User Onboarding

Videos vs interactive how-to guides: which is best for you?

December 10, 2014

In the world of customer success there are only two real contenders for producing effective self-service resources: videos and interactive how-to guides. Both solutions allow you to educate your customers on how to extract the most value from your application: therefore reducing churn, increasing feature adoption and satisfying customers. Each has it’s benefits but which is best for you?


How-to videos are commonplace amongst large digital products.

  • If you host your video on a 3rd-party website like Vimeo or YouTube you can piggyback on their listings within search traffic allowing people to find your content more easily.
  • Talk your customers through your application and use employees to give your customer support a friendly face.
  • Insert useful diagrams and explain concepts that exist outside your application which will aid customers understanding.
  • Videos are able to help customers offline, for example if your product interacts with the real world you can show your customers the effects.
  • It’s expensive and time consuming to create well polished videos. Often companies don’t have the in-house expertise to create quality videos and require agencies to do this on their behalf.
  • Due to large video file sizes it’s highly recommended you don’t provide them for mobile customers, they could incur large data costs to view them.
  • After you’ve created the videos you’ll struggle to update them if your application changes. You’ll need to phone up the agency and get them to make your edits… at a cost!

Interactive how-to guides

Interactive how-to guides are the new guys on the block. Future focussed companies are adopting how-to guides to hand hold their customers through their applications.

  • Interactive how-to guides provide a superior and refreshing customer experience. They put the customer in charge of the pace, there’s no awkward rewinding or fast forwarding between steps to understand what just happened.
  • How-to guides provide assistance in context of your application, right where it’s needed. With videos, customers have to awkwardly translate video to app.
  • By using 3rd-party services to create how-to guide, companies can very quickly and easily build excellent polished self-service resources for your customers in-house! You can send these out to prospective customers, help existing customers and onboard new ones. We’re talking creation in minutes, not days.
  • Data! How-to guides provide a treasure trove of data about how your customers are using them. Companies use this data to continually improve their own how-to guides to ensure they are truly helping their customers. For example, at Nickelled we gather anonymised data about customer satisfaction allowing companies to track and improve their guides.
  • Provide effective support for desktop, tablet and mobile users. Their virtually non-existent file size makes them easy for your customers to use no matter of their device or internet connection.
  • Services like Nickelled make it super easy for you to create interactive how-to guides and distribute them within your application or using 3rd-party networks such as Twitter and Facebook.
  • Unable to offer offline support e.g. how-to fix a car clutch as there is no way to apply guide steps outside the computer screen (believe me, we’ve tried!).


In an age of lean business with build, measure, learn at the heart of how digital companies operate there is a considerable feedback loop with video which interactive how-to guides avoid. Whilst both videos and interactive how-to guides have their benefits, the extensibility and more engaging customer experience that interactive how-to guides offer make them a worthy winner if you need to educate your customers on your SaaS product.