Product Tours 101: Guidelines, Inspirations, and Tools for 2023

Build engaging product tours using these six simple guidelines and find inspiration in the best real-life examples.

Pulkit Agrawal
18 min read
Product Tours 101: Guidelines, Inspirations, and Tools for 2023

Product tours are an essential tool for a product manager in guiding users towards their "aha" moment or showcasing high-value features that are being underused.

By offering contextual guidance while your users interact with your product, you help them recognize your product value quickly and take the right action to get their job done.

Creating product tours is both art and science. It requires design and styling, copywriting mastery, as well as data analysis, testing, and iteration until a tour perfectly meets your user needs. 

So how exactly do you create product tours that are effective at customer onboarding? Read on, we'll explain key guidelines in detail, and showcase some of the best examples of product tours out there.

Here is a quick summary video to tell you what this guide will be about:

TL;DR
  • Product tours are also known as product walkthroughs, in-app guides, onboarding tours, or product tutorials. Either way, they are a powerful tool for user engagement and product adoption. 

  • What makes a tour successful? To be effective, a tour should be short and non-intrusive, timely and relevant, contextual and informative. 

  • Each tour will have its purpose, whether it’s to onboard new users, walk existing users through a major interface redesign, or showcase new features. 

  • There’s no one-size-fits-all, but keep in mind that our Benchmark Report shows that three-step tours are the most effective, with a completion rate of 72%. 

  • Some of the key guidelines on how to create successful product tours include breaking one long tour into several shorter ones, using clear and concise copy, offering self-serve support, and continuous iteration. We go into details for each guideline below 👇

  • And, we dissect six best-performing product tour examples for your inspiration.

What are product tours? #

Product tours are interactive guides that give s a walkthrough of the product's key features. Their primary goal is to turn new users into active users and drive product adoption, ultimately achieving product-led growth.

On a technical level, product tours are composed of in-app messages that form the onboarding process. They are experiences layered over the product itself and provides an interactive guide while the user is navigating the app.

What are not product tours? #

Before we go further into what makes a great product tour, let's talk about what isn't a product tour because there can be some confusion.

Product tours are tools of customer engagement. In other words, they interact with the end-user to boost feature adoption. They are also experiences contained within the product itself.

This means that anything else than the above isn't exactly a product tour. Let's go over two particular examples.

Employee onboarding  #

Employee onboarding is the process of integrating new employees into the workplace and helping them adjust to the company's internal processes. It involves activities such as orientation sessions, and training programs.

While there are similarities between employee and product tours, such as the need for clear and structured guidance, they are very different. Product tours focus on user onboarding, which is introducing new users to a product or service, ensuring that they can navigate and utilize it efficiently.

Employee onboarding, on the other hand, is designed to help new hires become productive members of the organization and align with the company's goals and objectives.

Product demos #

Product demos are interactive presentations that showcase a product's features to potential customers, aiming to persuade them to make a purchase.

Think of it as a difference between a movie and a video game. A product demo is a movie, because you're simply watching what is occuring, while a product tour is a video game, because you're actively involved in what's happening on the screen.

Remember, true interactive product tours consist of in-app guidance used to onboard users and drive feature adoption.

6 essential guidelines for a successful product tour #

So now that we've covered what a product tour is, let's talk about what it takes to create successful product tours that convert new users and help existing users deepen their product knowledge.

Each tour you create will have its purpose – to onboard new users, walk existing users through a major redesign, showcase a new feature, guide customers through a product plan upgrade, or something else that is relevant to your product. 

Let's look into the most important principles and guidelines that will help you build engaging tours.

1. Don't lecture 🤐 #

When someone signs up for your product, they are excited to play with it and are often not prepared for long introductory tutorials. Showing a comprehensive tour as soon as they land inside your product for the first time will often be met with resistance – users will immediately seek to close/dismiss it. 

In fact, keeping things short has a lot of benefits. We analyzed 58 million Tours made with Chameleon – started within a period of 12 months – and found that top-performing product tours have a clear message with 25 words per step. That's the same length as a Tweet, so each step needs to be concise and instantly understandable. Otherwise, a tour could easily become overwhelming.

Why is this important?

Users typically want to get a "lay of the land" with your product before they are ready for guidance. That's why you need to gradually reveal your tours and offer just the right information at the right time.

