The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Interactive Tutorials

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Interactive Tutorials

In 1989, Steven R. Covey published a book called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. After studying many of the most successful individuals in the world, it turned out that, if you examine enough of them, you can determine common strategies that contributed to their excellence.

The book sold 15 million copies and Bill Clinton even asked Covey for advice on how to use these principles in his presidency. Clearly, this is a good approach to use if you want to find out what works.

So what if we can do the same thing for interactive tutorials that improve user onboarding?

Interactive tutorials are a great way to carefully guide users through your user interface (UI), and are arguably the most powerful onboarding tool available to us. That means a good one can increase your activation rate, reduce churn and improve the Life Time Value of your leads.

After studying some of the best tutorials and walkthroughs in the world, the myTips team has put together The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Interactive Tutorials. While we sit back and wait for Bill Clinton to give us a call, let’s take a look at how to make your SaaS product earn more money.

1. Encourage users with benefit-driven headlines

In sales, there’s an age-old acronym; “ABC”. It stands for “Always Be Closing” and the same is true for your interactive tutorial. Denoting the next stage in your tutorial is all well and good, but if you haven’t explained to the user specifically why they should take that next step, it’s easy to lose their attention.

Another good acronym to remember from sales is WIIFM; this one stands for “What’s In It For Me?”. Remember, at each stage of your process, there should be simple, instantly understandable, benefit-driven headlines to answer that question and keep your user moving forward.


Spotify’s onboarding process for its mobile app is a great example of benefit-driven headlines in action. “Millions of songs in an instant”. (Damn!.. where do I sign up?) The visual cues are pretty cool too and they’re also very much in line with the brand, adopting the instantly recognisable Spotify green.

“Millions of songs in an instant” are six words with a massive value proposition that’s actually pretty miraculous. It’s short, succinct and delivers 100% on its promise once the user is inside the app. That’s an important last point. Sure, put a big juicy worm on the hook, but make sure you deliver afterwards unless you want to reduce your credibility in the eyes of your user.


2. Focus on one thing at a time

When it comes to software design, simplicity should be your goal. There’s a very good reason for that: Simplicity works! After decades of half-baked mobile operating systems, Apple’s iOS came along and stormed the market because it was simple. And these days, increasingly simple interfaces and tutorials are found on all devices, not only mobile.

Sure, your users are probably smart people. But we live in a world full of distractions and by giving people too much to focus on simultaneously, you invoke what Nielsen Norman Group describe as “Cognitive Overload” and you lose your user’s attention. We touched on this in last week’s Beginner’s Guide to Mobile User Onboarding [LINK].


LiveChat has a perfect example of a simple tutorial, graying everything out so you can only see one thing at a time. No getting confused there… Also, there’s a quest checklist at the top to illustrate which part of the tutorial you’re at and how many are left to go, but we’ll speak more about that later.


3. Use your service to introduce itself

Is there some way you can use your service to introduce itself? If so, this is a great strategy for creating highly effective interactive tutorials. myTips is a good example of this, but in reality, nearly every SaaS product you find that is capable of introducing itself uses an interactive tutorial.

If you have a social media service, you might consider setting up a user account where your app suggest to connect with users on the network with shared interests, location etc as part of the tutorial. If you have a music service, consider creating a playlist, perhaps with a series of short audio soundbites walking your users through the set up.

The possibilities are endless. So get creative! Figure out a way to use your service to introduce itself.


Perhaps the most obvious example of a service introducing itself is Gmail. Sure, Google’s code geeks could probably scrape together a welcome message overlay if they were having a good day. But, an email sent to you in your new email inbox is a much cooler way, and you get a tour of the UI at the same time!


4. Make a tutorial work towards a relevant result

So, interactive tutorials are a great tool to improve your user onboarding. But at the very core of your onboarding strategies, the goal should be to guide your user to the moment where they actually receive the value your product delivers. And the same applies to your interactive tutorial.

Before you plan yours out (and we’ll look at that later, too), decide on the most significant, valuable goal you could help your users achieve within your service. Make this result the endgame for your tutorial, with all other steps working towards that goal.


