Guided tours are a series of small pop-ups added to a website, that guide users through the steps required to accomplish a task. Recently guided tours have gained a lot of attention, as they are a user-friendly, natural way of assisting users on online interfaces. There is a large demand for solutions that you can use to create guided tours. From a wide variety of available solutions, this post aims to offer an overview of guided tour applications that have a free trial, free plan, or a free, open source version.

WalkMe

WalkMe offers a collection of Walk-Thrus (guided tours), analytics, pinpointed search, onboarding and surveys. These modules are integrated to create a powerful and complete engagement platform.

WalkMe features

By exploring the many features WalkMe offers, you can learn more about what you can do with guided tour solutions in general and think about what features to look for when deciding about the platform of your choice.

  • Walk-Thrus: Walk-Thrus are a series of interactive tip-balloons overlaid on the screen.
  • Segmentation: You can segment users based on any criteria – location, role, language, among many others. This helps making Walk-Thrus relevant for each user.
  • Widget: The widget is where a user can search and run a specific Walk-Thru. The widget can appear on any side of the screen and contains a list of Walk-Thrus, content and tailored search engine results.
  • Permalink: A link that will automatically play a Walk-Thru for sending in a support email, through any chat service software or social media.
  • Launcher: Small floating icons or buttons that can either direct users to the widget or automatically start a Walk-Thru.
  • Auto Play: Automatically start Walk-Thrus for first time users.
  • Adaptability: Walk-Thrus (as many other guided tour solutions) automatically adapt to site layout changes, devices and screen sizes.
  • Customizability: WalkMe’s tip balloons are entirely customizable. An additional highlight feature lets you add borders and highlights on elements if balloons are not sufficient.
  • Analytics: You can identify if a Walk-Thru process was fully completed or if the task was performed completely, allowing you to evaluate the Walk-Thrus’ impact, and if it should be adjusted.

Pricing and plans

WalkMe offers the choice to either self-host the Walk-Thrus on your own servers or use the WalkMe static servers. However, both implementation models require the same process of pasting a small snippet of code onto your website.

WalkMe pricing plans range from a free plan to custom plans with the features you select. The free plan limits the number of Walk-Thrus you can create to 3, with maximum 5 steps each. It also limits how many times a Walk-Thru can be played to 300. As you can see, the free plan is very limited, so you might only use it to try out WalkMe’s basic functionality, as the more advanced features like segmentation, customization or SSL support are not included. Also, you can’t self-host the Walk-Thrus with the free plan.

Freemium: Hosted solutions with a free plan

There are hosted solutions that offer free plans with some restrictions. These can mean that you have a limited number of tutorials you can create, but there are also some great deals for joining before the software is out of beta or if you publicly share the tours you created.

  • InlineManual: Inline Manual presents a new layer on top of your application that allows your customers to work with the application while they are learning. Their authoring tool supports collaboration and can be used without coding skills (after a code snippet is added to the site, you have to install a browser plugin for authoring, though). The backend includes version control system, releases, tagging and deployment features, so you can fully integrate it with your development processes. They are extending their solution to open source communities like Drupal, Wordpress, Salesforce and many others. It’s worth to check if the platform you’d like to create tutorials for is already included. You can also contact them and recommend further platforms. They offer a free plan limited to 1 site and 3 public tutorials, that you can use for a small project or to try out InlineManual.
  • Whatfix: Create tours (they call them flows) after installing their browser extension. The created flow can be played live on the site, but Whatfix also creates a step-by-step guide from the screenshots of the flow’s steps. It’s free for community use, but has a paid enterprise version.
  • WalkHub: Easily record, edit and share Walkthroughs. Due to WalkHub’s unique position (CMS backend, open source platform and a free plan in its hosted version), we describe its features and plans separately in detail below.

If you would like to check out some paid solutions, you can opt for solutions that have a free trial:

  • TutorializeMe: Fully customizable solution that you can install with a few lines of Javascript. Free trial: 20 days.
  • TourMyApp: Add a few lines of Javascript to your pages, and use the Tour Builder to create and change tours through a graphical user interface. Free trial: 30 days.
  • myTips: Onboarding tool that helps you create step-by-step tutorials after pasting a line of code in your website. Free trial: 14 days.

Open source solutions

Javascript-based solutions

Open source solutions let you set up and use your own guided tour system for free. Most of the solutions are JavaScript libraries, so you’ll need coding skills to use them.

