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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