Discover more from Shaping Design
Say goodbye to the Onboarding nightmare
Let's embrace the revolution of user experience
Here's what you'll learn:
Onboarding needs a complete overhaul
Rethinking onboarding as the new user experience
Personalization and continuous improvement are key
and much more…
Let’s dive in…
Today I want to talk about onboarding because well let’s face it, it's time to kick that ineffective onboarding process to the curb. What if we’ve been approaching user onboarding the wrong way? What if….
As a product designer and avid consumer, I'm sick and tired of the mind-numbing, soul-sucking tutorials we're subjected to when we sign up for a new app. Seriously, how many times have you felt excited to try out a cool new app, only to be forced through an endless maze of mindless steps that leave you retaining exactly zero information?
Let’s get real, the current onboarding experience needs a serious makeover.
It should be informative, easy to digest, timely, engaging, and, above all, frictionless—the holy grail of user delight. No more treating it as an afterthought or a quick fix for bad design. We need to shift our mindset and treat onboarding as an integral part of the user journey, seamlessly woven into the fabric of the product experience.
How many times as a designer have you been working on a product in which you know the UX is broken only to be told to just add an onboarding flow for this or a guided tour?
Why are we treating bad user experience with a bandaid solution?
The broken problem
But why do we keep falling into this trap of designing useless onboarding experiences? It's time to confront the ugly truth. We often see onboarding as an add-on, a desperate attempt to salvage a flawed design. Well, guess what? That's not good enough. Onboarding should be more than a patch-up job. It should be an art form—an elegant dance that guides users effortlessly into the product's embrace.
But we’ve always done it this way. 🙃
Designers will often use onboarding to patch up the broken or difficult user experience of a product.
Instead of fixing a bad user experience, many revert too quickly fixing things through new onboarding tools and guided tours. This seems like a counter-attack to quickly create better products. Hilarious.
Jumping into the creator economy. Many started using Onboarding as the new go-to to fix all these difficult experiences…
Basically, you remove Onboarindg from the tool kit and are left with just the bad UX.
We even use Onboarding for everything now.
Here’s my wake-up call to you. To this day, I don’t know how many exactly, but MANY people can’t go from point A to point B without a fucking guided tour. I was guilty of that. I used to design these flows to fix a problem.
The onboarding trap
Why do we fall into the trap of designing ineffective onboarding? Perhaps it's because we perceive it as an add-on to a complex feature—a last-minute inclusion rather than an integral part of the design process.
By treating onboarding as a permanent fix, we overlook its true purpose: to guide users smoothly into the product experience.
Now, here's the game-changer: let's make onboarding disappear before their very eyes.
Sounds impossible, right? Wrong!
Let's face it - traditional onboarding processes are not only boring, but they're also ineffective. They're often a one-size-fits-all solution that fails to engage users and teach them what they need to know to use the product effectively.
But it doesn't have to be this way.
As designers, we have the power to reimagine the onboarding process and create experiences that not only educate but also delight and engage users.
So, what needs to change?
For starters, we need to stop treating onboarding as a one-time event and instead, make it an ongoing process. Kudos to the continuous onboarding. By providing users with contextual, just-in-time guidance, we can help them understand how to use the product when they need it most.
We also need to make the onboarding process more interactive and personalized. And perhaps most importantly, we need to make the onboarding process fun. Yes, fun!
Let’s nerd out
The primary objective of a user onboarding flow is to drive user activation and retention. But you already know that.
Activation: refers to users understanding the purpose of your app and how to utilize its core features.
Retention, on the other hand, entails providing users with compelling reasons to keep coming back to your app.
The user onboarding process is a crucial part of product development. There are 2.8 million apps available on Google Play and 2.2 million on the App Store. According to a study of the Google Play Store, most apps lose 77% of users within the first three days. Within 30 days, that number jumps to 90%. Just take a look at the graph below based on this study:
Ok, but how can I fix this?
Well, I’m glad you asked because I have a couple of ideas on how we might create good onboardings that are practically invisible.
How might we guide users smoothly into the product experience?
Let's explore a few principles to guide our design thinking:
✅ Explain features in the context : Imagine a world where users only receive explanations of features when they actually need them. No more overwhelming information dumps.
Introduce features only when the user reaches them.
Provide concise explanations within the relevant context.
Empower users to discover and understand functionality as they naturally navigate the product.
✅ Utilize empty states: Don't overlook the power of empty states. Those moments when the screen stares back at you, devoid of content? They're actually golden opportunities to guide and inspire.
Offer helpful suggestions, gentle nudges, and exciting hints that turn moments of emptiness into moments of delightful discovery.
Seamlessly integrating onboarding elements into empty states allows you to transform them into valuable moments of discovery.
✅ Encourage self-exploration: And here's the real plot twist: let users figure things out for themselves. Yes, you heard me right! Forget spoon-feeding information.
