Home > UX and Prototyping > User onboarding to improve user acquisition, conversion and retention

User onboarding is a critical process in software companies, but it can be overlooked. Let’s look at why it’s so important to have a solid onboarding strategy and how to improve yours.

Driving traffic to a website is the obvious goal for any product. But what about getting someone “up and running” with your app or website? Not to mention retaining that user? It’s not as easy as it may seem.

What’s the point of getting visits to your website if you fail in keeping the users there and having them actually want to use your product? It goes without saying that it only takes a click to jeopardize all your SEO and SEM efforts.

But fear not! Prototyping and testing user onboarding flows before going to code will save time and result in better user experiences. Let Justinmind explain how to design great onboarding experiences for your apps and websites

Looking for inspiring examples of user onboarding. We got you covered…

User onboarding: What and when

Let’s start with the basics: what is user onboarding? It is a set of activities put in place for the user’s first experience with a website or an app.

The goal of onboarding can be split into three sub goals:

  • Help users immediately understand your value proposition so they don’t leave the website;
  • Have them provide personal information to register and/or immediately begin using the website/app;
  • Convince them that the product or service they’re starting to use is exactly what they were looking for.

For this reason, user onboarding must be progressive and contextual.

Grab their attention with a strong value proposition, have them register with or download the product, and guide them through the set-upt. Because they’re still at a very early phase and they haven’t committed yet, they can leave at any moment.

Just 3 steps, but achieving them is easier said than done!

Step 1: User acquisition – Grab your users’ attention with a compelling value proposition

User onboarding: User acquisition

So, you made it, after well thought out SEO and SEM campaigns, the users are getting there, and your site traffic is skyrocketing. What now? Make sure you don’t leave the onboarding until it’s too late.

Grabbing and holding the user’s attention on the web is a major challenge. We all know how easy it is to click away from pages, and to forget we ever visited them, especially with the hundreds of web pages we visit each month.

Onboarding planning happens during website design. It’s where user experience faces its biggest challenge: finding a balance with the friction of user acquisition and data gathering. Make it nice and easy for users to understand and use your app or website, or they’ll leave in a click.

Remember that there’s never a second chance to make a first impression, and the first impression is built in seconds.

When users arrive on your website, communicate the value proposition clearly: what is it that your product or service offers and how is it better than others? This will guide their journey on your website in a meaningful, informed direction, and motivate them to get there. Don’t expect them to stumble across things. Make them understand your product in order to get them appreciate it at first glance: don’t let them guess, they won’t take the time.

How is this done? With a strong claim, for sure, but also with practical examples of what they can do with it, for instance. Show them the value.

In Justinmind you can find an examples page for this very reasonAnd have a look at Hyperlapse too. They use a number of time lapse videos in the background of their landing page: what you can do with the app is right in front of your eyes, and you haven’t clicked anything to see it. You can understand what they do by just looking at the screen. 

At the prototyping stage with Justinmind, you can include all this by using animations and effects to provide interaction, making images interactive with hotspots, embedding videos, simulating carousels and slideshows, and much more.

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Step 2: User conversion – Have them register

User onboarding: User conversion

Do you require first-time users to create an account before using your app? Think it through, because it could be costing you many potential users, who won’t take the time to type in log in details. Remember we are all getting lazier and lazier…!

We understand that many apps and websites, for many different reasons, do require registration before downloading a product or service. So the question is, how do you get them do it? Consider the following potential strategies:

      Progressive profiling. This is to say, reduce friction in account creation, and allow users to progressively build their profiles, by requesting only the most important and necessary information. Think about LinkedIn and Facebook and how they give users easy opportunities to build their profiles over time.

      Social Login. It won’t work for all kinds of websites and apps, but it seems to be a good ally of user onboarding as it offers users one-click signups, by letting them create an account with pre-existing social profiles. It also offers the ability for sites to access and connect to the user’s contacts, and this allows for a more personalized online experience.

      Get along without confirming their email address, even briefly. You will improve retention rates by avoiding them having to go to their inbox, before even having done anything with your app or website.

Step 3: User retention – Guide them through the value

User onboarding: user retention

You got them, they visited your website and they registered to use or download your app. Good job!

But, you’re not even half way through. At this stage, users have most likely registered to use or download a free version of your product or service.

However, how much value does one give to free things? It’s a difficult question and we won’t go any further than saying: don’t drop your guard. Users can still leave. According to research, 1/5 of all downloaded apps are used only once.

You need to guide them through the value of your product or service, make them feel acclimated and get them to be productive from the very start. Essentially, it’s about making them think your product is better than the dozens of alternatives they surely have at hand. How? Read on!

      Avoid long tutorials or videos, it can be a lot to absorb when you haven’t even opened the app, and there’s nothing worse than trying to get someone to learn something they don’t fully understand. It’s like singing a song at a karaoke night that you’ve never heard before. You need to listen to the song before singing it, and likewise, you need to see a product or service working before using it. A video or, even worse, a slide tutorial would translate into an absent-minded succession of swipes of which little will be remembered.

      Encourage users to interact with your product and let them learn by doing rather than merely watching a demonstration. For instance, offer a quick way to interact with some features to make them understand the product’s/service’s value. Interaction and learn by doing are crucial especially if your app has “empty states”. Think about a Twitter account without following anyone: it wouldn’t make any sense. That’s why Twitter requires you to follow at least 10 other users before you can begin using the product on your own. This way new users are more likely to continue using the app.

      Use contextual onboarding, offering guidance to the user, specific to the current stage in their  journey, using your product. Surfacing helpful information at the point of action with tooltips will be much more effective than a static screen with a bunch of instructions that users must memorize for later. The tooltips should show a clear path to completion: if new users know how many steps they must complete, they’re more likely to complete the process. Have a look at Justinmind’s onboarding stage. The initial overview pop-up (pictured in the image above) states clearly how much time is required to complete it, and each slide has a page counter (see image below).

User Onboarding tooltips in Justinmind

Another benefit of contextual assistance is that it allows for a progressive approach to guiding users – you can add it as users need to use more features or functions. So, don’t stop at just a few initial tips. Keep on assisting them as they start using new features, or they will remain basic users and won’t fully appreciate the value of your app.

Also, never forget that the users who visit your web can vary substantially. Some expect you to welcome them and show them around the place, while others prefer you to get out of their way as soon as possible and let them figure things out for themselves. The “skip” functionality is a must.

Ultimately, onboarding is about getting new users to come back, not only engaging them and interacting with them on their first visit. Hopefully this collection of tips and tricks will help you to improve this essential step in product or service adoption, from the earliest stage of prototyping.

Daniela is Content Editor at Justinmind

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