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I am about to launch my site. I am not a professional programmer. I am a doctor who likes to code. The site will be aimed at fellow doctors in my speciality and takes the form of a social network combined with a specialist questions and answers section. I have been so close to this thing for months that I have lost perspective. I had a friend login and the immediate reaction was that I needed some sort of basic tour to explain how to get around.

I am not completely sure how to implement this. Many sites have animated tour type sections (loaded with JQuery). I'm not sure if the best approach - simple blurb or animated tour of the site. Is this even necessary?

Your thoughts are appreciated.

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I had a friend login

User testing! Awesome!

and the immediate reaction was that I needed some sort of basic tour to explain how to get around.

Great feedback, but it is telling you something different than what you are currently reading from it. What your user testing is telling you is that your navigation architecture is inappropriate for your target audience.

Your site should guide the user to their destinations on its (and their) own.

Here is a good article that discusses many different patterns that help to guide users: http://www.dtelepathy.com/blog/design/ux-flows-navigation

Especially for a social network, if your users have to learn how to communicate with others you will quickly discourage them. Your users need to doing what they want to do almost immediately!

But - what about more advanced features or new features? In cases where you have more advanced features, a tour might be appropriate. It might be good to point out new features too with a small popover and an option for more info (Facebook does this frequently). Forcing the user into a tour just to figure out the basics though will disenfranchise them.

To help overcome the hurdle your user testing is currently show you might consider a card sorting exercise to better define your navigation.

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