Create intuitive visual cues, interactive elements, and seductive prompts that beckon users to dive deeper.
Give them the chance to become the masters of their own journey.
Create opportunities to learn at their own pace.
✅ Enable Users: Contrary to common belief, the purpose of user onboarding is not solely to improve a person's proficiency in using your product. Instead, the primary objective of user onboarding is to enhance their ability to accomplish what your product empowers them to do.
Great user onboarding is a means to an end
help new users experience what your product can enable them to do
✅ Reframe "Onboarding" as "New user experience": But let's go even further. It's time to ditch the term "onboarding" altogether. It's become synonymous with pain, boredom, and wasted time.
Let's rebrand it as the "new user experience."
Let's transform those initial moments into an unforgettable journey of discovery, enchantment, and pure user satisfaction.
Let's make it a red-carpet welcome that users will remember long after their first interaction.
✅ Personalization: The key to this advancement lies in delivering the appropriate message to the appropriate customers, at the right moment, and through the most effective channels.
Personalization represents the future of enhancing user experiences and driving successful product adoption.
Users today already expect and demand personalization.
Customized landing pages, highly personalized product offerings.
By focusing on creating a seamless and delightful journey for newcomers (don’t forget continuous onboarding), we can build positive associations from the very beginning, fostering engagement and long-term user satisfaction.
Start at the beginning
In the real world, this is much harder than it sounds. I hear you and i’ve been there. It is always easier in theory but if we never reevaluate things, we won’t improve them.
To prioritize the new user experience at the beginning of our designs and avoid treating it as an afterthought, here are some steps to consider:
Shift perception: Challenge the conventional thinking that onboarding is just a necessary evil. Recognize its potential as an integral part of the design process.
Design principles: Keep in mind that effective onboarding should be informative, digestible, timely, engaging, and frictionless.
User goals: make sure you align the process to user goals. Forget about your goals for a moment. This process becomes easier when you concentrate on customer journey and when you forget about product features.
Contextual feature introduction: Respect their time. Avoid overwhelming. Introduce features only when users reach them and, empower them to discover and understand functionality naturally as they navigate the product.
Conduct user research: Conduct user research to understand your users' needs, desires, and frustrations. Use this information to inform your onboarding design decisions.
Test early and often: Test your onboarding designs with users early and often to get feedback and iterate on your designs.
Continuously improve: Onboarding is not a one-time event. Continuously improve your onboarding experience based on user feedback and evolving product needs.
We must try to be proactive and not reactive to situations. This will help us create a stronger connection with users, enhancing their satisfaction and driving long-term engagement. Let's challenge the norm and pioneer a new era of onboarding that truly captivates and empowers users right from the start.
What about examples
Can’t have this type of article without some examples right?
Educates users with empty states and a friendly bot. They approached onboarding through their own eyes and, added some solid brand personality into the mix. The ever-popular team-messaging app, does a great job of explaining itself to new users with well-designed empty states and a clever use of its own core functionality: messaging.
Canva allows users to create a personalized version of the application that best suits their needs. As the design platform updates its features, they use push notifications and emails to inform users of the change through easy-to-follow instructions.
Canva’s method of avoiding the one-size-fits-all user experience is what makes their onboarding experience great. They focus on user needs rather than product features.
More specifically, Fitbit’s onboarding experience reflects that a well-done sequence can cover a lot of ground without overloading the user.
The app onboarding process comprises three main stages: device selection, setup, and account creation. Users swiftly choose their device and proceed to input their physical information through dynamic and user-friendly screens. Following this, a brief form allows users to create their account if they don't already have one.
Leads with the product experience. Unlike most apps, Duolingo has a user onboarding experience that begins with the product and ends with a signup form. This serves as a remarkable demonstration of gradual engagement and deferred account creation.
Help your customer succeed. Simple isn’t it?
The success of an onboarding process depends on how well you fit your customer thought process (mental model).
Delivering the right information at the right time, which is crucial during the initial stages of using your app. Users have numerous questions and concerns about the system's complexity and its similarity to what they already know. Therefore, it is essential to address these inquiries and provide a clear understanding of how the system works.
So, my rebellious designer friends, let's rise up against the tyranny of ineffective onboarding. Let's revolutionize the way we design, putting the new user experience front and center. Let's craft experiences that dazzle, inspire, and captivate from the very beginning. Together, we'll unleash a wave of user delight that will shake the foundations of the industry.d
Onboarding is the closure of the conversion process. When you give your customers the confidence that they’re in the right place and can succeed – you will succeed as well.
Are you ready to join the revolution?
Mitchell & Pascal
Hey, Mitchell & Pascal here! Thanks for checking out this week’s free edition of the Shaping Design newsletter. We strive to send you the best tips and our very own unique perspective each week. Subscribe to get each article!
If you enjoy this newsletter, we’d love to know!