How do you teach customers to use your product?


There are some extra steps a customer needs to learn in order to use my product.

How can I achieve this? Do I make a voice over video for each function? Make a wiki? What are some of your experiences?

Creating a video is such a pain, but creating a PDF is a lot of work too. I'm thinking about creating a wiki so the community can update it. My only worry is people vandalizing it.

Do you use a software assistant like "Microsoft Clippy"?

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asked Nov 25 '11 at 15:53
Kim Jong Woo
644 points
  • I don't think user editable content (KB or Wiki) is feasible for the majority of businesses. You need truly fanatical users to get anything useful. If you hate doing it you can be they do too! – Ryan 12 years ago
  • This is not a startup question. It is a general knowledge question that is not specific to startups. – Tim J 12 years ago
  • @Tim, that is disputable. Almost always the last step before deploying in startup is education material for users. I'm not convinced that general knowledge questions are not startup questions, its about the context. Again, what you think is may apply to your case but I'm sure there are other startups asking this very querstion. – Kim Jong Woo 12 years ago
  • I agree with Kim Jong Woo. I think what is relevant to a 'startup', and what is not, is defined too narrowly on this site. Probably a better discussion fo Meta except that few people read it. – Susan Jones 12 years ago

3 Answers


With a video, written manual, or wiki, you should think about the likelihood that a user will actually use that material. For instance, I've seen products that have had an introductory video that only 15-20% of users watched. This means that 80% of users were skipping over the video. I'd suggest trying to make the product as intuitive as possible. Much of this can be accomplished by micro-copy, text that instructs the user on how to use a specific widget that appears in a context of the actual usage. Here's an article on micro-copy: It's very difficult to get right at first because you won't know all the places a user get's tripped up. I recommend regularly updating micro-copy as you learn more about your users' snafus.

That being said, you likely need a solution in the meantime. The solution depends on the complexity of the task. Video is a better solution for more complex tasks. But you should break it down into bite-size pieces so your users can find the exact video that's relevant to their problem. Alternatively, for less complex tasks, I'd use a wiki. Because you'll want to constantly update it.

answered Nov 27 '11 at 16:59
610 points
  • +1 awesome answer. The fact that all that material not being read is very real, and introductory explanation like micro copy appears to be the more pragmatic approach. – Kim Jong Woo 12 years ago


I've found creating PowerPoints with screenshots and then doing an optional voice-over on top of them to be much quicker to do than creating a video. You can host using slidshare but in place on your site.

Top tip is to keep it brief (something that is really hard to do). 30 seconds is perfect for a quick intro, 2 minutes is fine, 5 minutes is pushing it and longer than that...

answered Nov 25 '11 at 23:45
1,365 points
  • did you use slideshare or are there any good alternatives? – Kim Jong Woo 12 years ago
  • I used slideshare – Ryan 12 years ago


I completely agree about with bkparikh about using micro-text. There are ways to include a "?" by an element which can raise a lightbox, etc. with a tip on how to use a function, when user clicks on the "?" sign or when user activates an element. I find this kind of help the most useful.

I would also consider creating a general video about your website / its purpose AND benefits. You could also create short videos for each major function which is not intuitive. Creating videos may be as easy as using adobe captivate: create a few screen shots of the function, then type scripts for each screen, then record the voice for each screen and finally compile a flash video. Upload it to youtube and then embed on your website.

If you get user emails and send out updates to them from time to time (say, on day 1, 3, 7, 30, etc.), then include a link to one of such videos in each email so that after x emails they have looked at all videos. Of course, not all of them watch videos or even open your emails, but it's an additional channel to get to your users.

answered Nov 30 '11 at 12:22
323 points

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