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If you regularly create digital products or whether you are just starting out, you probably know that building a successful digital product goes hand in hand with loyal user acquisition. Ultimately, you want them to invest in your product and thus be a source of income. Think about Slack, Spotify, Gmail, or Netflix. Do you think their onboarding strategies are successful? How many failures have they had? How many onboarding flows did they create to finally offer the current ones? We don’t know the answer, but we can say that their users are loyal and satisfied with the products.
At Brainhub, we not only offer software development outsourcing, but we focus on building successful digital products, so we really care about the usability of our apps. That’s why we know that to obtain loyal customers, you need to introduce them to your new app/tool/product in a way that helps them use it well. In this article, we’ll describe how user onboarding helps in achieving your business goals – and what to do and what not to do to make the onboarding process most effective.
Commonly, “user onboarding” can be defined as the process of how new users come to understand and use a product. Its main common goals are: to get users’ attention, welcome and introduce them to the product/app/platform and educate them about its functions. In fact, most of the SaaS companies have one main challenge: conversion of free trial users into satisfied, paying, and loyal customers. Preferably with the lowest churn possible. Do you agree?
Well, we do and we also understand that user onboarding sequences may cause several challenges that influence the overall success of the application and the income. Surely, the improvement of the process significantly helps to boost user growth and also the revenue.
Scroll down and explore our list of DOs and DON’Ts of user onboarding. Learn about what to avoid and how to apply the right strategies from the get-go.
Follow our tips and create an effective process for new users of your digital products. The first thing to know is the outcome. And we’re talking about the outcome that is most desired by the user.
YOU: I want the users to upgrade to paid plans.
USER: I want this app to solve my problems and I’ll pay for it if it does.
The user should have no problems with getting through the onboarding.
When designing user onboarding, think about simplicity. This way you’ll clearly see the whole process and its possible fallouts – be sure to create every action after another.
We aren’t saying that the onboarding should make the user feel stupid – remember that everything depends on your target users. More complex “tasks” in a process may work as well, depending on the product type and its sophistication. Nevertheless, the most important thing is to make the user feel satisfied and pleased with the process.
You should analyze what your users’ goals and needs are. Why are they using a given software? Come up with this kind of outcome when you design a useful introduction to your solution as well. It will enable you to answer users’ problems with your designed product. Ask yourself: Can they get what they need with my app? And: Why is signing up for your free trial better than those other solutions on the market?
Also, you ought to predict what actions might boost user engagement in signing up and staying longer. What outcome do you offer with your onboarding? If clients aren’t satisfied with the results, they probably won’t use the product at all.
It is also a good idea to introduce a user with the most helpful/important features. What should the first step look like? Think about your solution and write down all specific actions and/or their combinations that a user has to do to achieve a certain outcome. What features will be most useful? When you answer this question (you can do some research to find it out), you can let the users find out by themselves.
During your user onboarding, the user can be guided while exploring the product. It is said that students, users, and people in general perform better when they control the learning/discovery process and discover certain things by themselves. It motivates them, pushes them forward and gives them more confidence. Thus, you can be a “gentle guide” and accompany users in the process of discovering your product and finding its most useful functions. This can positively influence user engagement, retention and conversion rates.
Users have to feel what might be valuable for them about your product and you should know what your value proposition is. When these values meet, your user onboarding experience is successful. As far as everything being about the user, that’s good. The balance between testing various UI patterns and completing the onboarding ought to lead to using the product.
What the customer learned from a friend, app store or form your website has to be proven in the onboarding. When users can’t find any value during onboarding, you face sudden churns-outs and drop-offs in retention quite soon.
When you give people a strong valuable first impression, it’ll last and accompany them as loyal users. Such a phase of value recognition is called: the “Aha Moment” or “Wow Moment”.
It’s a good idea to create a knowledge base for the users. There, the users will find any content (tutorials, videos, articles, podcasts, infographics, etc.) supporting their onboarding process. Such pre-made materials should answer potential questions and save both your time and the users’ as well.
Also, you can go further and prepare the user onboarding “checklist” or “progress timeline” to allow the users to see their progress and awaken their motivation to complete the onboarding. When people are closer to accomplishing a task, it’s more probable that they’ll push hard to complete it.
People significantly differ in terms of education and discoveries. Some of us prefer videos, others meticulous instructions, whereas some read blog posts when looking for information about the onboarding process. So it’s perfect when you can provide many sources of information/educational content when it comes to inviting users to start a discovery journey with your product. Think about preparing documents, webinars, product lifecycle emails, chatbots, etc. The user will have a choice of various places to gain knowledge and decide which works best for them.
