The Challenges of Display in Creating Online Guidance – and Ways to Overcome Them

An Increasingly Digital Marketplace

Our world went online- Places we once visited physically in person, such as banks, department stores and even food stores, we now visit virtually. Our working environment has also gone online. Most of our work management software and correspondence is based in the cloud. We are online more than we are offline.

To cite just a few statistics, a Pew Survey released last year revealed that 51 percent of U.S. adults, or 61% of internet users, do their banking online. Similarly, the global online clothing and apparel market is expected to reach $1.3 trillion in 2014, according to MarketLine.

In this digital marketplace – with a high competition and rising customer expectations – online businesses face a critical challenge: how do they create online user experiences that keep customers satisfied, loyal, returning for future purchases. From this challenge came a growing number of solutions that offer GPS-style online guidance, which allows businesses to simplify their users and customers online experience as well as provide step-by-step assistance to customers, in order to facilitate online actions.
Walkthroughs – The Building Block 

Let’s look at some of the challenges that have to do with display in online guidance- specifically relating to creating walkthroughs, and ways to overcome these barriers.

Walkthroughs are animated tip sequences that provide multi-step instructions in how to perform particular actions. We are referring to a widget which launches a tip sequence, which displays instructions inside a balloon- “walking” the user through the process.

One-Click Capture of the Website’s Insides 

In order to provide a time-efficient and comprehensive analysis of the web page’s display, you need a smart editor which can – with one click – capture the many variables of the element the walkthrough should work on. The same one-click capture understands dynamic pages, the many variables that go into any page, and more.

Take an e-commerce site, as an example. A user begins at the homepage, then searches for a particular item (or category, etc.) such as clothing and is brought to a new page. He then clicks on an item, bringing him to another page, and so on and so forth. Not every page is structured the same; some have larger images than others, and in different locations.  The one-click capture capability overcomes those challenges, and is – from the technical side – also easier and more user-friendly than constant programming that a not-so-smart walkthrough editor might use.

Adapting to Variety of Devices and Screen Sizes

The first challenge faced when talking about how walkthroughs are displayed is getting the display to work across a variety of screen sizes. This would include the screen of traditional full sizes laptops and desktops, netbooks and tablet computers as well.

The same customer of a bank might log-in to his/her account from different devices, so it’s important that walkthroughs adapt to all screens. Website managers must make sure that – no matter what size screen – the balloons stay on the screen in the correct place, not covering any of the other elements (text, photos/other visuals on the webpage). They walkthroughs need to scroll up/down the page automatically, according to the size and resolution of the screen.

Reacting to Website Updates

Another challenge occurs when a business updates their website, which happens quite frequently- Can the walkthroughs adapt? Fortunately, there are walkthrough provider options out there that can seamlessly adapt to just about all website updates automatically, without the need for manual adjustments or the need to turn to the walkthrough provider.

There are walkthrough building platforms, which require extensive manual query searches in order to refocus the walkthrough according to each website’s version. However, there better options that do not require query searches whatsoever: the entire process is automated. The website editor can simply point and click over the desired action, enabling a much more efficient walkthrough editing.

Cross-Browser Functionality

Of course, it almost goes without saying that in today’s multi-device, ‘connect from anywhere’ culture, walkthroughs must also work across all browsers, in order to provide a high level of consistency and ease. The functionality across different platforms must remain high as well. Each browser has its own unique features and quirks. It’s important that the walkthrough provider can analyze and utilize these different capabilities to maximize functionality across all browsers.

Visibility and Readability

Two other key questions relate to the visibility of the walkthrough.

First, is the control (whether a widget or a “launcher”) for the action findable? Will the user notice that correct action is available? Furthermore, once the balloon sequence is launched, is the content visible? Once the user has clicked on the walkthrough, is it readable and customized to fit any screen size and resolution?

Here one must make sure that the online guidance solution has a visual one-click capture capability, so that it does not require continued manual configuration of the Walkthroughs using textual commands. This ensure a more seamless and automatic adjustments to the walkthrough display.

Control and Ease of Use

We have the challenges of control and ease of use, both for the web editor and for the end user alike. For the editor, the best online guidance platforms are not overly technical and at a level where a programmer is needed to make any changes. What you want is  the UX manager, product manager, or online customer service manager to be able to make important edits based on their own schedule and needs- without to the help of a programmer or  the customer support team of the provider.

Required maintenance of walkthrough  needs to be kept to a minimum. Regarding the end user, it’s important that they can wide control to undo the walkthrough at any stage, if they clicked on it accidently, or made a mistake during the process. It’s important for UX managers to ensure that users can recognize diagnose and recover from errors.

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Megan Wilson
Megan Wilson is user experience specialist & editor of UX Motel. She is also the Quality Assurance and UX Specialist at WalkMe Megan.w(at)walkme.com
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