You know that feeling of stepping out of the airport in a new place that you know nothing about and having too many options to do as your next step?
We all have been there, but what happens when you have a person waiting for you holding a cardboard with your name written on it and handling all the transportation, accommodation and quick adaptation with a smile and sincere hello.
You can’t help but feel connected, safe, and eager to explore.
This is what user onboarding is on the web, a process of orienting and familiarising your first-time user with the environment, giving basic essential directions and increasing the likelihood that new users become successful when adopting your product or service.
User onboarding is important to growth because it helps convert new users into active and engaged users of the product.
How does onboarding process looks like?
The unique thing about user onboarding is that it’s a one time act. The process will be performed only once, right after the user signs up, so it’s challenging to design a flow that is primarily based on the user that knows nothing about your product or service and is easily distracted or bored.
According to Ed Hallen, Co-Founder at Klaviyo, there are three primary goals in building a great onboarding flow.
- Takes care of one-time setup: For example, on Twitter, this is uploading a profile picture, entering a description, etc. This process should be painless – and better yet, fun or engaging.
- Generates excitement about using the product in the future. Even if people get fully setup, you have to leave them excited enough to come back. This is one place Instagram excels – it immediately shows me beautiful pictures that make me want to take my own.
- Teaches the user how to use the product – by doing, not by words. Google’s introduction to MapsGL is a great example. Switch into MapsGL and you get a tutorial walkthrough that guides you through viewing historical landmarks around the world.
You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
According to Whitney Hess, the term onboarding comes from the field of human resources and the common practice of new hire orientation. In that context, the steps in the process are often referred to as accommodate, assimilate, and accelerate—all of which apply quite nicely to how new users ought to be treated in order to bring them into the fold.
Similar to what Ed Hallen said, there are three primary goals that must be performed in order to engage users and make sure to keep them interested.
Accommodating your users means giving them the tools they want and need to use your site to their benefit. Assimilating means helping the user to absorb the culture of the site and, in a sense, come to resemble the existing users. Lastly, accelerating generally applies to delivering the value proposition better and faster.
Top 10 onboarding tools
The main objectives of the following tools and technologies are designed to measure customer sign-up success and empower users with effective self-service tools and content. Effective onboarding flow essentially allows users to have a pleasurable first time experience, lower support costs, and increase revenue for your company.
Intercom is an ultimate all-in-one customer relationship management (CRM) tool that allows you to get to know your users and their browsing habits. It enables you to communicate with them through real-time in-app and email messages.
The onboarding process becomes much easier with Intercom, and converting new users to become active customers is simple. It also allows you to manage all queries in a team inbox with personalized replies and timely support options.
Price: Free to $87 per month
Personalised and perfectly timed email goes a long way in building genuine and loyal relationships with your customers. AutoSend is a behaviour-based email marketing platform that comes uber handy in your onboarding flow allowing easy and effective in-app or on-screen messaging with email and text capabilities. It takes just five minutes to set up and without coding, you can track events in visual mode and click on elements you want to trigger. AutoSend will create the events for you.
Price: Free to $1,999/month
How does your first time user get everything at once? All your fancy features and endless use scenarios might overwhelm them and leave them frustrated with your product. WalkMe lets you add a step-by-step walk-thru to your website or app. All you have to do is write your instructions for each step and you’ve just setup an awesome new onboarding process.
Price: Free to custom plan
To create a pleasurable onboarding experience you first need to know who you are serving. You also need to know their understanding of your product. Heap Analytics automatically captures every user action in your web or iOS app and lets you measure it. Once you have data, you can start testing iterations and work towards customer happiness and higher retention rate.
Price: Free to $599/month
Onboarded claims to be user onboarding as a service, it allows you to easily add a user onboarding flow to your site, with analytics to improve engagement. Onboarded makes it easy to build interactive product tours, guides, and user onboardng flows. Great tool to get started with user onboarding.