Once users understand the basics of your product and how it helps them solve their problems, there will be plenty of time to introduce more advanced functionalities. 

Key takeaways:

  • Ask whether users are interested in a tour as the first step. Offer a “Snooze” button to enable users to come back at their own convenience. 

  • Remember that tours are part of your product marketing, so ensure that the messaging and design are compelling, engaging, and aligned with your brand

  • Use a less-invasive step design (e.g. don't cover the whole screen), or you could risk annoying users. You can go with slide-outs and modals, or enable users to start a tour by triggering a certain element on the page (e.g. icon or a hotspot).

2. Break up the user journey💔 #

People learn by doing, so giving users a chance to implement your guidance is critical. Long tours increase anxiety because users worry they have to ingest a lot of information before they can use it. And this is also backed up by psychology.

Miller's Law states that the average person can keep up to around seven items in their working memory. This means that the fewer items your users have to retain, the more successful they will be in learning new information. This is why you should build your Tours in as few steps as possible.

Findings from our 2022 Benchmark Report show that three-step tours are the most effective with a completion rate of 72%, three-step tours are the most effective, hands down. Add one step and the completion rate drops to 45%, while seven-step tours have a completion rate of only 16%.

In other words, people like shorter tours.

A graph showing the three-step onboarding flow as the most effective approach for maximum user engagement and swift product value realization

Why is this important?

With timely, relevant, and contextual tours, you will navigate users step by step through each action they need to take. This way, you avoid overwhelming them with too much information to comprehend at once. Here is our CEO Pulkit explaining more in detail why this is so important:

Key takeaways:

  • Don't try to teach everything. Pick a single user action as the goal, and create a 3-step tour to convince a user to take that action.

  • Create many smaller tours rather than a single long tour. With Chameleon, you can also prioritize and sequence your Tours.

  • Copy is your #1 lever, make it clear, concise, and benefit-focused. Use copy to encourage users, make them feel comfortable, and put off any doubts they may have.

3. Provide value 💡 #

Users should feel thankful after seeing your tour. It should not be annoying or draining in any way for them to complete the tour, so don't ask them to undertake lots of work to get value.

Instead, surprise and delight them with additional information that they would not have otherwise gleaned from your interface.

Why is this important?

If users don't find your tours valuable, they will exit and be less open to further teaching in the future – so it's vital that you don't reduce your credibility by building irrelevant tours.

On the other hand, our benchmark data shows that users are 4.5x more likely to complete a second tour if they complete the first instead of dismissing it.

Key takeaways:

  • Review your tour: Did you enjoy going through it? Ask your teammates, too. And, don't forget to ask your users directly for their feedback. 

  • You can use Customer Effort Score surveys (more specific and actionable than NPS) to measure user satisfaction with key features or UX/UI elements. 

  • Assess how well your tours are performing – make sure you have connected your product analytics tool to see a bigger picture. For this, if you're using Chameleon, leverage deep integrations with Mixpanel, Heap, Amplitude, and other tools to easily see performance data.

4. Embrace self-discovery 🔦 #

Although it's natural to want to pull your users through all of the hoops you want them to jump through, using product tours to do this will fail. You simply cannot force a user to use your product, and highlighting everything you want them to do is a bad way to encourage engagement.

For instance, our research shows that enabling users to take a tour at their own pace by providing a “Snooze” button will increase the chance of more users taking the tour and, eventually, completing it. Our 2023 Benchmark Report found that when given the option to snooze, one in five users will come back to the Tour to finish it, which is much better than them skipping it altogether.

Or consider onboarding checklists. These self-serve widgets allow users to go through the onboarding process at their own pace, and increasingly it is becoming a preferred method of onboarding in contrast to linear product tours.

Don't take our word for it. That's what the users say. Our 2023 Benchmark Report revealed that Tours started from Launchers had a 61.65% completion rate, which is almost double the average.

An example of a Chameleon checklist

Why is this important?

The BJ Fogg Behavior Model explains that people take action when they are motivated, they have the ability, and they are triggered, so you need a combination of these three elements to keep your users engaged. Focus on motivating users to take the action and offer self-serve support to enable users to learn at their own pace.  

A picture of a BJ Fogg Model

Key takeaways:

  • Keep behavioral principles in mind when creating a tour, and make sure your users have the motivation, ability, and the right prompt to take action.

