudo-gamification to the process of completing your profile.

Depending on how specialized and complex the process is, some non-invasive short hints might be well received. But you should always have an opt-out option, for repeating users or people who already know how things work.

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A question I would ask: "Why do your users protest going through the walk through"?

  • Do they not find it useful?
  • Is it boring?
  • Do they already know the information?
  • Is it unexpected?
  • Are you asking for more than you are giving?
  • They feel a loss of control?
  • Is the language hard to read?
  • Did they have a bad morning?

You get the idea. As others have said, forcing your user to do something is not generally recommended. Getting the answer to the question above will help. For example if users say "I do not find it useful" a potential solution would be to tell them the benefit of the training and encourage/lead (but don't force) them through the training.

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I was trying to think of times when the answer would be yes. My thoughts are if it is a public site that does not have a captive audience then no, forcing the users to do anything they don't need to do for vital reasons is not good.

On the other hand for systems that a user is going to use on a repeated basis, such as every day, that is not overly intuitive because it would make repeated task longer if it was (and there is a good case for this) then some kind of enforced training may be not only allowed but vital to it's use. You wouldn't let someone drive a car without taking lessons to use a real world example.

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As a senior designer this question makes me cringe. The bottom line is if your service or design NEEDS a walkthrough for people to understand how it works, then the design or service needs to be rethought or deployment delayed until the design is further along.

So no - it is not OK to force a user through a walkthrough.

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I think this answer is taking some liberties with defining what a walkthrough is. Are a couple of tooltips with arrows pointing to certain important page controls considered a walkthrough? For example, if upon my first login to a billings software suite I am presented with a couple of small overlays with an arrow showing me where the time tracking button, button to view my reports, etc. is this considered a walkthrough or just a helpful visual? –  mattermill Jan 17 '13 at 21:31
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I think the part that stands out for me is "force a user through"... I don't think users should be "forced" to do anything... with the exception of being "restricted" to only enter digits in a quantity field etc. However I'm not against "strongly encouraging" the user ;-) –  scunliffe Jan 18 '13 at 4:11
    
While I agree with this answers main point, it reads as if any walkthrough / tutorial whatsoever is always unjustified and due to bad design, which simply can't stand as a correct answer. –  kontur Jan 18 '13 at 11:02
    
I know that it's a polarizing topic, and I do believe that walkthroughs should be minimized / eliminated as much as possible, but there are times in which they are justifiable. This discussion has been hashed several times, so I'll just link to this for now: techcrunch.com/2013/01/05/in-defense-of-the-humble-walkthrough I'm not looking to change minds. But, for this specific instance, this specific case, there is a question about what to do while the UX is simplified. –  jscheel Jan 31 '13 at 23:23
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