User Onboarding Best Practices

Last updated on June 18, 2016 by Wart Fransen in Marketing
User Onboarding Best Practices

User onboarding is extremely important because it is the first impression that you make on a user.

A quote from American actor Will Rogers perfectly sums up why the first impression is so important: “You will never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

If the initial feeling that users get of your product are frustration and unhappiness, it’s going to be almost impossible to turn those users into long-term customers that truly benefit your business.

With this in mind, it can’t be stressed enough just how important it is that you plan and analyze your user onboarding process if you want to find new ways to unlock explosive growth.

Analyzing your user onboarding and optimizing it effectively can make or break your business. Because it’s so critical for your success, we decided to help you figure out how to think about refining your messaging, branding, and overall initial product experience.

Start by mapping user journeys.

When you start dissecting or creating your user onboarding, you need to map out your user journeys. This is important because it means you’re taking the time to think about and embrace the needs and motivations of your users. You should ask yourself a series of questions, such as: Do we need to educate users more? Is the person who just signed up the person who will be making the purchase decision?

By asking yourself simple, yet insightful questions, you will be able to understand your user persona much better. Perhaps, you’ll even discover different personas joining your product, meaning you could potentially have to craft different unboarding flows for each persona.

Make sure you’re communicating your value proposition.

When a customer begins using a product, they need to have a great understanding of what the product is. This means that you shouldn’t have a vague value proposition. Rather, you should make sure that your value proposition is crystal clear and makes it easy for users to see why your product is truly unique and beneficial. As a good rule of thumb for the length of a value proposition, we recommend that you make it so that a potential user can understand what exactly your product does in just 5 or so seconds.

We like the idea of sticking to a 5 second value proposition because focusing on such a short amount of time will help you get straight to the point. If you can help your users have the magical moment where they understand your product or service almost instantaneously, they’ll want to benefit from what you’re offering.

In addition to keeping your value proposition short and sweet, it’s a great idea to make sure that it clearly conveys the personality of your brand. Is your brand serious? Is it fun? Think about how your value proposition will make people think about your offering.

Find ways to reduce friction.

When a brilliant value proposition is followed up with a poor onboarding experience, you will not gain active users. If users don’t become active, you can’t realistically expect them to start paying for your product. A poor onboarding experience can be deadly for a company because every person who comes in during the period of bad onboarding is a lost customer. That bad first impressions can not only translate into a direct loss in potential revenue, but also really badly hurt your business over time. All of the people who had a bad experience with your product could potentially speak negatively about your product in the future (which is the last thing you want!).

To reduce the potential of having people badmouth your company because of a negative experience, you are going to want to make sure that you have as little friction as possible during your entire signup process.

Reducing friction during your signup process means:

  • Having clear and concise landing pages that aren’t too long.
  • Making sure that the marketing messaging is clear throughout the whole website.
  • Creatively remind users that your brand is trustworthy.

One quick way that friction can be reduced is to add social login to your website. By adding social login to your site, your business will gain access to some very valuable data, while also letting users sign up for your product using a product or service that they already trust. Social login also helps you keep your signup process simple, which reduces friction in the onboarding process.

Make the experience personal.

One tricky portion of creating a great onboarding process is the level of guidance that users want. Some users will want a lot of help, while others will want to figure everything out on their own. Knowing this, you can create a few different onboarding pathways for people depending on their background and wants. If you can figure out the type of people that want to figure things out on their own, you can drop them straight into the product. If you know the type of person who wants help, you can give them an extra helping hand.

Guide the user.

A complicated product will require more guidance during the onboarding process. When you make smart guidance choices, you make it easier for users to quickly discover why your product is valuable to them and why he or she should remain a user. Educating users on key product features is the simplest way for you to guide users to that golden moment of product connection.

The faster that you can familiarize people with the most important features of your product, the more likely it is that they will become long-term users. Help people succeed and they’ll stick around for awhile.

Email is a great way to educate users.

Email is one of the most powerful ways to educate users, while keeping him or her engaged with your product. In fact, most people would probably agree that email is the single most effective way to turn a free trial into a paid customer.

When using email to onboard and ultimately convert people into paying customers, you should consider the following:

  • Only have one CTA: Only utilize a single CTA button that sends people directly to the most important step of the user onboarding process.
  • Include a single line of very clear text: Having one strongly worded and clear line of text that tells the user exactly what needs to be done.
  • Clarity is very important: Your very first email should be very clear and leave no room for confusion to occur. You should also make sure that the messaging is all focused on the step that will increase conversions most.

The theme that you probably notice in the suggestions above is one of simplicity. With a detailed email plan that is enjoyable and easy to understand, it will greatly help you turn users from clueless to educated. When people feel educated and connected to your product, they are much likelier to pay for your product.

You probably won’t nail down your email process immediately, so stay aware of the performance of your email campaigns and make tweaks to it as necessary until you have that “aha” moment that unlocks an explosion of free to paid conversions.