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Shortways tips and tricks to create efficient step-by-step guides!

Key points:

Before creating step-by-step guides, you need to:

A step-by-step guide should be:

After the creation of a step-by-step, you need to:

What is a step-by-step?

A step-by-step or “walk through” is an interactive guide that is used to train people, step-by-step, in how to carry out a given task.

Examples of step-by-step guides: entering vacation leave; retirement; request to purchase hardware for a new employee.

The steps themselves are created by the administrators of the digital adoption platform, according to the specificities of the activity and the screens available on the company’s application.

They can be set to run the first time an employee opens a particular tab, or whenever an employee clicks on the assistant.

Step-by-steps guides can also be updated whenever a new version of an application is released or whenever there is a change to the processes, and re-set so that they are automatically re-run the next time they open the new screen.

Guided tour

Step example

Finish or replay a step-by-step in the Assistant

What form does a step-by-step take in an application?

A user reaches a particular screen (e.g., to enter an order)… a tool tip displays on the screen telling the user the 1st action to perform; namely, what information should be entered and where.

The user performs the step, and then clicks to move on to the next step, and so on until the action has been completed.

Why use step-by-step guides?

1. To digitize your user manuels in the form of interactive guides

This releases users from the constraint of having to look at a page in a paper manual indicating the steps and then trying to reproduce these steps on the computer. With DAP, the training takes place directly on the screen in question, combining theory and practice. The person advances at their own pace, on their own.

Thus, when processes or applications evolve, maintenance is easier since there is no longer any need to update and send out unwieldy PDF files. The administrator simply changes the step-by-step, and these changes carry forward to all profiles concerned.

2. To adapt your training methods to current needs

Training is done remotely, directly in the interface. There is no need to juggle work schedules or have employees attend face-to-face training sessions during onboarding or the application is upgraded. This type of training is well adapted to users who are increasingly looking for “all-in-one” on-demand training solutions directly integrated into their software: they learn when they want, how they want, on their own, and without having to leave their software to solve their problem.

How to create effective step-by-step guides?

Before: determine the list of steps to create: 

3. Liaise with the Business teams to identify and update training needs

Map the application, the screens and the processes that need a step-by-step guide should be studied thoroughly before starting to set up the application.

To this end, 2 approaches are recommended:

– If the current application manuals are relevant and up to date, break them down into coherent step-by-step guides in order to decide where to place them in the application.

– If there are no user manuals or if they are no longer up to date… then liaise with the various business units, sectors, or managers in order to firstly, determine which steps should be explained, secondly, identify its data-entry process so as to make them accessible to all, and thirdly, minimize data-entry errors as well as the number of requests sent to Help desk or to managers themselves.

4. Study the requests received by the Help Desk

Speaking of Help Desk, we also recommend analyzing the tickets received by the latter in order to detect recurring themes or questions concerning processes for which they are often solicited, and which could be addressed with the help of a step-by-step guide.

5. Anticipate needs

Lastly, whether during a modification or the implementation of a new process, we need to anticipate points of potential confusion for users and to proactively create content to avoid this.

It is not always easy to put yourself in the shoes of each user profile to detect these points. Interviewing users or managers, or having users test the new processes before setting up a step-by-step can be of help in determining if this feature is necessary to enhance the reliability of data-inputting: which your list is confusing, what is the right level of detail to furnish, …

During: creative tips to follow:

6. Be quick: a step-by-step should not contain too many steps:

If the step-by-step is too long, the users will conclude that the task is too complicated and tedious. They will be demotivated and will be tempted to abandon the step-by-step in order to perform the task by themselves… this can lead to errors or omissions, which we wish to avoid in order to make the quality of the data reliable… hence the creation of initial step-by-steps.

7. Get straight to the point: the steps should not contain too much information

Also, the information in a step-by-step guide displays as a tool tip, and not as pages of text. Too much information in a step will have the effect of smothering the user in information. In such a case, the step-by-step could be misunderstood, or only partially read, and error could occur.

Keep the description of the steps short, clear, and succinct.

Keep the number ’10’ in mind… about 10 words per step, and no more than 10 steps per step-by-step.

8. Combine features

Each feature has its advantage. A step-by-step is very useful to teach a new user how to use software by going through a sequence of steps, or during a version upgrade.

However, if you want to teach people in a complete process, then you should refer them to a presentation document (after first adding this document to your FAQ feature.

Also, do not give details of the lists of field values for each step in a step-by-step. Instead, tell the user that “at the end of the step-by-step, you can find more information about the fields to be entered by hovering over the keywords and clicking on the small i”… this action has the effect of opening the contextual tool tip.

9. Be visually appealing and ergonomic

You can make it easier for users to navigate the step-by-step by coloring the step title or the button leading to the next step. Likewise, you might consider darkening the background so as to focus the person’s attention on the current window of the step-by-step.

However, be careful not to use too many colors nor disproportionately sized tips that would interfere with the filling of value fields.

After: managing the use of step-by-step guides:

10. Measure their use

Even though the list of step-by-step guides will have been determined beforehand to match the real needs defined by the Help Desk and other users of the application, we do nevertheless need to monitor their usage so as to make sure they are actually relevant.

With the Shortways Assistant, administrators of the Digital Adoption Platform have access to dashboards and statistics concerning usage of the step-by-step guides. You will be able to measure the use of the steps from the most run step-by-step, to the least run, and insights as to the real training needs.

11. Updating the step-by-step guides

Thanks to the statistics, you will be able to decide which step-by-step guides should be maintained (because frequently run), which guides should be updated (because the Help Desk continues to receive requests about these processes), or which guides should be simply deleted.

If a process is updated, there is no need to start a new step-by step guide from scratch. Existing guides can be cloned and modified at any time by the administrators.

12. Request feedback

Also, you can ask your users for feedback by inserting a Call to Action (CTA) button where they can suggest step-by-step guides or to draw attention to steps that they feel are not sufficiently clear.

Don’t forget to talk to others about the different features offered by your digital adoption platform in order to maximize user take-up, and to show them that answers to any questions they might have are indeed at hand.

How to create a step-by-step guide in a business application?

Administrators benefit from additional possibilities to create features: step-by-step, contextual help, or FAQ.

Once they are on the screen where they want to create a step-by-step, they can start setting up the first step: fill in the relevant profiles, click on the element next to which the tool tip should appear, customize the format and content, and duplicate this as many times as necessary.

For more information about this virtual training assistant integrated into your tools, contact us!

This post is also available in: Français (French)