when designing interfaces we are constantly struggling to make our product intuitive and very often, as soon as things get a bit stuck, people suggest "No problem, let's just insert a 30-second video tutorial and the user will understand immediately".

I assume this can be a really effective way to help users that want to understand (because they're already engaged with your product so they have time to spend watching a video), but I do believe this cannot be an approach. I think this should be like a "plus" or a "desperate solution", because I think the vast majority of the users (specially in try-and-buy environments, I mean before the buy step) just don't want to spend their time watching mini-tutorials in order to achieve their goal. They rather go see someone else, hopefully someone that provides a better interface (again, this is my opinion).

But I have no evidence in my hands to proof or either to dismantle my theory. Do anybody know if there's any study or article giving numbers about the effectiveness of such video-tutorials?

Don't hesitate to tell me if my question is not clear, I'll be happy to edit it :)

UPDATE For information purposes, here are my Google results for the query "online video tutorial effectiveness" (just the interesting ones, but still not focused on my question)

  • This is a tough one as it's hard to do comparison testing. You'd have to purposefully make one version less intuitive. In fact, I think that, itself, is the argument against them. :)
    – DA01
    Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 16:42
  • But yet, they are definitely useful (MailChimp help is a nice proof), but then people stick at it like it was the solution to all the problems (and the justification for design laziness...). Anyways, thanks a lot for the comment :)
    – xBill
    Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 17:10

2 Answers 2


There are plenty of existing studies on the effectiveness of videos, and I'd rather not re-Google them just to cite sources.

To summarize those findings on video: 1) It should be there, 2) It shouldn't be the only option.

I imagine that if you are trying to sell something, this particular video should focus on features, and more importantly benefits to the consumer.

As far as help videos, I usually prefer step-by-step instructions written out. Most help videos I've watched are a bunch of babbling, and do little to actually solve my problem. On the off chance the video is concise and solves the issue, if the issue is complicated, I often find that I have to go back through the video, pausing and returning, which is very inconvenient compared to a well thought out documentation via lists/short paragraphs.

  • I agree completely with your opinion--that videos for 'help' are often more cumbersome than other help options. But that does somewhat contradict the statement that videos are effective. I assume those studies perhaps focus more on marketing rather than help.
    – DA01
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 5:08
  • Thanks! You're probably right about the babbling most of the time (but have you seen MailChimp's video tutorials?), but I'm afraid that step-by-step tours require more interaction and reading (though engagement) than videos (which can be "passively" watched). In my context I'm dealing with unengaged users that are basically giving their time to me to give my app a try so I can ask them no effort.
    – xBill
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 8:41

I don't know of any research regarding help videos, but here's a couple of questions to consider:

  1. Is 30 seconds enough to demonstrate the usage of your application?
  2. Do you also need to explain key concepts in the short video?
  3. Can the user effectively repeat these actions?

Video tutorials may not work well for more complex applications (e.g. imagine trying to introduce After Effects in 30 seconds). There is also an increase mental workload as the user needs to memorize the steps. Perhaps you could look into guided product tours that help users practice using the application. Here's an example.

  • Wow, great! I didn't know bootstraptour.com, very interesting! To be precise, I don't need to introduce my app in a 30-sec video, but rather provide highly focused inline help for key features that can be hard to use intuitively.
    – xBill
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 8:30

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