  • Focus your copy on explaining why a user should take certain actions; what value will they gain from doing so.

  • Use tours to highlight the most fundamental aspects of your product. For other ancillary features, use single-step tours as signposts.

5. Don't set it and forget it 😴 #

Traditionally, user onboarding was a set-and-forget project – teams would spend weeks overhauling the onboarding flow, then shift focus away, and repeat after 12 months. This is an inefficient and ineffective way to use product tours. Instead, collect feedback constantly on your product tours and iterate based on user feedback to continuously improve them.

For instance, a simple in-app survey like this one from Paypal below can go a long way in gathering constant feedback:

Paypal microsurvey modal

Why is this important?

To keep up with ever-evolving user needs, apply Agile principles to the tour creation. Once you've built your tour, focus on collecting user feedback, analyzing the performance data, and iterate on until you're satisfied with the outcome.

Key takeaways:

  • Be outcome-driven, not output-driven. Focus on a key quantitative goal and continue to focus on improving your product tour until you get there.

  • Set a conversion goal, beyond the completion of the tour. For example, you can use Chameleon for this, as it lets you track goals (such as clicks) without writing any code.

  • Provide clear accountability to someone on your team to own product tours and be responsible for regular updates.

6. Timing and context are key #

Lastly, when it comes to delivering a great product tour, it's important to give users value exactly when and where they need it. For instance, if you have a tour that tells the user about a new feature, it should only launch when that feature is present on the page.

Our data from the 2023 Benchmark Report suggests that Tours positioned relative to on-page triggers have a completion rate of 69.56% which is well over the average, meaning that Tours that are contextually related to what is on-page are much more well-received.

Chameleon element targeting

Or better yet, have your Tours trigger only when there is user interest. Such as when users hover over certain icons to find out more or click on an element. Below are some examples of this.

Trigger hotspots for tooltips

Another way to do this is to target different user segments to see what context is best for optimal engagement. Not all product tours have to be shown to everyone. Show the right ones to the right users.

Why is this important?

If your Tour pops out when it isn't wanted or it isn't related to what is being served, it'll only cause a negative experience for the user.

On the other hand, if your Tour actually helps the user along and educates them, that adds constructively to the experience, which means they're more likely to find value in your product.

Key takeaways:

  • Be mindful of the context that your tour is being launched under. Is it related to the experience? Is it something the user will find useful? The answer should be nothing but yes.

  • Think about when you're serving the Tour. Is it actually wanted? Or is it just a nuisance? Your Tours should be gentle nudges, not an intrusion. Try to trigger your Tours when there is a sign of user interest, such as a hover or a click over the element.

6 excellent product tour examples for your inspiration #

We gathered some excellent real-life examples to show you how SaaS companies are using product tours effectively. Let's dive in.

Psst... If you want to see more examples, browse our Inspiration Gallery.

Example #1: Heap #

Heap is a product analytics platform, and the first-time setup is more complex than something you simply use like Dropbox or Gmail. It's B2B software that needs to be configured for your product, so it comes as an 'empty bucket' that the user has to invest in.

Heap tooltip tour

Source: Heap

To reduce friction and help users make it through the rocky first mile, Heap built its product tour to coach the user through tasks that make its product's specific capabilities clear: set events, segment users, track conversions, and build reports.

Its tour has two interlinked parts – a user onboarding checklist and hotspots that trigger tooltips, showing the user how to complete each checklist task.

The tooltip copy helps clarify feature-specific language by offering examples that are rooted in a Heap user's everyday work.

The checklist gives users context on their setup progress and acts as a powerful motivator. Ticking checklist tasks sends small bursts of dopamine to the brain and makes your users feel good. 😄

Example #2: Typeform #

Typeform personalization

Source: Typeform

As an online forms software, Typeform is a Swiss army knife that can be used for lead generation, event registration, IT incident reports, fun office quizzes, and more. Because it's so open-ended, Typeform's onboarding tour depends on the user’s job to be done and whether they want to start from scratch or use a template.

Templates from Typeform

Source: Typeform

The templates offered are a masterclass in Typeform best practices. They use advanced features like logic jumps and custom branding to cement the product's possibilities in the user's head and coach the user to make successful forms. 

