Trigger guides at the user’s right time

It’s hard to miss Netflix’s latest blockbuster docu-drama “The Social Dilemma” (I’m a big fan of Tristan Harris).  The social network’s AI is characterised as the perfect “feed”ing of content to the user at the “right-time” to get the result the social network wants. 

Aside from the moral and social issues, most Apps would dream of achieving timing of Guides, features or content to a user that deepens engagement and understanding of the product.

Where is benefits the user first, then it becomes a win-win for user and product. The product is stickier with the customer and informs them (hopefully) about benefits to that user.

The Problem: vendor based triggers

Lets take a small example from the password manager “Lastpass”. 

We all know the situation – you head into an App that you use because you have a job to be done (JTBD). For a fleeting moment you see your page and know what you need to do next.


Instead, the App’s product manager has decided to tell you about something completely different, the example modal below takes over the full screen.

If you are like me, you definitely want to know about “Welcome to Families!” but not-right-now-I’ve-got-a-Job-ToBe-Done!

Of course, most users will click dismiss and may never be able to find the way to start the guide again later.

lastpass onboarding guide

Now….the Lastpass Product Manager has done some things right and some things wrong here:

  1. I upgraded to “Families” plan previously, so now they think is a good time to show me a tour.
  2. The modal has a clear purpose and call to action (RED is the LastPass colour, so while red normally would be a warning, its “on-brand”).
  3. The modal allows the user a way to dismiss.
  4. Allow an option for a “MAYBE LATER”
  1. I upgraded to “Families” plan previously, so now they think is a good time to show me a tour. BUT, its too intrusive and ignores my JTBD.
  2. The problem is that like me, many users will just click this away and its a crap-shoot whether the user clicks the “X” or the “MAYBE LATER”.
  3. Many users will NEVER see this prompt again – that is bad for the adoption of the “Families” feature.


Here are some other approaches you can use instead or in-concert with the above approach.

Better Alternates

FAQ widgets

Depending on a user’s journey and and the page the user is on, then a contextual sidebar widget can be shown. Lastpass could just update the widget for a user.

Here is an example we use in our dashboard. It’s contextual but not interrupting the user’s JTBD. By clicking an FAQ item, the user can re-run the guide when it suits them.

Hotspots and Launchers

As discussed in our post on Continuous Onboarding here a 3 different types of hints to a user.

  1. For general reminders and help, you can use a tooltip. This is the little ❓in the bottom left.
  2. On the right side we have a glowing dot, or beacon. This is super useful as a shout-out that needs attention.
  3. The cute gift icon is from Slack’s UI. Using an icon that  and acounter 
Click to see the animation


Both FAQs and Hotspots can be timed to appear when at the right time of the user’s journey. You have control based on:
  • what features the user needs
  • what goals they’ve completed
  • demographically where they fit
  • what language is best for that user.

In summary, prompting users for guidance is not really best-practice, its just the most-common-practice.

The Guide (or walkthrough) design pattern is great but as Product Managers and Product Designers, we must always consider the user’s current JTBD and keep out of the way until they need us.

We may not have the dystopic controls that the social networks have to “tell a user what they need” but solutions like Contextual have a growing set of capabilities to guide the users at the best time for them.


Source for the banner image:

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    Contextual & StreetHawk Inc 2023.