Notes on Krystal Higgins’ Onboarding for the Long Run

(From’s All You Can Learn library, link here)

Onboarding is too often thought of only from the perspective of a first time user—not taking into account that there’ll be iterations based on user feedback, new features to launch etc

Onboarding is an experience throughout a product’s lifecycle

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So different customers may need different onboarding paths

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Opportunities over time

Onboarding has multiple jobs and stages:

  • Familiarize—help the prospective customer know that the product and its services exist
  • Learn—teach the prospective customer more details about the product’s value prop
  • Convert—engage the prospective customer enough to convert them into actual customers
  • Guide—help the customer understand the product over time, esp as the product evolves

Research shows users typically take 3-7 days to decide they will stopping an app—it’s not a decision made during the first experience, but after reflection about that experience

Some onboarding stages include:

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Example of initial onboarding: brain training website Lumosity

  • First, they ask 4 questions to get some insight into the user while giving the user some insight into what the product is about

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  • Then the site presents the user with 3 games reflective of the site’s game-focused brain training techniques, with quick popups before each game that explains the game’s purpose and how to play it
  • A subscription option is always present during the games, but the focus is on the games themselves
  • Upon completing the games, the user is given an overview of their performance                                                                and how the site can help them improve

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  • So, they make their value prop extremely clear and provide value to the user before really pushing to convert the user into a customer
    • But they also provide some tips for folks not ready to convert at this moment—again, people will judge their experience upon reflection. Give them a good experience and some will return and convert—the site also follows up with a few email reminders
  • As customers progress through the game structure, they occasionally get further informational popups similar to those in the initial onboarding flow

Wealthfront also allows users to perform quite a few tasks before converting, and save their work so they can sign up later

Onboarding flows that span the prod lifecycle:

  • Guide the customers through interaction
  • Build a personal focus
  • Lead the customer to discover what’s next

Some products like TurboTax are only used sporadically

  • When customers return after a long lapse, they are reminded about their success with the app previously and shown what’s new since they last used it—a great way to remind customers’ of the value  prop

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 Diverse methods

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Customers have different learning styles and preferences—which may change over time

People learn new material best when they encounter it:

  • Multiple times
  • Through multiple modalities

We need to invest in a set of diverse onboarding tools to make guidance available to a wider segment of customers over a wider breadth of time

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  • Strong default settings get the customer off on the right foot—esp. since the vast majority of folks won’t change them
  • Inline messaging provides subtle support
  • Reactive guidance is education that appears in response to customer interactions, often only one time
    • On Twitter, when a user hits Mute for the first time, they get a popup explaining the function
  • Proactive guidance is directed guidance that anticipates needs
    • On Evernote customers get small popups highlighting new functions—but unobtrusively, so the screen’s main task is not blocked and the user can choose to ignore the popup
  • On-demand guidance like FAQs

Long-term guidance

5 activities to scale onboarding for the long-term

Start at the end to reveal key actions:

  • Figure out the intermediate- and ultimate-use destinations and use that to focus first-time onboarding
  • Also consider why some customers fail to continue usage

Use customer research to discover key customer usage patterns:

  • Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 3.28.26 PM

Break key actions down:

  • Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 3.35.46 PM
  • Medium shows a trigger at the bottom of each post to follow the author’s other posts, provides a Get Updates CTA, and then follows up with a confirmation that also offers some next steps

1/3 of what someone learns is lost after a day. Use reinforcement strategies throughout the customer experience to support continued understanding and usage of features and the app overall

  • But avoid mindless repetition (such as popups that come up repeatedly with the exact same info and no way to turn them off)
    •  Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 3.42.07 PM

Assemble appropriate methods, considering:

  • Customer context
  • Product context
  • Screen Shot 2017-09-17 at 3.48.08 PM

Set learning checkpoints spread out over time:

  • Usability testing can help discover these—but probably only for new users
  • Cohort analysis, user interviews can also help
  • If possible, follow up with people who cancel or stop using your product to try and figure out what action was missing or failing

About Krystal (from Krystal Higgins is a senior interaction designer passionate about user onboarding and user education. She shares tips for designing experiences for new users on her design blogand maintains a collection of onboarding reviews from websites, apps, and other products.

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