I actually tried Kera for our product (https://codeable.io) and even had a Skype conversation with one of the founders, but I knew having a walkthrough guide (their product) was just a band-aid for poor UX, and as such, just a temporary solution, not really worth paying for in the long term, especially when it was easy to use one of the open source solutions and adapt them (like Zurb Joyride) to our needs.
Nevertheless I wish the Kera team good luck on their next venture!
I'm at the opposite end of the spectrum ... I'd never heard of Kera and after reading the obituary, I wanted to know what it was. Unfortunately, they've simultaneously put a "black ribbon" on the project's web page, making it impossible to navigate to any meaningful description.
I tried it out quite a few months ago, so I am only speaking to the initial version, but you created a timeline of JS events (tooltips, other tutorial/intro elements) with synced voiceovers (if you wanted) and it would show up on the user's end with a video player-esque UI so they could navigate the experience.
The front-end was clean & simple, and I really liked it in theory (I disagree with the notion that any app that needs a walkthrough is broken by design), but the version I tried's backend wasn't created for people who couldn't sink some time into the JS and would have benefitted greatly from a more user-friendly approach.
It sounds like Kera was some kind of "walkthrough" service that provided a high fidelity explanation of navigating and using an app (think: in-product tour). OP has a point when he says the product was fundamentally flawed in that it supported badly designed products.
Sure - their core concept was adding a walkthrough with a voice over. Since none of our team was native english speaker, we didn't feel confident enough in having our voices in the walkthrough. This means we'd have to hire someone at http://voicebunny.com - which would take time. Then I would need to slice the voiceover and configure Kera to trigger properly, which would take even more time.
So we opted for a better solution: we hired a UX architect (or whatever the title is) from http://dlabs.si/ - He performed live user testing and analysis with us and delivered high fidelity wireframes, which resulted in understandable application flow, without the need for a walkthrough (or me spending time learning Kera). Granted, it wasn't free, but it was well worth the money, and it was one-off payment, as opposed to Kera's subscription model.
While I agree with you that walkthroughs/tutorials/tours, or whatever you want to call them, are not the end goal of a particular user design, the idea that you could create a design that is so elegant and perfect that it doesn't require any kind of instruction is absurd. Sure not all sites need it, but the option is out there for people who don't have the ability to hire a UX expert, and whose sites change frequently. I was literally just on Facebook and was taken through at least three different tutorials. IF you can hire a ux person to make your site not need a tutorial, then all the power to you. For the record, I founded Tutorialize (https://tutorialize.me), and I'm constantly watching this market landscape change. I've met multiple people who knew guys from Kera.io, and though I didn't get to meet them, they definitely seemed like cool dudes. I'm sure the core team with come back with something great soon enough. Peace!
I'm not saying workflows don't require instructions, quite the opposite. I am saying though, that these instructions don't need to be hand-holding tours, they can be subtle hints in the workflow, in terms of proper copy, icons, labels, etc.
And as I discovered with the UX guy, it's not that difficult to perform user testing on your own, just sit down with clients and see them complete a certain task while thinking out loud along the way. It works wonders.
That being said, I'm by no means trying to discredit what you're trying to do - there certainly are use cases for products like Kera, otherwise you guys wouldn't work on it.
Totally with you! All too often I hear the blanket statement thrown around that you should never use a tutorial and instead focus your energy and time in creating a really elegant UI. We live in a world where things have to happen quickly, where reinventing the wheel is startup failure 101, where you can get a full web app running in under 10 minutes. Build the tutorial, and then figure out your UI when you have time and money. Not true for all cases, of course.
We believe in the Lean Startup. Probably more than most. We launched three separate tutorial products trying to find something that people picked up easily while still giving great results. We basically ran out of time and had to scale our team back to just the three cofounders.
We are still kicking the can trying to get traction (albeit in a different direction).
If anyone wants more details about why we shut down the producg I'd be more than happy to share. It's fundamentally a CAC being higher than LTV type issue.
Hey Cameron, it's sad to see Kera shut down, there were some really neat ideas in there. On the other hand, I'm pleased to see that you guys have seen an idea through until it either succeeded or failed. There are too many long-running projects in Toronto, ideas on never ending life support, never allowed to succeed nor fail, kept alive by either consulting or government support. I think if we took bigger risks and cycled through a variety of ideas faster (even if they fail fast), we might have a better chance at attracting more money to this city. Getting clueful investors here is very difficult, as I'm sure you have learned.
I would love to see you guys write more about your story. Good luck with your next idea.
Thanks so much for the kind words. I totally get your point about the TO zombies, but on the other hand, companies like Nulayer are actually doing great work and are getting rewarded for hard work with success.
I had the privilege of spending some time with Max and John, two of Kera.io's cofounders during SXSW this year. They are two of the most personable and generous founders I have ever met (must be the whole Canada thing!). These guys have both the technical chops and the hustle to be huge, and I am positive that this is merely a bump in the road for them. They are going to be unstoppable with one of their next ventures, fate just didn't have Kera.io in its cards.
Best of luck to the both of you, you guys are gonna kill it.
The Demo link at the top of ptable.com is still powered by Kera's first generation demo software. It's a shame to lose it, but it seems their target demographic was more sales-oriented sites that would find high monetary value in people converting. That wasn't me.
I think it's unfortunate. We had used the service for the Clickbank Powered platform and users loved it. I didn't see much value in the product they pivoted into, but the initial one was superb. Here's to hoping they open source it...
Thanks for the kind words - you were one of our earliest adopters, and I'm sorry we couldn't make it work out. There's a few people who have reached out that are interested in the technology, so we'll have to wait and see about open sourcing it.
Best of luck with Happy Tables and give my best to the folks over at ClickBank!
We got a little worried when you pivoted as we felt that it would be just as much work to embed the Kera solution as it would to roll your own goal tracking solution with much tighter integration with the base website.
We would Would love to see you open source the v1 product though, really felt that solved a much harder problem.