Feature request: User onboarding using a Beeminder "simulator"

I think something that could help newbies a lot would be an interactive app walkthrough (I think it’s also called onboarding). I have seen that on other web apps. When you just created an account, have the website tell you what the different things on a page mean by highlighting certain parts of the page, showing little boxes with explanations, using large on-screen arrows to point to different parts of the page, etc.

I’ve also thought that a simulator could be useful. The idea would be to create a default “simulated” goal for new users. It would have the same interface as a real goal, but not be “real”. The idea would be that you could step through simulated days and see how the Beeminder goal is affected. There would be basically two buttons added for this simulated goal:

  • Advance one day.
  • Undo.

A new user would be presented with the simulated goal. He could then click “advance one day” and see how his goal would look tomorrow. He could click “advance one day” again and see how his goal would look the day after tomorrow. He could then click undo and return to tomorrow’s view. He could click undo again and return to today’s view. He could then enter a data point, and again click “advance one day” to see how his goal would look tomorrow if he had entered the data point today. He could then change the slope, see how this affects the goal, then click undo. Then he could do a retrorachet, see how this affects the goal, and then press undo again. Or he could advance the simulated timeline several days, without entering data points, and see that the goal derails. He would then see that the derailment increases the pledge.

This way you would provide a place for a newbie to fool around with a goal, see how his fooling around affects the goal on future days, and do all this without having to worry about losing real money.

(The above is from an email I sent to @dreev)


This would be great, but I bet it’s also a fair amount of work to implement.

I feel there is a huge gap between the useful list of goals that are listed on https://www.beeminder.com/overview and actually creating one of those goals and knowing how the system works. A Youtube video that walks through the process for each goal type would be another way to make the system easier to pick up.


While I think a simulator would be great, I think making a video would take a lot less time and be almost as good. Plus, the video can emphasize that any accidental derails will be forgiven for newbees.


there is a surprising amount you have to explain about creating the goal & getting it started, assuming absolutely no prior knowledge of beeminder/the UI/the rules. i gave it a few college tries awhile back. “so first you’re going to pick your goal type, which you don’t actually know how to do yet, because you probably haven’t seen any examples of functional goals! so just pick this one that we tell you is most popular. oh, unless you’re going to use one of these autodata integrations, in which case you should click on it, but then NOTHING on the subsequent pages is going to look the same for you. so anyway…”

ETA plus a significant number (not backed up by Stats but a general Feeling i get from support) is that a lot of people find out about and/or beemind mostly from their phone - tripling the onboarding materials we’d (ideally) provide.

so there’s some goal creation streamlining that needs to occur. not that the videos wouldn’t be better than current state (nothing), but i don’t know if they’re a magic bullet when they’ll likely need to be 5min long to be reasonably comprehensive. do people watch 5min videos on “how to use our website”? i don’t know if i would.

i’m game to follow through on a video voiceover attempt for real and see what y’all think of it…


I actually drafted an attempt a couple weeks back as a writing exercise. It’s definitely not ready as is, but I’m posting it here as an example of what one user thinks is important for a new/potential user to know.

You’re here because you want to accomplish something and you need a tool to help make sure you put in the kind of consistent effort over an extended period of time necessary to achieve this goal. Beeminder is a tool that helps you hold yourself accountable to making regular progress towards your goals, but is also flexible enough for the unpredictability and messiness of the real world.

Sure, for some goals, like flossing your teeth, you can just resolve to do it every single day. But what about if you want to read more? You could resolve to read, say, 20 pages every day. But some days you’ll have more time to read. That’s where Beeminder comes in. Beeminder helps you make consistent progress towards your goal, even when life is anything but consistent. When you create a goal in Beeminder, you commit to making progress at a certain minimum rate. For example, let’s say that you decide you want to read an average of 20 pages a day, or 140 pages a week. Some days, you may read 100 pages, while other days you may not read any. Simply tell Beeminder how many pages you read, and Beeminder will graph your progress {show example graph} and warn you when you’re in danger of “derailing”, or slipping below the minimum rate you set for yourself. Not only is Beeminder flexible between days, it is also adaptable to changing circumstances and priorities. Say you know you’re about to enter a busy period at work and won’t have as much time to read. You can lower your rate from 20 pages a day, or 140 pages a week, to 5 pages a day, or 35 pages a week. Obviously you’re probably not going to read exactly 5 pages every day. More likely you’ll read the necessary 35 pages in one or two sittings, so you’ll have more time to spend on your other priorities. When things calm down again, you can raise the rate back up to where it was before. But here’s the thing! We designed Beeminder to be flexible when it comes to what days you do something and understanding when you need to adjust your goal rate. However, we also designed Beeminder to help you stick to your resolutions!

If you slip below the minimum rate you set for yourself, Beeminder will “sting” you by charging your credit card, first for $5, but the amount charged (the “pledge”) increases each time you derail. Don’t worry though! We give you every opportunity to avoid derailing. We will send you email reminders when you start to come close to danger, and you can enter new data by replying to that email or by using our mobile app or our website. And whenever you derail, we send you a legitimacy check email. If you derailed for a good reason, such as a power outage or an error in data input, simply explain what happened and we will undo the derailment and you won’t be charged.

But wait! Can’t I just lie to avoid the punishment? Well, yes. Most of our users are honest and can’t lie to us with a straight face, so our default policy is to simply take your word for it. This is our business, but we only want to take your money if we deserve it! Besides, the whole point of having the threat of losing this money is to motivate you, so if you don’t pay, then you lose this motivating factor. If you know you’re going to be tempted to make up an excuse, then you can check our “weasel-proof me” checkbox ahead of time, and we’ll require documentation such as a doctor’s note or confirmation from any listed “supporters” who you set to be CC’d upon a derailment. If you check this box, we also disable your ability to edit or manually add data to goals with automatic data input, such as Fitbit steps. Finally, regardless of whether you check this box or not, we don’t let you change rates instantaneously otherwise you could always decide to change your goal at the last minute. Instead, changes in your minimum rate take effect in a week, so plan ahead!

Okay, we’ve covered a lot of ground in this video, but actually using Beeminder is really simple. Create a goal {picture}, set a rate, and just stay above (or below, in some cases) the “yellow brick road”!

It sounds so simple, but our users have used Beeminder to lose a hundred pounds {Link}, to write a novel {Link}, to run the distance between New York and California last year {Link}, and much much more. What will you do?


Yes please, @chelsea!

And, dang, @andrewlu, very eloquent exposition of Beeminder’s flexibility. It reminds me of @grayson’s visual illustration of the point. In fact, that whole (hypothetical) transcript is really well written. Did you have a next step in mind, like recording a screencast? How would you feel about us adding it pretty much verbatim to beeminder.com/overview, maybe swapping out the “Beeminding your weight” section?

And thanks to @davitenio for the simulator idea and kicking off this awesome thread!

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Sorry for the late response, been very busy with other projects and forgot about this.

I definitely don’t have any problem with you guys using it!

I don’t really have the time (or expertise) to record a screencast for this, but I agree that a short video format would obviously be more user-friendly than a lengthy wall of text.

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