How to achieve the best onboarding experience?

How many apps do you have on your smartphone? And how many of them are still in the middle of a “sign up” process?
I have at least 10 apps in this status and I’m sure you do as well.

Why does this happen?

The “sign up” or in its professional name “onboarding process” is a critical step.
This step happens while the user is not sure yet that he really needs the product/app and is not sure about its value for him.
In addition, registration can become a burden if it’s not designed properly from a customer experience perspective, and if the customer doesn’t want to make any effort.

From the company’s point of view, onboarding is the gateway to the product — and that’s why it’s a critical process.
A bad onboarding experience can damage the company’s growth, and even its business.

Examples for onboarding processes is everywhere — think about Instagram, Facebook, Uber, Apple and more… Whenever you download the app, you have to do a “sign up” process.

There is no doubt, this process is worth investing in.

An example of onboarding experience from Google trip

For the past few years I dealt a lot with onboarding experiences, I registered to many apps, built my own onboarding processes, analyzed it and came up with many conclusions regarding this critical process. I will try to put the main insights here in this blog post.

10 “Must have” key principles for onboarding experience

1) It must “speak” your company’s language
Onboarding is the first interaction of the customer with your product and even with your company — it must have the company’s personality. It should represent the values of the product, the value proposition and so on …
As an example we can take a look in Netflix’ onboarding- just from looking at the first screen, you can see the company personality.


2) Consistent Look & Feel
The look and feel of the onboarding should be consistent with what your customer will meet within the app after he will finish the onboarding.
Look at Shazam’s onboarding first screen — you can see it is Shazam without even reading the logo. The screens inside the app will look exactly the same.

3) Respect your customer’s time
The process must be as short as possible. People are usually not sure if they really need your app at that point. If it will be too long, the churn rate will be very high.

4) Ask for minimum information
Don’t ask for your customer’s information if it’s not mandatory. Ask only what you must know in this phase and don’t worry — you will be able to collect the rest of information after the onboarding.
However, when you do ask for information from your customer, always explain why. The customer will answer you only if he knows that he is getting something from this.
For example: If you are asking for your customer’s e-mail address, it should be because you are going to send him something valuable via mail.
Or like with Tinder, tell the customer what use are you going to do with his information.

5) Don’t build a form
Onboarding process doesn’t have to look or feel like a form. Customers won’t fill any form in the mobile device. You should design a process which contains many UX (user experience) hacks to create a seamless feeling.

6) Give the customer support options
You have to add support options all through the process. Customers might meet some technical obstacles or just have some questions, you will have to give them a few options to get the answers quickly and easily.
There are many options to handle this — it can be static Q&A section, live chat with a real support agent, calling the support center or even to use an AI chatbot.

7) Use the 80/20 rule
Don’t build a process with many options for the customer. Stick to the majority of customer’ needs. Present defaults and allow the customer to finish this process quickly by clicking “next”.
“Long tail” customers will have the option to change the defaults within the app, after finishing the onboarding.

8) An option to stop in the middle of the process is a must
People are very busy and can be distracted easily. That’s why it’s important to allow them to stop and continue at another time from the same point they stopped.

9) Ask for mobile permissions just if you have to
People tend to abandon the process when an app asks for permissions. Ask for the minimum permissions and explain to the customer what and how you are going to use it.
As an example, Uber explains nicely why they need permission to access to your location.

10) Set expectations regarding the onboarding process
Let people know before they start what it will require from them and how much time is it going to take. And not less important what will happen after they will complete the process.

Now, think about applications or products you stopped using because of a bad onboarding experience. Which of those tips would change the situation? If the experience was better, would you use those apps?

Give this feedback to the companies that you found out their onboarding experience needs improvement. And if you are planning to build an onboarding process, design it wisely.

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