The thing with the first impression is that we can make it only once. Every new action we take, in any sphere of life, contains this magical, unrepeatable factor of surprise. We are exploring the unknown. The same applies to the process of introducing products/apps to new users. The line between having a good onboarding experience and getting lost in functionalities is very thin. So, how to make it right?
User interface for successful onboarding
Leading user onboarding
Passive and active onboarding
Onboarding for our customers - an inside look
The best onboarding process - know the four rules
How to reduce users churn and deliver positive experience with onboarding
Well-chosen content - a key to successful onboarding
“Wow” and “aha”, two special effects
Onboarding and push notifications
Onboarding success metrics
Before users are able to get acquainted with the solutions we provide, the first thing noticed by the users is the appearance, transparency, and intuitiveness of the product. It’s simple: the more intuitive the functionalities, the fewer difficulties occur when using the solution. At Inwedo we usually take two main perspectives before we start working on the app. First: how we want the system to be navigated by the users. And second: the way in which we present them with directions to follow.
Interface transparency should not be the result of how we wish to care for our users. I believe in creating systems that “grow with the user”. I believe in creating systems that “grow with the user” – or in other words, their ability to use the app. Just imagine the best lego construction you ever made. What if you could get the exact blocks almost in the moment you need them? You just have to know the manual. But who likes reading them, right? Well, it is onboarding that brings you relief here. It can be an ultra-friendly part of your product. Positive onboarding experience can make people who are just curious about your app and want to check out the trial version become the most engaged users of all.
The term onboarding (adaptation) is very often used in the world of software. But when we ask members of the same team about it, there is a good chance we’ll get very different definitions of it. Some will call it teaching new users, others – a simple and fast tour of the product. The term itself derives from the one used in HR departments. User adaptation refers to the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to become effective members of the company. Similarly to how the employees are introduced into a new environment, in the world of software – it’s good practice to present your customers with a little know-how of the product when they join.
The definition I often use specifies onboarding as:
This definition covers the entire user lifecycle and points to the moment even before a user registers on the site. Customer onboarding is also a process that dramatically increases the likelihood of users adopting your product.
Imagine that, encouraged by the latest life-changing technological solution, you fill out the form and click the register button. Then, in a flash, you find yourself on an interstellar Star Trek ship. Exploring the unknown 😉 You see buttons, switches and flashing LEDs all around you, and you have no idea what the hell is going on. This is exactly how the first-time users of your product/app can feel.
Good web designers conduct research, map flows and test the interfaces they design. But for users, this is a brand new experience. They may not know how everything works, how to use what they need or even how to find it in your app at all.
When you give your users guidelines, you actually give them a scaffolding on which they can move, and by doing so – save them from feeling completely lost and frustrated.
Onboarding is the front part of a well-designed UX. It works like the most glamorous red carpet. Inviting users to perform the actions we have precisely planned and gives us a way to show them the most important functionalities. It is a special operation in service of a call to action. Best onboarding should both: introduce users to the application and help them find their way around main navigation elements.
It is worth mentioning here that some products require a set up before you can work with them. Like when you plan to use a new messenger, CRM or file sharing tool in your company, you will first need to add a contact list. Using apps that discover new fashion trends, you may need to specify your interests and preferences.
Well-conducted onboarding should safely and guide the user through all the setup steps necessary to achieve the results.
Introducing a user into an app doesn’t always have to be automated. Instead, it can be an active and two-way conversation with a consultant who will explain how to use the tool. Superhuman, for instance, chose this interactive model to teach its users a whole new way of working. I had the pleasure of participating in an active onboarding many times. Using, for example, Brand24 or Autenti and these were very good experiences.
At the other end of the scale, there is the passive and automated onboarding process. The one that doesn’t require either an individual conversation or a previously scheduled meeting. It is, instead, embedded in the product as in, for example, most CRM systems available on the market. Ultimately, it all depends on your product and business model. There is no one proper way to choose for that.
During the adaptation process, users must perform many different tasks and steps. Each of them is this once-in-lifetime opportunity to positively surprise and engage them. And, of course, to prevent users from getting lost in the multiplicity of information. Read below to find out more about two user onboarding processes from our own projects.
Zbiletem.pl is a free app that can be installed on smartphones with Android or iOS. After logging in to the system (using your phone number) you can immediately start shopping. To pay for the tickets users may use a credit card, choose a fast transfer or BLIK. Transactions’ safety is guaranteed by PayU, the leader of online payments in Poland. Miłosz Olejniczak, CEO of zbiletem.pl, points out that what gives the app an advantage over other similar solutions is that the app is focused around it’s basic task. It does not include other services (f.ex. parking, transfers, train tickets). To buy a public transportation ticket users need just 3 clicks. In a few seconds they achieve a result that, in other apps, takes much longer, and is usually more complicated.
While onboarding in Zbiletem.pl app users are led by subsequent screens, with just one action required to perform on each of them. This lowers the risk of confusion and distraction. Only when all the main parts of the account are set up, the user gains access to explore the full offer and choose what they need. Zbiletem.pl is really clearly designed. Thereby it guides passengers through the whole purchase process in a very simple way. However, our growing group of recipients is getting more diverse and the latest usability tests revealed a need to simplify it even more. With regard to such onboarding feedback, a short briefing will appear in the app in the following months. Perhaps in a form of a short video, showing how easily users can choose the ticket that serves them best.
Beata Król, Product Owner
If you want to know how we worked for Zbiletem.pl, read the short but detailed case study of the product.
The main goal of the project is to build a system connecting different actors whose common goal is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. An online application, bringing together companies, farmers and researchers. It will provide space for the exchange of knowledge for those who want to climate compensate in Swedish agriculture through regenerative farming. More than that, it is a platform of mutual support for the emerging community.
