If you haven’t looked at Jordan Koschei‘s analysis of dropbox user onboarding flow, you should go ahead and read it here. I’ve also found this interesting thread on Quora with other examples of good user onboarding flows.
User onboarding is a critical part of the product usage and adoption lifecycle. When users have the option from thousands of products and services to choose from, the first ‘feel’ of a product becomes very important to the success of a new product or service implementation.
Every online product manager is aware that to achieve both, there is tension between:
- getting people to complete necessary steps in order to start seeing value from their product; and at the same time
- making sure not to overwhelm them with unnecessary information/tasks/steps.
Crafting a great user experience while building a successful user onboarding flows is like an art, or more precisely a craft of minimalism.
Too little effort upfront will leave users underwhelmed with your product and too much effort upfront will turn away new users.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this problem and have been working with Totango customers on their user onboarding flows. You can read about nCircle’s journey here. From working with many customers like this, I have been able to find 5 rules of thumb that lead to great user onboarding implementations:
1. It’s all about the core value
When designing the onboarding implementation you should carefully understand the core of your application. In most applications, there are many things people can do, however, you’re designing the best way for people to understand your service value without interruptions and without extra unnecessary steps.
2. User-centric approach
Think about who your user is in a very concrete way. Where did they come from, what have they done prior to initiating your “getting started” experience, what language do they speak, which device are they using? By preemptively getting this data, you don’t need to ask redundant questions and they don’t need to fill data you already have.
3. Have an owner, have a team
Someone has to own the onboarding project, which will take time to get right. Have someone (you?) own it and drive it to success. It will require many follow up changes and decisions that will impact the results. Also, important, make sure you have an implementation team in place that can follow up with UI, graphics, flow, copy (language) changes.
4. Iterate, iterate, iterate…
You will probably need hundreds of changes, some of them very minor while other very significant to get it right. You’ll have to go through many cycles of analysis and learning to get it right.
The key metrics you should care about are:
- Onboarding success rate – of the people who started (and you care about) how many successfully completed the onboarding flow, and how many dropped and why?
- Time to onboard – optimize for the minimal time to successfully onboard new users. Track that time and find ways to improve it.
- Engagement – the rate of onboarded users who ended up frequently using the service/app
- Monetization – the rate of successfully onboarded users who ended up paying
5. Remove steps
“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away“. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
This is an all-time favorite of mine, and it’s true in user onboarding as well. Always consider removing steps, you’ll be amazed by the results.
Which products do you find with the best onboarding experience? Let’s use the comments thread below to praise those products.