SIDEKICK: Your Own Personal WordPress Guide

Having someone by your side 24/7 to help you out with any issues you come across on a WordPress site isn't possible. However, the team at SIDEKICK decided that they wanted to provide an alternative, so they came up with a walkthrough system that integrates directly into your, or your clients', WordPress dashboard.

You’ve all come across a situation where you needed some sort of help with WordPress, be it how to use the dashboard as a beginner, or how to achieve something with a particular plugin or theme. In most cases you’re advised to read a page from some documentation or watch a tutorial video, which, while possibly being adequate support, don’t offer the one-on-one feel that a walkthrough from another individual would give.

Now having someone by your side 24/7 to help you out with any issues you come across isn’t possible. However, the team at SIDEKICK decided that they wanted to provide an alternative, so they came up with a walkthrough system that integrates directly into your, or your clients’, WordPress dashboard. You can follow the review of SIDEKICK on this video, or keep on reading below.

What is SIDEKICK?

As is self-described, Sidekick is the fastest and easiest way to learn WordPress. It’s a way of providing interactive tutorials right within your dashboard that will not only reduce support costs but also increase customer success. It provides support for a number of platforms including cPanel and Google Apps, but in this review we’ll only be discussing WordPress.

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Sidekick is available to download for free from the WordPress plugin repository, with this free version providing a number of free pre-built walkthroughs; over 280 of them in fact. These can range from WordPress basics such as creating a new page, to WooCommerce integration and how to set up its shipping rates. Some of the other plugins and theme frameworks with available walkthroughs include Yoast, NinjaForms, the Genesis Framework and more.

Once a walkthrough is selected it will take you through a guided tour of what’s needed to complete that particular task, including audio guides, click guides and more. Everything is built right into your dashboard; it’s like having your own personal tutor built into your WordPress site.

Pros and Cons

There are a number of pros and cons to using walkthroughs as a form of learning as well as a means of providing support for a plugin or theme, just as there are pros and cons to using written documentation and video tutorials. The folks at Sidekick have even written a blog post mentioning the most common ones.

Pros

There are plenty of pros to using a system like this, the first of which comes at the pre-sales stage. If you’re selling a plugin or theme and you’re advertising such a walkthrough support system, potential customers are more likely to opt for your product since they’re being provided with an extra level of support right at their fingertips.

In direct relation to this point, another pro is that your support requests will reduce. Rather than having to contact support for simple requests such as how to set up the general settings for your plugin, your customers will have a personal guide to walk them through it. In addition to this, the so-called personal guide provides three learning methods in one; visual, text-based as well as verbal. This combination is what makes Sidekick the powerful tool that it is.

Another point worth mentioning is that Sidekick still allows for other multi-media, such as videos and photos, to be included with the walkthrough, ensuring that the user never has to leave his or her dashboard to find any other related media.

Cons

No matter how many positive one finds with such a support system, there are always going to be the negative points to counter them. Firstly, being a step-by-step guide that requires you to follow the steps as instructed, a more advanced user might find it time consuming to have to go through a whole walkthrough to find the setting that he or she needs.

Another valid point is that these audio-visual guides need to be constantly maintained as WordPress, plugin and theme updates are released. Changing a line in your written documentation is one thing, but updating a whole section or more of your walkthroughs can be tedious. It’s also worth remembering that this system requires Javascript to function, which might be blocked in certain workplaces.

How Does It Work?

The free downloadable version from the .org repository is easily installed on your site just like any other WordPress plugin, and is then accessible at the bottom of your dashboard menu via an orange “Click for Help” button once it’s activated.

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In order for a user to make use of Sidekick and view the walkthroughs available you have two options; you can either embed the Sidekick plugin within your website, plugin or theme; or you can have users install it themselves should they decide that they need it.

The public modules will automatically be available within Sidekick when the required plugins or themes are detected, while the private modules will only appear on the WordPress sites that you specify as the developer. Soon you’ll also be able to make your walkthroughs available to anyone that has a specific plugin or theme installed. Another interesting feature coming soon to Sidekick is the ability to create walkthroughs for the front-end of your WordPress site.

SIDEKICK Composer

Sidekick also has a Composer feature from where you can create your own walkthroughs, be it for a customer using a new site, one of your your plugins, or even perhaps a theme.

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Sidekick Account & Analytics

When you create your premium account you’ll also have access to a Sidekick account from where you can view the plan you’re on, manage your account details, view your invoices, find support, and last but not least, view your Analytics.

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The Analytics section of your account provides you with some valuable data such as how many plays a particular walkthrough has had. This data will help you determine which are the most used walkthroughs, in turn giving you a better idea of which areas of your website, theme or plugin require the most support.

The Walkthroughs from a User’s Perspective

Once Sidekick has been installed, it’s very straightforward to make use of it. By clicking on the “Click for Help” button you’ll open the Sidekick window at the bottom of your screen. Next you need to select the walkthrough of your choice and get started. It will automatically start playing the audio track while displaying subtitles and instructing the user where to click.

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Every time an action is required, Sidekick will instruct you as to what is required and exactly where it needs to be done. These actions can range from simply clicking to open a new page to filling in the content of your choice then clicking “Continue” to proceed to the next step.