Offer the users some interactive solutions allowing them to complete onboarding milestones. Become a gamer or game designer and turn your mindset towards playing a game with the users where they can enjoy this experience and feel rewarded.
This kind of user onboarding process has to be natural, so avoid forcing users to perform tasks/moves to get to the end. You can’t expect people to remember everything about your product by heart. The users should actively take some steps, be interested, and stay focused on the interaction with your product (and reaching the desired outcome).
TIP: Let the user skip onboarding – if the user knows the application, but e.g. sets up a new account, reinstalls the application or simply does not like onboarding, he should be able to skip the entire process and proceed to use the application.
Successful user onboarding depends on top notch UX design. Grab our e-book to learn some examples of onboarding-friendly designs:
We will also share some tips concerning bad habits and steps of user onboarding. Sometimes you so desperately want users to finish the onboarding that you force them to take certain steps when they aren’t ready. As you can imagine, the final result can be totally different. First and foremost – paraphrasing the “DOs” list: avoid thinking about YOUR goal – it’s a common trap.
Encourage usage of your product and at the same time respect user privacy. In general, users love to test and try novelties. Unfortunately, many of them turn off when they’re asked to fill in forms that are too long with “useless” or sensitive data, like full names, birthdates, occupations, credit card details, hobbies, and so on.
Don’t force users to provide all information from the start before they even get to know the product. Don’t make the user feel insecure by providing too much data immediately after registration. Always give reasons and explain why the user has to enter particular information or require only the necessary minimum.
You don’t have to show users all the product features immediately. Remember that everything that is logical and known to you but is new to them, and they won’t necessarily take all the steps you assumed. At the beginning, the most important functions are enough, the rest will be learned step by step by the user while using the product.
Also, avoid complex user onboardings with too many steps. Try to effectively and quickly guide the user through the entire process. Long onboarding can discourage people before they actually start using the product. For this reason, the process should be as short as possible, but at the same time valuable for users. Focus on how to facilitate the use of the product rather than discouraging the user.
As you now know, asking for too much information and answers is pretty overwhelming the first time. So in these first stages, focus on building trust and connection with your product. More detailed information will be valuable for you in the later stages, during upselling or cross-selling the product.
TIP: Don’t make users do everything by themselves. You can set default states where possible, e.g. time zone or currency.
You should have a follow-up action plan to support the users in finishing the onboarding and reaching the “Aha Moment”. Think about adding messages, support contact forms, and chatbots to be ready to answer users’ inquiries/problems as soon as they happen. You can also try sending personalized welcome emails with educational content, links to tutorials, or videos. That’ll nicely encourage users to go through the whole onboarding process.
As you can imagine, a poorly designed onboarding process will negatively affect the users’ satisfaction and discourage them from using the product (read: churn grows, revenue falls). Structure and attention to detail in designing the onboarding are crucial for you and your customers, too. Thus, use any tools you can imagine to attract users in the first place.
Think about every feature the user comes into contact with in terms of development, design, and implementation. Don’t wait until the whole product is finished. It’s suggested to write the UI copy, steps, and tooltips when designing. Thus, your final process will feel more natural to the users, and it’s just more efficient to do it this way.
TIP: Do not design individual screens, instead focus on the entire onboarding flow.
After all these crucial things to avoid, you’d think that asking for feedback would be intrusive or that you’re nagging the users to think about your app. Remember that it’s different when it comes to asking for insights and opinions.
What’s more, it’s better to ask and get even negative feedback than to ignore what users have to say about your product. Even the harshest words are better when you first get them than reading complaints published publicly on social media or apps stores. By answering the users directly, you can easily repair damage or identify bugs. Start to proactively ask people about their experience with your product. It’s a good way for every company to solve problematic issues before they reach a significant number of internet users.
TIP: Try to measure user satisfaction with onboarding so that you can improve it.
The experience of introducing users to your product is pretty much about the ability to listen to the target users and connectwith them and their needs. Your guide and the steps of the process have to lead to discovering the product’s value. Together, these DOs and DON’Ts form a set of guidelines to follow if you want to offer the user onboarding that is both: churn-reducing and generating revenue.
You’ve probably noticed how important good user onboarding is and that it’s directly dependent on UX design. Remember to always check whether the product’s quality goes hand in hand with its usability. We’d be happy to talk with you about your product or the product’s UX design. Feel free to contact us:
Every year, Brainhub helps 750,000+ founders, leaders and software engineers make smart tech decisions. We earn that trust by openly sharing our insights based on practical software engineering experience.
UX/UI designer with 11 years of professional experience. Loves holistic design, interested in UX strategy and Lean UX.
Software development enthusiast with 8 years of professional experience in this industry.
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