Price: Free for 10k data points/month
No one can replace human interaction. The power of talking to a real human being is still one of the most effective relationship building resources and you should think of making your customers happy with a possibility to talk to a representative who’s there when your customers need it. When automated onboaring scenario fails, users can turn to real people to talk about their struggles. Powerful.
Price: $17/month to $243/month
Zopim is another live chat software that lets you start and respond to conversations with your users. You can answer questions or even guide them through the onboarding process step-by-step ensuring the best experience possible. Make sure to learn from manual onboarding processes to optimise your primary strategy and automate the majority of the process.
Price: Free to $55/month
Tutorialize powers website tutorials that guide visitors around your site. It is literally ready in minutes, totally customizable and can significantly increase customer engagement. You can use it to onboard new customers or new staff members, and your developers will love the flexibility when it comes to customization.
Price: $14/month to $59/month
This onboarding plugin will come handy for WordPress lovers. It’s a fully-featured guidance and engagement plugin that allows you to improve the user experience by providing easy to use, accessible and intuitive help widgets which can include audio, video and text. This is a great tool to assist your site users and answer their questions, walk them thought the site, improve user experience and user satisfaction, improve your conversion and more.
Price: Free to $75
Numbers don’t lie. KISSmetrics is an extremely smart tool for tracking, analysing and optimising your digital marketing performance. Find out how your users behave, where they abandon your website and start improving your product with onboarding flow. This tool will show you what’s working and what’s not across all campaigns, mobile, and web.
Price: $200/month to $2,000/month
Onboarding flow is a tailored and ever changing experience that depends on product, target audience and many different factors that may be more or less important for other companies.
That is why top sites focus on steps they know are Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for user retention. By focusing on these KPIs, onboarding experiences are designed to set the user up to experience value from the product quickly. This increases their probability of remaining engaged.
Below are some examples of successful onboarding flows that proved to make hundreds of millions of users happy.
User Onboarding is a collection of effective and successful onboarding practises by the well known companies and this blog analyses and documents the processes to give you an insight into what works and what doesn’t. Learn how world’s most popular web apps do it!
Twitter has north of 270 million active users, and their previous onboarding flow brought in more than two thirds of that over the span of three years. That leaves some mighty big shoes to fill for their brand new flow – wanna see how it stacks up?
Evernote provides a suite of products and merchandise aimed to help you better “collect and find everything that matters.” Their multi-faceted product offering led to some unique onboarding challenges – there’s lots to learn from with this one!
With its 70 million users, Pinterest would be one of the 20 biggest countries in the world – bigger than France or Italy, even! Wanna see how they managed to get so many people up and running?
Email is still one oft he most used and effective marketing channel and you must utilise it in your onboarding experience. However, people get tons of emails everyday, so how you distinguish yourself makes a lot of difference to how successful you will become. Check out this inspiring gallery of emails for all possible scenarios.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. When designing your onboarding flow, take a look at what’s happening around. Find inspiration from other products and services that has been proven to work and simply adapt. Analyse and learn from other designers on PatternTap. It’s collecting specific designs and user interaction patterns where designers can learn what works well and why.
GoodUI, short for Good User Interface, is a project of user interface designer Jakub Linowski. A good user interface according to the creator of the project is usable and has high conversion rate. Ever growing list of UI ideas features techniques and experiments you can utilise to increase your website conversion rate or customer happiness with A/B testing.
User onboarding is in no way rocket science, but it takes time and practise to get it right. When dealing with people and the ever changing online culture, you can’t predict how your users will react to your products or services but by gradually working on it and iterating your onboarding flow, you will get better at attracting and, most importantly, keeping more users in your tribe.
Consider using some of the tools in this article to track, analyse, measure and improve your onboarding experience to save on costs, increase customer happiness and achieve better results.
I am always open to feedback and suggestions, as I work with many startups I’d like to hear your experiences as well as the lessons and tools you use for user onboarding. Catch me on Twitter @tomaslau.
About the Author
Tomas Laurinavicius is a Lithuanian designer, entrepreneur, blogger & digital nomad. Founder of Despreneur and co-author of Mobile Design Book.