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Each and every walkthrough can also be paused, stopped and restarted at will, allowing you to understand each step and to go back where you haven’t completely understood. All this can be done directly from the Sidekick bar and window at the bottom of your screen.

The Walkthroughs from a Developer’s Perspective

As a developer, providing good support to your plugin or theme customers is vital, so if you decide to create walkthroughs for them you want to be sure that they’re done right. With Sidekick the whole process is made to be easy and quick. All you have to do is click on the Composer button at the bottom right hand corner when you “Click for Help”, and this will open up the Composer window.

Once you’ve logged in with your premium account details you’re taken to the Libraries screen. From here you’ll be able to create and view as many libraries as you need. When adding a new library to the list all you have to do is give it a name and choose whether to activate the current environment you’re working in with this library.

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Once a library is created and opened, it’s time to start adding the walkthroughs to it. In the “Add Walkthrough” screen you start off by giving it a title, choosing what type of walkthrough it is; be it a How To guide, an Overview of a particular page, or a Hot Spot, then choosing where to start the walkthrough once the user selects it.

sidekick-composer-walkthrough

Once those basic settings are complete it’s time to start adding the steps, audio and other elements to your walkthrough. You’re automatically taken to the page seen below where you’ll be able to add steps, upload audio, preview the walkthrough and more. Once you’ve created the audio track to explain each step involved you can simply upload it here and start adding the corresponding steps and captions as needed.

sidekick-composer-settings

When adding a new step you simply need to click on the green plus sign and get started. Firstly, you need to hover over and click on the first step, after which a window like the one below will be displayed. From here you can choose what action the user needs to take, the precision needed for the target, the caption to be displayed, which areas to unlock besides the one selected, as well as other settings such as the position of the marker and setting the step as optional.

sidekick-composer-steps

Once you hit the Save button the step is added to your walkthrough and you’re able to move it around as needed, obviously corresponding to the audio track being used. Once all steps are completed you can preview the final result, save it, then publish it to your library.

Documentation and Support

Once you’ve created a premium Sidekick account you’ll have access to a number of guides in their documentation, ranging from Quick Start guides to how to embed Sidekick with your plugin or theme. There are also a number of troubleshooting tips and FAQs, among many others.

Besides the documentation there is also a Help Centre community section where you’ll be able to post a question or idea and have it answered by other Sidekick developers and users. You may also submit a request for support should you need further help.

Pricing

There are two pricing options for Sidekick, one with variable pricing where you will install the available walkthroughs on as many WordPress sites as you need, while the other is a fixed price for developers to create walkthroughs for their own products.

The Simple Pricing plans include a 30-day money back guarantee, and range from a single-site license to a 100-site license. There is also the option of a custom pricing plan for those who’d like to purchase anything higher than a 100-site license. The price for a single-site license is of $60/year ($5 per site per month), and it includes unlimited access to the premium WordPress Walkthrough Library, free updates, unlimited custom walkthroughs as well as analytics tracking. The cost per site then reduces as you reach the 10-site license and above, as expected.

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The Simple Pricing Plans for Sidekick

The WordPress Developer’s Pricing, as already mentioned, is a fixed price which also includes a 30-day money back guarantee. At $499  per product per year you are provided with unlimited installs and plays, the ability to create unlimited walkthroughs per product, as well as advanced analytics, the first two of which are subject to Sidekick’s fair use policies.

Conclusions and Recommendations

All in all, the idea behind Sidekick is great, and I don’t know of any other plugin that does anywhere near what Sidekick can do. It can considerably improve your level of support, both as a plugin or theme developer as well as a web developer who wants to teach his/her clients how to use their new WordPress sites.

It’s very easy to implement for the customers and can include as much detail as you can possibly need. The choice to offer it as a separate plugin or as part of your plugin/theme is also a great idea, giving you the option depending on what you think your clients will appreciate the most.

Having said that, it doesn’t come cheap. As a plugin or theme developer, unless your products are very successful and bringing in a good income, it’s quite an investment to make and keep up. As for the simple pricing plans, paying a maximum of $5 per site per month can be a worthwhile investment when compared to the hours you might spend teaching your customers the most basic of procedures.

Sidekick is, without a doubt, worth a try. Grabbing the free version of the plugin and watching the video above and some other tutorials on how to make use of the Composer feature should be more than enough to help you decide on whether to make the investment or not. If your plugins/themes are already successful or your customer’s sites are doing well, yet support for the most simple or complex of tasks is getting tedious, then you should definitely consider Sidekick.

Mark Zahra
Mark Zahra
CEO at RebelCode, the team behind WP Mayor, Spotlight, WP RSS Aggregator, and the Mastermind.fm podcast. Follow me on Twitter @markzahra.

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2 Responses

  1. I first saw sidekick when I subscribed to Godaddy basic Managed wordpress hosting and I may say that it is really good at what it does. It guide’s you on things to do with wordpress even if you are a complete newbie. Its like you have a teacher at your side.

    1. Indeed it is Gilbert. That’s especially helpful for the newer WordPress users and those using a particular plugin or theme for the first time.

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