For Typeform, the pre-made forms themselves act as the product tours – sequential, educational, and driven by tangible examples. This is a great way to drive users to the “aha!” moment quickly.

Example #3: Slack #

We are familiar with the explosive growth Slack has had, and a big component of it was how easy, friendly, and fun it was to set up at the beginning.

Slack onboarding tour

Source: Slack

Slack uses bright tooltips and personable copy in its now-legendary product tour. The series of tooltips highlight public channels and direct messages to help the user understand the differences, benefits, and product terminology.

As well as clearly communicating brand personality with a laid-back tone, the product tour gets you chatting with a bot straight away to instantly teach you the core mechanics.

slackbot welcome tour

Source: Slack

Want to create a similar tour for your product? Check out the video below to see how to re-create Slack's user onboarding experience with Chameleon 😎

Chameleon Recipes: Recreating Slack's User Onboarding

Example #4: Dropbox Paper #

Dropbox Paper understands that its users want to create collaborative documents that are easy to share and fun to use. So, its product tour is built into a gorgeous example document – Getting Started with Dropbox Paper.

Dropbox Paper getting started page

Source: Dropbox Paper

The document is packed with hotspots that show rich video tooltips explaining the core features of Paper: changing formatting, adding files, and – of course – inserting emoji.

Dropbox Paper emoji tour

Source: Dropbox Paper

In a fun product aimed at creatives instead of enterprise executives, it makes a lot of sense to sell the benefits of emoji so early; Dropbox shows the feature off even before it explains how to format code or embed files 🤓

Dropbox Paper tooltip for adding images

Source: Dropbox Paper

Example #5: Airtable #

It looks delightfully like it was built by Fisher-Price, but Airtable is a very complex product that condenses the power of an SQL database into something as simple as Google Sheets.

Airtable product tour modal

Source: Airtable

To simplify that inherent complexity, Airtable's product tour shows snippets of high-level information and practical gifs on a self-serve basis.

Airtable product tour modal for field customization

Source: Airtable

The multicolored row of icons in the bottom right each represents one part of the tour and highlights a specific feature with its core benefit and a call-to-action.

Airtable product tour modal for Blocks

Source: Airtable

Example #6: Pipefy #

With Chameleon Launchers, Pipefy created a self-serve onboarding checklist, which can be toggled on and off. It also added a progress bar to keep people on track wherever they are in the onboarding process.

A screenshot of Pipefy's content marketing pipeline with a user-friendly checklist for easy workflow management

What you should look for in a good product tour software #

Now that you know how to build great product tours, you might be thinking about getting a product tour tool or in order to create interactive walkthroughs.

There are many options out there and you may be unsure of which is the best product tour software for you. So we want to leave you with essential features that you should have when you get one.

No-code editor #

First and foremost, your tool should be code free, so that you could do everything without relying on your engineering team. What makes a product tour software a great solution is that it saves resources, and a big part of that comes from not having to take development support.

Therefore, the tool of your choice should require zero coding knowledge to create an effective interactive product tour.

Chameleon Builder

Fully customizable styling #

Nothing derails the user journey like an experience that looks way off your brand style. From simple things like fonts, colors, and button shapes to custom CSS, you should be able to tailor every single in-product experience to look 100% on-brand.

Chameleon styling editor

Deep integrations #

Your team likely uses a stack of tools for various purposes, whether it's a CRM or an advanced analytics tool. Therefore, for the best results, your product tour software should be able to integrate deeply with a broad range of other SaaS products.

Now you might be thinking, why don't you just get an all-in-one tool rather than a focused and extensive product tour software? This is true, there are few like this, such as Intercom Product Tours, which is a product tour add on to its core offering of customer communication.

The problem with jack-of-all-trades tools is that they're always missing something compared to the next best product tour software alternative, and they also may not accommodate your specific needs from a product tour tool. There is merit to integrating the best tools together to create a stack that is optimally customized to your goals. 

Chameleon integrations

Native A/B testing #

We talked about why it's important to take feedback and iterate your tours to improve. For that, it's best to experiment and test different versions of your product walkthroughs to know what really works.

Thus, you should be able to set up native A/B testing right from your product tour solution.

Chameleon A/B testing

Contextual targeting #

A product walkthrough that gives the same experience to every user is not as effective as a hyper-targeted one. Because user behavior may diverge depending on various attributes such as profiles, as well as key actions taken during the user journey.

