2011-02-04_0011The thing about most prod­uct tours is they suck.

Prod­uct Tours are often dif­fi­cult to under­stand, or often just plain dry, mostly because they’re feature-centric rather than user-centric.

But “user-centric” doesn’t really help you design a bet­ter prod­uct tour. What we mean by that is closer to “use-centric” which is another way of say­ing scenario-based (aka story-based).  And scenario-based does help you design bet­ter prod­uct tours, because you can wrap the tour around a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sce­nario rather than a ran­dom feature-by-feature basis.

Using this kind of nar­ra­tive frame­work does two things:

  1. It trans­lates dry prod­uct fea­tures into user ben­e­fits — increas­ing both clar­ity and relevance
  2. It ensures Web vis­i­tors click all the way through to the end of the scenario/tour — peo­ple want to fin­ish the nar­ra­tive arc

And as you may have guessed, scenario-izing infor­ma­tion and data has appli­ca­tions beyond prod­uct tours.  Check out this cool Chris Weller video for an exam­ple of sta­tis­ti­cal infor­ma­tion deliv­ered and made rel­e­vant through a nar­ra­tive framework:

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While prod­uct tours are no-brainers for soft­ware and soft­ware as a ser­vice Web­sites, scenario-based “tours” should be even more com­mon on prod­uct and straight ser­vice sites as well. Trans­lat­ing fea­tures into ben­e­fits works for a lot more than just soft­ware, after all.  Apple offers extra­or­di­nary exam­ples of scenario-based tours of prod­ucts, both on their site and in many of their ads:

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Scenario-izing data is a tech­nique Chris Weller uses quite fre­quently — and to great effect — in his ani­mated videos; videos that enlighten and enter­tain at the same time they show-off his con­su­mate skills:

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So what about you?  What bit of prod­uct or ser­vice expla­na­tion could you make scenario-based?

P.S. If you like the music from that first video, you can down­load it and a bunch of other cool Valentine-themed songs from Ama­zon for FREE!

P.P.S. I’m hardly alone in my pref­er­ence for scenario-based learn­ing, as it is the main theme of one of the fore­most experts in learn­ing the­ory, cog­ni­tive sci­ence, and e-Learning also advo­cates for story-based teach­ing.


  1. Jeff on 02.05.2011

    I had an e-mail sub­scriber write in say­ing he was unsure of the point I was try­ing to make with the videos. So I apol­o­gize if the post was unclear and, in fur­ther explain­ing the main point of the post, I thought my response might prove help­ful to other read­ers as well:

    …per­haps the best way to see what I’m talk­ing about is to com­pare the videos in the post to an older ver­sion of the “Shift Hap­pens” videos. Both have a bunch of star­tling or semi-startling sta­tis­tics that reveal changes in our world and work-life. The dif­fer­ence is that “Shift Hap­pens” just throws the sta­tis­tics out at you. The video in the post wraps the videos around a nar­ra­tive involv­ing the boss hir­ing the ad agency hir­ing the graphic designer and so on. So it’s eas­ier to fol­low and eas­ier to remember.

    Same thing with the iPhone ad. It doesn’t just show fea­tures. It shows them within a use-scenario so that you can put the fea­tures into con­text. Think of how dif­fer­ent that is to just some­one say­ing all the things that the phone can do.

    Prod­uct tours also come in two fla­vors with the “just show the fea­tures in no par­tic­u­lar order or con­text” fla­vor being the more com­mon. And yet the “show the fea­tures in a use-scenario” fla­vor always per­forms bet­ter. Why? The nar­ra­tive struc­ture helps trans­late mere func­tion­al­ity or fea­tures into user ben­e­fit. It’s a big dif­fer­ence that makes a big dif­fer­ence, but that’s rather easy to do.”

    Hope this helps.

    - Jeff

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