The best definition I’ve come across for the purpose of a great onboarding flow is – onboarding converts new users to power users.
Connecting aspects of great products to strategy again, the growth portion of the strategy targets users who would hire your product to get a job done. The purpose of the onboarding flow is to make it very clear how to do so.
This is the piece of the strategy where great design shines because the onboarding flow answers the two important design questions – i) does the user know what it takes to “win” in the product? and ii) how easy is it for the user to win?
I think it is critical to get onboarding right because it transitions people from interest in your product to your core value props. Fail to this and people leave without giving you a shot.
So, what are the principles behind great onboarding experiences? As I’m a fan of boiling things down to at-most 3 things, my sense would be that great onboarding experiences do the following –
- Structure/set expectations and show progress/celebrate success
- Ask them for just enough information to get them to value (the aha moment!)
- Show them what’s important
Let’s work through each of these with an example.
1. Structure/set expectations and show progress/celebrate success
It is incredibly annoying when you have to keep clicking yes to set things up as a user. While the simple answer is to keep sign up processes as short as possible (and we should all do that), different products have different needs. And, a great way to help users along the way is to set clear expectations.
I love how Etsy does this. You know exactly where you are in the process and what you need to do to make progress. It nails this principle.
2. Ask them for just enough information to get them to value (the aha moment!)
Onboarding doesn’t need to give you 100% of the data you need to deliver on your core value prop. The question is – how can you ask just enough to take them to value? Quora does a great job of this. When you go through the Quora onboarding process, there are 2 key steps – a quick selection of topics that you’d like to follow and also friends you’d like to follow.
Interestingly, they use a modal with what looks like a live feed to show you what success would look like. That’s smart.
They also add a touch of suspense before they deliver the “aha” moment (annotated in the image below by Samuel at useronboard.com).
3. Show them what’s important
Most products collect a bunch of information and just leave their users on their own. Apps that do a great job with onboarding, however, do a fantastic job contextually helping users.
And, slack is a great example of the best practice via its slack bot.
One last thing – these principles focus on what happens once a user gets into your product. But, what about the connection between growth and onboarding, i.e., what happens when a user shows up?
I think good onboarding flows do a good job with the education process right when you sign up. Here’s an example of the sign up process on “Personal Capital.”
The app has 6 nice looking screens that tell you what it does. But, at the same time, you can skip it to sign in, join or ask for a demo. Again, that’s smart.
To summarize –
- Great onboarding converts new users to power users
- Great onboarding experiences i) set expectations and celebrate users moving through it, ii) ask for just enough information to take users to value, and iii) contextually show users what’s important as they navigate through the product for the first time
- Finally, you can lay the groundwork for good on boarding even before a user signs up