Content PPC’s advertising service, Outbrain, is a great example here. After giving the company your email address for the signup process, the very next screen is the start of their tutorial. And the best part? It doesn’t even make you confirm your account first.

This is another important point to go over quickly. If you ask your new user to leave your website to confirm their account, they might not come back. They could get interrupted, the email might not come through, or it might go into their spam and they don’t check it.

Back to the tutorial, though… By the end of it, the user has a piece of content set up, ready to get clicks, get shown off to the world and make them money. It’s exactly the result they signed up to get, so naturally you’d want to guide them to it.


5. Use a quest checklist to illustrate progress

People are busy these days and, no matter how enjoyable, benefit-driven or valuable your tutorial may be, people need to know how much time it will take them. For this reason, it’s important offer some kind of measurement of their progress throughout the tutorial.

A “quest checklist” is a great way to do this. Make it something instantly recognizable and visually appealing, perhaps offering a “tick” or “check” icon to give your users that warm fuzzy feeling we all get when we strike something off of our to-do list.

With a quest checklist, people know how far they’ve come, and how far is left to go. They’re more likely to see your tutorial through to the end.


You have likely seen these around, but to give you a quick visual example, check out the screenshot from LessAccounting’s onboarding process below.


6. Track the results of your user onboarding and compare to your business goals

The sixth habit of highly successful interactive tutorials is that they must be continually tracked and compared to your target interaction rate for your users.

For example, creating a tutorial arbitrarily would be a bad idea. A lot of thought should go into the process. But, even if you do put all that careful thought into it, how do you know if it’s producing the results you desire?

Never in the history of mankind has there been more user-tracking and analytics tools, so it’s time to take advantage and bring your tutorials to the next level. Set your goals and track user interaction. If you fall short of your targets, it’s time for the seventh principle.


    Alright…so… without being able to hack into other people’s accounts, we can’t give you examples of who uses analytics well. But, we can suggest a few services.

  • MyTips
  • Not only does myTips revolve around creating highly effective tutorials, it also has analytics software built into the account page so you can track things properly.

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Analytics is perhaps the most obvious candidate. It gets better each year and there are several tools available to track how effective your tutorials are.

  • MixPanel
  • MixPanel is a great onboarding tool that we’ve recommended before and tutorial tracking is just one of its many features.

7. Сontinually A/B test and improve your flow

Finally comes A/B testing. In the above subheadings, you found some of the best practice principles in the world for creating killer tutorials. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll ace the process first time round.

Iterative tweaking through solid A/B testing the key. Change one small thing at a time using equal traffic, ideally from the same source, and see whether headline A or headline B produces the best results for you.


A commonly overlooked part of the A/B testing process is the “Pareto Principle”, also referred to as “The 80/20 Rule”

Simply put, the principle states that 20% of your efforts will bring you 80% percent of your results. That means that, if you’ve just created your killer tutorial with all of the highly effective habits, you’ll find that 2/10 stages you to tweak will yield significantly more results than the rest.

When you find these stages, make sure you focus on them, and carefully tweak your way to A/B testing tutorial success. A/B testing is a big subject and, much like user onboarding as a whole, it’s a skill that is worth mastering over the long run by reading the likes of the ConversionXL blog.


Studying the best in any business (whether it’s financial success as a whole or something as specific as interactive tutorials) is a great way to learn and apply effective strategies in our own lives and businesses.

If you’re reading this article, it’s likely you’re at least considering an interactive tutorial to improve your onboarding processes. With The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Interactive Tutorials under your belt, it’s time to start onboarding like a boss.

As a bonus, we’ll throw in a 5-step process to make sure you start off on the right foot.

  1. Decide on your goals for your first user onboarding experience – conversion from trial to paid customer, higher retention, more activated trial users or whatever works for you.
  2. Plan out your product walkthough based on these goals and its key value
  3. Sign up for myTips and prepare what you just planned
  4. Set up your goals in Google Analytics with a view to track changes weekly
  5. Remember the 7th step to constantly improve the tutorial through A/B testing

With the strategies in this guide and a goal-driven start to the process, your new users will love you for guiding them carefully through your SaaS product to easily receive the value that you strive to provide.