Recently we at Sensible launched our developer self-serve experience for extracting useful data from any document. With self-serve you can sign up, onboard a document, and publish an enterprise-grade API endpoint, all in an afternoon. Self-serve accounts start at a forever-free tier and don't require a credit card to create.
As the sole documentarian at Sensible, I saw onboarding our self-serve users as a unique opportunity. I’ve already written plenty of getting started docs for SenseML – our quickstart, getting started tutorial, and API tutorials. But this was a chance to engage users who landed in the product after signing up. Could I teach SenseML inside the Sensible app?
I believe so, and we now preload all our accounts with in-app walkthroughs to make onboarding to Sensible as easy (and even fun!) as possible:
Here are some of the guiding principles I used to create these walkthroughs:
My favorite aspect of these walkthroughs is their inherent interactivity. They’re formatted as PDFs, and their text is both the instructions, and the data to extract. You view them in the Sensible app, and you extract from what you view. Meta, right?
I wanted to keep the walkthrough fun and grounded in the real world, but since Sensible offers a cross-industry toolkit, I avoided focusing on any particular industry. So for example, when you learn about rows, you get to extract some food data from a table. I chose fresh fruit as a popular snack when I made up the data, though that’s probably wishful thinking about healthy eating habits!
I must have been hungry when I wrote these walkthroughs. To learn about checkbox extraction, you work with options from a bed and breakfast menu:
Keep it short
I had a strict rule: keep each walkthrough to just one page. But I also wanted to showcase the breadth of extraction methods. That meant I had to show, not tell. So I carefully chose extraction steps that build in complexity, from rows to tables; from checkboxes to regions. There’s also an intentional misstep! (sometimes highlighting common errors is the quickest way to showcase concepts). If you do get stuck, there's a cheat sheet with solutions and links to explanations.
Starting from scratch? You got this
While you can build on Sensible’s broad open-source library of queries for common document forms, I want to empower you to quickly write queries from scratch for a brand-new form. So my walkthroughs guide you to modify existing queries, then challenge you with a blank slate. With your knowledge from previous walkthroughs, you might be surprised how easy it is to tackle a sales quote you’ve never seen before and grab information like the document date and the grand total.
These walkthroughs underwent many iterations before their present form, and now we look forward to user testing them. We welcome feedback -- submit your comments or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or our community forum.