Here’s a list of some JavaScript libraries, but there are more and more popping up:

  • Amberjack: A tool for webmasters to add guided tours capability to websites. The Tour Wizard helps you fine-tune the solution (skin, behaviour, button captions) and gives you the customized code to paste into your website.
  • Crumble: This solution offers visually interesting bubbles. The tour itself is defined as a standard ordered list in your HTML.
  • Bootstrap: A widely used, flexible solution, but you’ll need coding skills to use it.
  • Joyride: The Joyride Kit includes the necessary JS + CSS, but also a demo HTML page that shows off how to hook up your first tour using different options.
  • HopScotch: Hopscotch accepts a tour JSON object as input and provides an API for the developer to control rendering the tour display and managing the tour progress. It supports the creation of multi-page tours.

CMS-based solution

There is also a one of a kind solution, WalkHub, with a fully open source CMS backend, read on to learn more about it.

WalkHub

One platform stands out among open source guided tour solutions: WalkHub, which has a content management system as its backend. You can either opt for the hosted version - which has a free plan - or host your own.

WalkHub features

WalkHub offers a fully developed guided tours solution with some very convenient extras that make it especially suited for projects that are using a continuous integration or agile development workflow, where WalkHub's automated testing features can make it a lot easier to maintain the documentation for a web application.

  • Fast and easy: WalkHub lets you create Walkthroughs by clicking through an interface, filling in forms, clicking on buttons (recording the process), then adding descriptions to the automatically created steps.
  • Widget: If you create a Walkthrough, the platform automatically creates a widget from screenshots of the Walkthrough’s steps that you can embed on a forum, blog, knowledge base or FAQ.
  • Automatic screenshot updates: The system automatically updates screenshots if the Walkthrough has been changed, or you can initiate an update through an API if your website visuals have changed.
  • Automatic testing: WalkHub automatically tests the process every time a Walkthrough is played. Not only do we check if the element you are interacting with is still present, but we also verify if the underlying user story still works.
  • Reuse, share, collaborate: Walkthroughs are especially suited for making reusable chunks of content. They define a new format of tutorials that are strictly structured and that can easily be adapted to the visual context of a website. As a result it is much easier to reuse Walkthroughs between projects. WalkHub.net is also designed so that it could become the home of a range of community collections and their Walkthrough tutorials.

Pricing and plans

Hosted version

Recording and playing Walkthroughs is free on WalkHub.net, the hosted version of the product, as long as you keep your Walkthroughs public. There is also a limit to how many automatic screenshot updates you can trigger. Paid packages offer private sharing and collections, and a larger number of automatic screenshot updates.

Open source version

WalkHub is an OpenSaaS offering: The backend is open source, at any time you can take your data out of the hosted service and set up your own WalkHub: the Drupal-based platform is free to download from Github. With your own WalkHub you get the functionality without restrictions. There is extensive user and developer documentation that you can use as a starting point, but you can also ask the WalkHub team to set up your own WalkHub for a fee. The big business advantage of this approach is that you can be certain that the solution, including the recorder, will remain available. In the unlikely case that the creators of WalkHub would stop working on the project, members from the Drupal community (with its 35 000 developers) will be able to take over maintainership. Considering that all companies in the guided tours space, including WalkMe, are startups, we believe that this makes WalkHub the safest, most sustainable solution. Especially if you are considering integrating guided tours into your support or training infrastructure and you need a solution that can grow with you and that will remain available to you no matter what.

Summary

Find below a summary of the solutions described in the article based on the required coding skills and availability.

Required coding skills Free trial period Free plan Open source
WalkMe paste code snippet into website - with limited features no
TutorializeMe paste code snippet into website 20 days - no
TourMyApp paste code snippet into website 30 days - no
myTips paste code snippet into website 14 days - no
InlineManual code snippet into website for setup, no coding skills required for authoring - with restrictions no
Whatfix no coding skills required, authoring through browser plugin - free for community use no
JS libraries coding skills required - - yes
WalkHub no coding skills required for authoring, dev skills required for setting up your own WalkHub - free for community use, for commercial use with restrictions yes, full platform

About the author

Diána Lakatos

Senior Technical Writer

Diána is a Senior Technical Writer at Pronovix. She is specialized in API documentation, topic-based authoring, and contextual help solutions. She writes, edits and reviews software documentation, website copy, user documents, and publications. She also enjoys working as a Program Monitor for NHK World TV and Arirang TV.

She graduated as a programmer, then went on earning system administrator and system analyst and designer degrees. She's fluent in English and German, and worked as a translator for a publishing company translating books from German to Hungarian. She's the Hungarian translator of Basecamp.

Before becoming a writer, she worked with international clients like Sony Pictures Television, Da Vinci Learning and The Walt Disney Company as a key account manager in integrated marketing campaigns focusing on digital media.