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Our product is some kind of CRM for our partners and they want to know about all the updates we release.
Types of updates we're asked to tell about:

  1. Technical — invisible changes (counting money in a new, better way, submitting forms by enter);
  2. Interface — visible changes (new control for printing a group of documents).

Sometimes we release many updates in different parts of website, so it's better to tell in each part only about related updates.

So what's the better way: something like a walkthrough tutorial, inline tips or something like a special mode in mobile apps (example below)?

enter image description here

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Is a CHANGELOG page, hyperlinked to actual pages with updates, enough for your partners? –  Deer Hunter May 23 '13 at 8:20
    
@DeerHunter, unfortunately, no. Generally they don't read such things, we've even made separate section for all updates that signalized when something new appeared. The main reason is they don't have time and motivation to put together text and images with real interface. In short, the don't wanna think a lot. –  Katherine Mokhova May 23 '13 at 11:05

3 Answers 3

Inline hints about something new are nice. The good ones don't get in the way, but provide an entry into an explanation of what has changed.

The important thing is, no matter how you want to present your information, I need to be in control of when and where I dig into it. Your changes may not affect what I'm trying to do right now, I might be in a hurry, or I'll just figure it out myself, etc. You cannot judge what I need to know. This is what annoys me about big updates like the Google Plus one recently. Big fly-out thing trying to get my intention about whatever they changed, but it just gets in the way and it's not like it's complicated anyway. Well, to me. Others might like that. But you got to cater to everyone.

This also means I need to be able to get to that information later if I don't have time for it now.

All those different ways of telling users about what's new are good, but it depends on what changed. If you relabeled some stuff you could make do with a little tooltip, but some workflow changed might need a multi-screen walkthrough.

Why not, along with inline notes, have a little update indicator somewhere in a visible place I can click on to review what's new? List whatever is new in a single place I can look for updates, and allow me the option of reading more, or going into full walkthrough mode or whatever's appropriate. That's what I like about the update indicator for the iOS App Store. It's a single indicator, always in the same place, and clicking it gives me an overview of what's new. Usually I'll not care, but I can chose to read more. So, if I missed an inline thing I could always refer to that central indicator and get to the update information.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

sorry about the crappiness of the mockup

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Since you have mentioned partial updates are regular, you could have info nudges on those pages where the interface has changed. This could be something like a little curtain with a message informing that things have changed on this page and the user could be given an option to lean more.

Once you are in the learn more, you could have a modal popup explaining the changes with pictures/text/animation. Also this page could have an option to dismiss this/ hide forever or show it the next time the user visits the page. Gmail.com often does this kind of thing when they have new features.

Hope it helps!

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+1 for nudges. Every time a website updates and tells me about it, invariably it does so by interrupting me when I'm on my way to do something else. I quickly hit "SKIP!" and then miss out on the updates--often with no way to get back to the update tutorial! –  Alex Feinman May 24 '13 at 14:12

If the updates are regular, I'd keep it really low profile. It is very annoying to be forced to go through a "what's new" every time something changed, when all you wanted to do is quickly get something done using the application, that might not even have changed significantly recently.

What you might try - and I never saw or tested this - is trying to notice if people spend more time on a screen where things really did change. If they take too much time, only then offer some help to guide where functions have moved.

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