What is the best user onboarding? The 4 most common mistakes
User Onboarding is the first experience every new user will have with your product. You cannot screw this over, specially if you care about your new user coming back to use it again.
Retention, retention, retention! If you don’t care about retention then… No wait… you cannot not care about retention!
The key thing about retention happens during the first time user experience.
In this post, I’m focusing on mobile apps. However with a little bit of imagination you could apply this to any kind of products.
Onboarding is the place where most of app developers would make their new users do at least one of the following:
- Go through a walk-through guide tour on How-to use their app (wrong!)
- Describe what the product does and why you should use it (wrong!)
- Ask to pay to access the service (wrong!)
- Setup their user profile and/or account (wrong!)
Many app developers or UX designers would call the user onboarding the step before any new user would get to try a product for the first time. I personally call the user onboarding what the whole first experience is for a new user. For an app, this means from the very first time he opens the app until he decides to close it or get distracted from it.
Why is a tutorial wrong during the user onboarding?
The simple answer to this is “If you need a tutorial to explain your user what your product does, it means you haven’t sell it yet, you already have lost your user and you probably have wasted your time and or money trying to win a user
Well, it’s not entirely wrong if your product is a very complex product such as DJI Go app where your new users are dealing for the first time with a $1500 drone they just bought from you. However if you are trying to build simple apps, then your app should be so damn simple that any drunk new user could get through it and remember how it works the day after during its hangover.
Why is explaining your USP wrong during the user onboarding?
Again, it’s not entirely wrong to quickly remind the user what benefit your user is going to get from your product. However instead of wasting a whole screen explaining it, why don’t you try making your new user experiencing it sooner?
Selling your unique value proposition should be done at earlier stage than during the user onboarding. Your Marketing team (if you have one) should focus on making sure that your app USP is on any acquisition channels you have created and your Growth team (if you have one) should focus on making each of your active users an evangelist and putting that USP onto their lips as soon as they think about your product or talk about your product.
Come on, everyone have heard about the Freemium model. There is no point for me to say anything about this. And if you really insist, then read the next paragraph attentively.
Shall I say this is wrong? Am I wrong saying this is wrong?
Many of the teams I’ve worked with would tell you I’m a user contact freak. I want to be able to get in touch with users (especially new users) as soon as they open the app or land on a website. They would say that I would make everyone setting up Intercom.io everywhere.
So yes, it is important to get user’s information as early as possible. However, onboarding may not be the right time for it.
Personal information is precious and giving it away is not that easy. I’m sure you experienced yourself this one time you visited a website and it asked you to connect with Facebook to get to read the content and you just closed the tab window. Well it’s the same for new users using your app.
Personal information is a high investment for the new user and if you haven’t delivered anything to him yet, he will more likely flaking and drop. If you’re wondering what’s the best time to ask for personal information, well that’s another topic but the short answer is give him/her something before asking for anything. If you go in the street asking someone money, he will either tell you “no” (if he’s honest) or he will tell you “I’m sorry I don’t have any money on me” (if he is British and afraid to hurt; or dishonest) or he will ask you “what for?” (if he is European; or curious to help). Bad joke aside, if you go to the same person and give him something he needs (flowers for his date, lighter for a smokers, tissues for his cold), he will more likely give you some money.
This is a totally subjective point of view. Don’t take my words as science as I might contradict myself in a month time because I would have learned otherwise by finding another way or experimenting something better.
The user onboarding performing the best so far (taking into account Activation and Retention KPIs for apps I’ve helped building) is the one that delivers the added value(s) of your app as quickly as possible to the new user. That might means no user onboarding at all. Although, the right answer for you will always be: “it depends” on your app. But because that answer is boring to read and you haven’t gotten that far down into this article to just to get that generic “good answer”, here something you could find interesting and maybe learn from.
If you want to activate a new user and making him coming back, you need to make sure that he experienced what he came for (or what you made him coming for).
Obviously there are some trade-off, you don’t want to give away too much either without getting anything in return. But give a little and ask for little, then give more and ask for more.
The Unique Selling Proposition can be different from a user to another one and can definitely be different from the one you’ve written down on your Lean canvas model.
You might disagree with me, but I believe the true USP is what drives your active users back towards your product. There are many ways to identify it/them. Here some examples:
Look at your analytics and identity what is it that your active users are doing when they are coming back every day/week/month, and try harder to make your new users experiencing the same thing on their first experience with your product. That’s something you can read in more details in Nir Eyal’s book: Hooked.
If your metrics are fussy or if you don’t have enough users yet to get any quantitative data, then don’t be afraid of asking your active users what they love about your product, what it is that makes them coming back every day and what it is that makes your product so special that they will make them talk about it to their friends. Then take that, and make sure that you deliver it to all your new users.
Everyone wants to feel special and loved. That’s one of the reasons why people are always seeking for relationship.
If someone gets to the point that he is installing your app, it’s probably because he is at the time of his day where he got bored and has nothing else to do than doing so. When people are bored, what do they usually do? They’re seeking for love, affection, kudos or any other positive signals they could get. Why do you think Instagram, Facebook and Tinder have such a good retention rate? It’s a source of feeling love and ego-massage for most of their users. If you’re feeling down, take a selfie, put it on your Instagram and get some likes. Instagram users don’t even realise this, but that’s the reason that drives them back: they feel loved, they feel like they exists through the content they post. At the end of the day, we live through others. If you were alone on Earth, what would be the meaning of your existence?
So give your new users some love because they’re really bored to take the time of trying out your app. Be short and positive in your messaging and try to massage their ego.
Try to personalise their first time experience as much as you can, without being too creepy. If they got referred by a friend, try to figure out the connection between the two.
People want to feel special, they desire to feel unique ; so why not making this happen by making the day of each of your new users?
I’ll finish this post by trying to summarise this by saying something clever: “A good user onboarding doesn’t ask too much involvement from the user, a better user onboarding always delivers the USP of your product, the best user onboarding doesn’t exist but makes people feel special”