You can create a much more user friendly product tour by tailoring tours according to different context. For that, you need product tour features that allow you to target and adapt.

For instance, with Chameleon you can create custom audiences and configure environments, as well as decide how certain Tours will trigger.

Chameleon audience targeting

Thorough Help Documentation #

Even if support is top-notch, they can't be there for you 24/7. In fact, the best kind of support is one that solves the problem before you ever have to get in touch with the support team. That's where the help documentation shines.

Great help documentation improves user onboarding, reduces the learning curve, provides consistent and accurate information, enables self-service support, and ensures scalability and accessibility. Overall, it enhances user satisfaction and promotes effective utilization of the tool.

So watch for how effective and thorough the tool's help docs are.

Chameleon's help center provides answers for all kinds of issues and troubles.

Technical reliability #

Last, but not least, technical reliability is a must-have. If your product adoption software is slowing your product down overall, or it's making your product less usable, that defeats the purpose.

So make sure to look out for how technically robust the tool is. Try out all sorts of functionalities in various contexts. If your product has a specific requirement, make sure that the requirement is smoothly fulfilled with the tool. These include but are not limited to:

  • Mobile support

  • Single Page Application support

  • iFrame support

  • Shadow DOM support

  • 100% uptime

If your app is built on one of these frameworks, make sure it's supported by your tool of choice.

5 Product Tour Builders You Should Check Out #

Now that we've talked about everything that has to do with product tours, and what you should look for in product tour software, we'll leave you with a simple list of recommendations

1. Chameleon: The best-in-class product adoption platform #

Chameleon account styling editor

We pinky promise that we say this with no bias. Chameleon is currently the product adoption platform with the deepest configuration and customization options.

From the way you can style your experiences to match your brand, as well as set granular targeting options, Chameleon is what you need if you're looking to create sophisticated product tours.

Pricing starts at $279 a month for up to 2,000 MAUs.

👉 Explore an interactive demo and see how easy it is to build a product Tour with Chameleon, without any code.

2. Appcues: If you need iOS and Android mobile product tours #

Appcues builder

If you want to create product tours for mobile apps, then Appcues is your answer. Appcues is one of the most popular tools in the product adoption space, but what really sets it apart is native mobile onboarding for iOS and Android applications.

Pricing starts at $249 a month for up to 2,500 MAUs and cost is adjusted depending on how many users you'll be tracking as well as what more features you need.

3. Pendo: For those looking for product tours and onboarding in one #

Pendo builder

If you're looking for analytics tools in addition to product tours, then Pendo is what you might be looking for. Pendo is a bit of a jack of all trades. Every product tour software comes with some kind of analytics dashboard, but Pendo's analytics solution is more advanced than your typical product tour builder.

So if you want to have both analytics and product tours in one solution instead of paying for two. This is an option. If you have an existing analytics tool, Pendo might be an overkill.

4. UserGuiding: The budget option that is simple and straightforward #

UserGuiding builder

If the price tag of the above tools scares you a bit, then there is a cheaper option: UserGuiding. at $89 a month for up to 2,500 MAUs, it essentially has all the basic product tour features you would need to build something with.

Of course, as you get deeper into building more sophisticated product tours, you might want to invest in something better, but if you're budget-conscious, UserGuiding is where you can start.

5. IntroJS: An open-source library for DIY product teams #

A screenshot of Intro.js in action

IntroJS is not exactly a builder. It is a lightweight JavaScript library for creating interactive product tours and user onboarding. For teams with dev resource to spare, IntroJS can be a reasonable option, especially because it involves almost no cost at a one time fee of $9.99 for a commercial license.

Plus, it seems to have more support and frequent updates than other open source JavaScript libraries, which makes sense considering big brands like Amzon and SAP use the library.

Engage more users and drive customer success with masterful product tours #

Take away these core guidelines and key principles, create guided tours, and start testing and iterating until perfect. It's time for you to apply these lessons to your own product tour.

Before you know it, you'll be building effective product tours that can drive lots of happiness (and learning!) for your users, as well as increased user engagement for your product.

We're always happy to help – if you'd like to speak with one of our product specialists to learn what product tours you should be building based on your goals, let's talk! You can book a demo below, or start using Chameleon for free to explore by yourself and get a sense of what your next product will look like.

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