Onboarding is a buzzword we’ve been hearing a lot in recent times. If you aren’t from the IT world, you are bound to relate the term to a nervous, first time air traveller! From the moment a traveller enters the airport, the airline staff help them out with check-in formalities and welcome them onboard the flight. While onboard, the cabin crew provide in-flight demonstration on do’s and don’ts during the journey apart from providing food and comfort services. The goal of the entire process is to make the journey a pleasure and the experience worth repeating for the traveller. It is a continuous improvement process, the most popular airports of the world are constantly redesigned based on user feedback. It’s also the surest way to convert a tentative first time customer to a committed and delighted repeat customer.

Apxor - Airports Guide Travellers with Signage
Airports Guide Travellers with Signage

Now extend the airline analogy to the first time user of a software product or service. User onboarding is all about building the user’s comfort and familiarity with your software application. You may have designed a super-duper product, but if your users don’t figure out how to use it, it’s as good as a failed product! A user’s sustained product usage is the best advertisement for your product.

User Onboarding is not an effort intensive or elaborate process. So it is certainly not exclusive to large corporations, SMEs can get it right too. It’s simply about empathy for your user and user-centric product design / delivery.

Presenting 5 quick tips to get the user onboarding process right for your company:

1. Learn to think like your user

User Empathy is an important concept in design thinking for UI design. You can’t empathise with your user unless you figure out what he/she is thinking. Not just in relation to your product, what you need to understand is the problem domain that the user is facing. What is the actual need which is driving the user towards your product/service.

An example would help emphasise this point better. A UI design case study on a mobile banking app revealed a persistent problem. Senior citizen users always took an extremely long time and multiple attempts to accomplish even simple tasks on the app. The software team tried spoon-feeding the users with FAQs, tooltips about what to do. But nothing worked. Turns out, the problem was not the user’s lack of understanding. The icons were too small for the elderly to focus and click accurately!

2. Let your user win the first few victories quickly

The first few encounters between the user and your product are critical. Keep the account creation light and non-intrusive. Incentivise the first few user actions. The ‘half price deal for your first pizza order’ or ‘Rs 100 cash back on your first purchase’ are common inducements we see. But you don’t really need to bribe the new user, just let the user perform the basic tasks easily without fuss. Such as allowing a guest login, or a quick recharge option. That would linger positively in the user’s mind and his/her confidence will grow with your product.

Apxor - First time subscription offer
Allow users to win quickly

3. Empower yourself with the right tools

Logos of Auth0, Livechat, Skype, Apxor, SurveyMonkey and Zendesk
Right tools for your product
  • Auth0 – Provides user authentication and authorization as a plug-in service. Auth0 is available for multiple development stacks and can be set over multi-devices. Alternatively, you can use Facebook or Google based user authentication too.
  • LiveChat – Easy to deploy live chat platform. Use it to interact with prospective customers and for providing real-time product support. LiveChat also supports analytics on chat responses.
  • Skype – With free video calling, IM and screen shares, you can enhance your customer connect with Skype. Google, FB, WebEx offer alternatives too.
  • Apxor – A complete product intelligence tool to study user behaviour and shape your in-app product campaigns to maximise user engagement with the product. Apxor Behavioral Cues is a remarkable feature that uses data collected from user behaviour to empower your decisions, by helping you understand reasons behind user actions. A valuable asset to enrich your user experience through quick product experiments.
  • SurveyMonkey – Platform to create offline surveys ranging from simple polls to in-depth market research. Collect crucial customer feedback using the Net Promoter Score (NPS) calculator.
  • ZenDesk – Support ticketing software for managing customer service requests.

4. Provide precise, in-context support

Help that is not relevant to a situation is no help at all. Gone are the days when products were delivered with a 100 page help manual. Now, it’s all about giving the right piece of help at the right time without the user explicitly having to search.

Contextual help in the form of user activity walkthroughs are seen as a very effective method of hand holding the user through a task manoeuvre. This helps to expedite your user’s onboarding and lead them into active engagement. You can also help a user who feels lost by providing contextual support. For example: In the case of an OTT app, if the user has scrolled N number of times, yet not clicked the play button on any video, most probably the user is not finding the video of his/her choice. In such cases, nudging the user to search for the favorite video using the search button can prove to be extremely useful in terms improving user experience and thereby your key KPIs.

Check out our detailed blog User Onboarding 101: Learn the Art of Perfect Onboarding

Apxor - Contextual In-app Guidance
Contextual in-app guidance

5. Experiment with your user onboarding flow

It's not wise to freeze your User Interface before-hand and stick to a preconceived notion of how the user might interface with the product. An agile and responsive team would be able to conduct various product experiments with the UI based on user feedback. Free flowing communication/feedback between the customer and the support team is vital - whether face to face, using email, social media or through the product itself. Remember praise and criticism are both equally valuable to a product team to mould the product accordingly. Communication doesn’t have to be explicit always. Your product can communicate some valuable information silently too.

Well placed trigger points within the application can help to collect automatic feedback from the user’s actions. Then you can correlate user behaviour with their retention within the application. You can trace the paths and app events that were followed by users who were retained (or for that matter those who exited too). Analyse these paths, rebuild your onboarding flows around them. That will help to nudge other users contextually along these paths to drive more retention, helping them reach their 'Aha moment' quickly.

Apxor - Aha moment
Aha Moment

With careful observation and gentle nudging, software applications can steer the users to carry out their tasks, smooth and fast. Just like how airline passengers are steered towards their destination with timely support from staff members or signages and information billboards. In the era of a digital applications deluge and SaaS based deployment, user onboarding is not a one-time task. Since products keep adding new features and versions, continuous user engagement is a must to ensure the updated features are adopted by the user. If you lose touch, you lose your customer!

We’ve listed some of the user onboarding best practices for your ready reference. We’d love to hear your feedback too. Write to us on contact@apxor.com for comments and queries.