User Onboarding Process
You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology.
What is User Onboarding?
User Onboarding is the process of introducing the product to the users and assisting them to the point where they will become loyal customers. User Onboarding is neither leaving your users with the product tour alone nor getting involved in everything they do and ‘’teaching’’ them what to do.
The onboarding phase is:
Where you introduce yourself to the customer,
Make a good first impact,
Make sure they are feeling at home with your product
And the phase where you probably have the most contact with your customers.
Why is user onboarding important?
User onboarding is pivotal in introducing new users to a product. Companies that prioritize the onboarding experience can make their users proficient much more quickly. The growth of SaaS applications has dramatically reduced customers’ switching costs. They are much more likely to churn if they don’t realize value quickly, thus helping a customer accelerate time to value is key to churn prevention.
User onboarding is equally important in an internal-facing context. In order to get employees up and running in a timely manner, they should undergo onboarding and training tailored to their roles and responsibilities. A successful onboarding program leads to both greater satisfaction and productivity among employees, enabling companies to better attract and retain talent.
3 Steps to successful onboarding
Successful onboarding drives new users to experience “a-ha” moments, or the personal realization of a product’s value proposition or fulfillment of marketing’s promise. There is a distinct series of steps that are required to lead a new user from their initial product experience to their first aha. They include:
Welcome and orientation: User onboarding should include an introduction to the app, and an orientation to the main navigation patterns. Users will understand the general purpose of the app, and how to access the pages and areas needed to complete key tasks.
Configuration: Some products require setup or installation before the user can get started. For a file-sharing or collaboration tool, the user may need to add contacts or teammates. For a music discovery app, the user may need to define their listening preferences. Onboarding should guide the user through any configuration steps needed to accomplish the important outcomes.
Setup tasks and payoff tasks: An a-ha moment (or payoff task) happens when the user experiences the action or outcome that initially brought them to the product. For a to-do app, this might be checking off a task, or for a billing tool, it might be receiving payment from a customer. These payoff tasks are often paired with a setup task. For the task management app, before a task can be completed, the user must first create a task. Effective user onboarding will guide the user through the payoff tasks while calling attention to the setup tasks that make up the complete process.
Best User Onboarding Experiences
What constitutes good user onboarding depends on the product, the user, and what need they are fulfilling with the product.
For example, you can imagine the different approaches to user onboarding that would be needed for a banking app as opposed to a game, and for products targetted at specific sector experts as opposed to the general audience.
That is why user onboarding, just like the product itself, should be developed using a user-centric approach to design, based on extensive user research and user testing.
According to Samuel Hulick of UserOnboard, good onboarding experiences should be:
User-centric – is focused on teaching the user what they need to know to get started with the product, and not just be concerned about showing off the product.
Action-oriented – it should get users completing actions as quickly as possible, rather than spending a lot of time showing them how they will do it when they finally get to work with the product.
Informed – and focus on getting the user to gain value from the product as soon as possible.
Constantly Evolving – just as product features are monitored to ensure that they are doing their job, and tweaked and changed to do it better, onboarding needs this kind of attention as well.
Holistic – onboarding should not happen in one go the first time the user opens the product, it is something that needs to be constantly present and available, and leveraged to introduce changes, new features, and so forth.
Onboarding needs to complete one, more, or all of the following tasks:
Show users the key benefits of the product and how to achieve them.
Show users the key functionality of the product and how to use it.
Focus on getting users doing and using the product as quickly as possible.
Support account setup and registration.
TikTok's addictive user onboarding
Yes, we're on TikTok now. We held out as long as we could, but resistance to the viral short-form video content app proved futile in the end. We've found the app to be just as addictive as promised, thanks to both an active (and creative) community of users and an effective algorithm that improves each user's personalized feed over time.
We'd wager that once TikTok gets new users hooked, they don't have much of a problem with average session length or engagement. That's because the Chinese-owned app has done a great job of identifying its activation events, and TikTok's succinct user onboarding experience effectively drives users to take the actions needed to reach their aha moment early on.
Here's how they do it:
Personalizing the first-time user experience with declared data
TikTok's user onboarding experience starts off by asking users to select their interests. This information is used to personalize each user's feed. This is a common tactic among products that feature curated content.
Connecting user enjoyment to repeat product usage
What's really clever about TikTok's onboarding is that it repeatedly encourages users to scroll through their feed, telling them that the content they see will become more personalized and relevant the more they use the app. This is true of many algorithms, but many apps fail to let new users in on the secret. By telling users they can improve their experience through continued product use, TikTok ensures that a larger percentage of new users will invest the time needed to get hooked on the app.
Prioritizing the sticky stuff
Finally, TikTok highlights another key action—creating original content—at the end of their onboarding. Like any social media platform, TikTok relies on a steady stream of user content. But in this case, they've prioritized content consumption over content creation, recognizing that most new users have come to browse first. Letting them know where to click to create their first video primes these folks to take the next step on their own once they're feeling inspired.
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