Initially, the app was made available to Swedish farmers, companies operating in this country, all institutions and researchers wishing to share their research, as well as to all private individuals seeking knowledge in the field of organic farming. The application was built as an open-source software, which provides an opportunity of implementing the product in any other country wishing to engage in the protection and renewal of our common resource, soil
Designing the application for MiljöMatematik we had to consider users, who don’t work with digital products on a daily basis. Our focus was on two main aspects. First: to incentivize users to record and share their data on the platform at all. Secondly – figure out how tomake the most of their time and focus. Therefore, we decided to implement a guided onboarding process. Explaining how the app works at the very start, the onboarding navigates the user through serves as a support in navigation through the following stages. The whole process is based on a few simple steps. At each of them users are informed of what’s exactly happening at the moment, and how it’s important for them.
Maciej Wiśniewski, UX/UI Designer
We have been working on this product in terms of process optimization, design and coding. I am all the more pleased that it is an important product in the field of reversing the climate crisis. The latest case study of our work on this app may be useful if you want to see the entire process of working on the application for a specific professional group.
Good onboarding should be: simple, easy, functional and useful.
- Simple – do you know Leo Da Vinci’s quote: “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”? Derive inspiration from the greatest, because simple and sincere experience with your solutions keeps the user committed. It also reduces the mental effort required for the action and helps quickly achieve goals;
- Easy – the easier manual of a product/application, the better. Like with Ikea furniture. “Simple” products increase user engagement and reduce the possible frustration of missing something. Make the onboarding available to everyone and give all users confidence, that they can do it themselves;
- Functional – the product does exactly what users need and expect;
- Useful – the usability of our solutions depends on both the functionalities they offer and ease of operating them. The products we create must not only provide functionality itself but also be simple and easy to use.
In an age of growing XaaS (Everything as a Service), access to new technologies is easier than ever.
The cost of switching to another solution is practically negligible. Therefore, the churn of users is really high. Around 40-60% never return to the product after testing it once, and app to 71% is gone within the first 90 days.
Successful onboarding, combined with a well-tailored UX, has the power to achieve a common goal: to make your product easy to understand and use. Giving users proficiency in operating the app, with the first positive experience you gain the irresistible. Their attachment. So they will not think about switching to competitive solutions that easily.
The rule is quite simple – when users spend their precious time downloading, installing or registering for a new application, they wish the product to improve their life in the right and expected way. As said before – first impression is crucial here. Users need to feel rewarded for their tremendous faith. And they have to get it right away. Otherwise, they will look in some other place to fulfill this desire. Let me just mention that Twine platform has reduced its bounce rate by more than half (and it used to be a staggering 65%). All thanks to well-implemented onboarding.
Additionally, ProfitWell’s research conducted on nearly 500 products (software) shows that users who have had positive onboarding experiences are much less likely to give up the product within the first 21 days of use.
To make full use of it’s possibilities, we shall provide well-managed onboarding not only as a good start for our new users. It is a great introduction of another feature or tool development. Our greatest job is worth nothing if users have no clue the new solution exists or how to enjoy them 😉
When Microsoft asked its users what they would like to add to Office, it turned out that 90% of the requested features were already there.
Another example is the video platform Wistia whose functions have remained largely unnoticed by the customers. After thorough user surveys and the introduction of onboarding, the retention of users increased by 30%.
Best onboarding, just like the best make up, should remain imperceptible. It should feel completely natural, friendly and enjoyable. It should also be based on well-chosen content. Otherwise, it will become just a collection of completely meaningless marks and signs. Well-chosen content should be one of the biggest priorities of the whole process and cannot be scrimped on. Irrespective of the form. All videos, notifications, emails or conversations with a live consultant or maybe even a bot, can and shall be prepared with equal care of the content quality.
Few things affect our emotions like a positive surprise. And emotions bind the memories, for good. Therefore, in new users onboarding, the focus should be on this way of building relationships. In the industry, it is often called the “wow” effect. Surprise helps establish an emotional connection with users, which allows them to acknowledge the characteristics of your product. Variety, gamification, a system that uncovers additional elements after completing certain tasks are just some of the ideas to enchant your users. Make them feel they discovered your application without any help. All nooks and crannies. This will bring them satisfaction of exploring and every quiet sigh of contentment plays in your favor.
Recall the picture of opening a new website or an app. You click the link, the window shows up and all of the sudden, there is no content visible. All you see are popups. A newsletter registration, requests for location and permission to display push notifications. Nothing annoys me as much. Especially, when it happens simultaneously and immediately as soon as I enter the site. But if you really need to use them?
If push messages in your app are the communication channel and essential source for relationship with your users, then simply choose the right time. And there’s no better moment than just completed onboarding. If you have previously managed to enchant users with your product and they have discovered all the features they need, the floor is yours. Make the most of it.
The ultimate goal of onboarding users is to speed up the process of settling them in the product. This, of course, brings some extra benefits. Previously mentioned retention (on this topic, I recommend the article “Retention is King”), recommendations or buying premium products. But is there a way for measuring success of onboarding programs? Many companies set milestones for the individual functionalities. Some set indicators on the usage frequency of each new solution. This allows them to measure the success of the individual user implementation process.
Most important for constructive evaluation is using the data. You can retrieve KPI for onboarding process from what you already know or have the access to. Remember to collect all the information about your users. What they are doing, how they use the system and what was their onboarding experience. At what point they gave up on it and what pushed them to do that? Always try to identify and understand the reason. This will help you restore usability flaws as quickly as possible.
Finally, I would like to introduce you to an expert and his speech at Stanford University. Kevin Hale, Wufoo founder and Y Combinator partner explains how to create products that build a good first impression. This topic starts at 4:25, but I strongly encourage you to watch the whole lecture.