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November 7, 2023
Mastering user onboarding flows is tricky. Here's how to craft your onboarding flows and how to apply user research along the way.
The bottom line: It's important to continuously drive up motivation – you shouldn't just rely on improving the ability by making the interface more intuitive. You don't need to teach everything forever, but there should be some learning prompts that will trigger user actions.
Getting the user onboarding flow right can be tough. Let’s briefly take a look at the most common mistakes you should avoid:
For all of the above to happen, you need to do your research and truly understand your users, what drives them, what intimidates them, what delights them, and so on.
Depending on the goals you want to accomplish, assumptions you want to validate, and onboarding variations you want to test, there are ample research methods you can use.
You could go with in-depth user interviews to go deep into uncovering needs and motivations, or you could use bite-sized microsurveys to ask a single question triggered in-product once they complete an onboarding tour or get stuck on something.
You could organize focus groups with participants to better understand their behavior with similar products like yours, or conduct diary studies with your users to then analyze their behavior in your product.
Other UX research methods you can use are card sorting, preference testing, tree testing, task analysis, A/B or multivariate testing, user analytics, and more.
The more research you do, the better you’ll understand your users, аnd the more personаlized experience you’ll be able to create.
Different users will have different use cases and goals with your product. So creating segments and specific user personas is key to designing a successful onboarding flow.
Companies often skip this part but identifying who the personas are, what makes a meaningful segment, and what actions people take in these segments sets the foundation of personalization.
To create segments and know exactly what users are looking for when they first sign up, you need to ask them directly. You could start with a single free-form question: “What are you looking to do with our product?” in the signup form.
After a while, you’ll see patterns and repeated use cases you can use to prepare your next set of questions. Then you’ll have structured data you can work with to customize the onboarding steps for each segment.
You can do a lot more analysis based on this data. Your next steps could be, for instance, identifying the retention rate for different roles, company sizes, or use cases. If you find that some are underperforming, you can identify the friction and improve.
Even if you can’t personalize from the get-go, you can create onboarding tours to cover your core features and personalize further down the line when it comes to advanced feature discovery.
In other words, instead of jumping to assumption-based solutions, this is a foundational step of research that you don’t want to miss.
User feedback is key to adapting and improving your onboarding flows to fit the user's needs, and you want to maintain a continuous loop of feedback.
For the best results, make sure you have clear processes in place on how you will collect, analyze, synthesize, and follow up on the feedback. You can create a UX research study plan to keep everyone on the same page around the key elements, including:
If you feel like your onboarding isn't working, or if it hasn't had the lift you expected, most likely you need to do a bit more research and dig into the user mindset to help you build the right one.
The more you can do to grab people in context and ask them a relevant question at that point, the more they’ll be inclined to respond.
You can do this with microsurveys. According to Chameleon’s In-Product Experiences Benchmark Report, trigger-based microsurveys have a completion rate of 60%. Compared to only 2-3% of click-through rates for surveys delivered via emails, this will not only bring you more feedback, but also more accurate feedback.
You might be thinking that the onboarding tweaks don’t have to be an ongoing project. Perhaps you could conduct a pulse check once a year and make the changes you need.
You could do it that way, but just imagine the loss of all those users who dropped off and abandoned your product in the meantime just because they never got a chance to experience their “aha!” moment.
So, instead of taking an annual onboarding check, try to do it more regularly. This will save you both time and resources in the long run.
The frequency will depend on your goals, but having regular audits of your flows can help you monitor onboarding, activation, and adoption metrics to see if there’s anything you need to change or experiment with.
The best way to do this is by putting together a dashboard with the most relevant metrics for you and continuing to monitor them. This will bring visibility to the things that you care about and make your teams aware of the ways you’ll go about accomplishing your goals.
Another recommendation is to have someone on your team accountable for onboarding who will share the results and work towards finding the solutions for improvement. Ideally, there will be a go-to team for onboarding, consisting of a researcher, marketer, designer, growth specialist, or anyone else who is focused on user engagement.
Having a team member (or a team) accountable for onboarding can help you identify the drop-off areas early and quickly work on improvements.
The more quickly you can identify friction points, validate solutions, and make changes, the easier it will become to address issues as they appear and prevent users from churning. On the flip side, it will help you increase your conversion rates throughout the product funnel, and – ultimately – increase retention and revenue.
The same as the onboarding process itself, collecting feedback is not a one-and-done activity. You want to continuously keep a close eye on the direction your users are taking.
How to run continuous user research? By using a mix of user interviews, feedback surveys, user analytics, and product data to get a comprehensive overview of how users think and feel about your onboarding – and your product as a whole.
Choosing the right method depends on your personal goals. When deciding which feedback method to rely on, it’s important to make sure that feedback is visible to everyone in your organization.
We’ve covered a lot in the steps above, so let’s wrap it up with key learnings.
7 Key takeaways:
You’ve made it! This was a lot to comprehend, but we hope that the steps we outlined will help you craft, optimize, and improve your onboarding flows and wow your users every step of the way.
Co-founder and CEO of Chameleon
Pulkit Agrawal is the Co-founder and CEO of Chameleon, a product adoption platform for SaaS that helps companies create better user onboarding. He is also an Angel Investor at product-led startups and a part-time featured speaker at Product School. Before founding Chameleon, Pulkit was the UX and User Onboarding Mentor at 500 Startups.
Interviewing & Research Skills
September 15, 2023
Making mistakes is part of learning—and research is all about learning. Experienced UXR and Research Leader Roberta Dombrowski shares the 3 biggest mistakes she's made along the way, and the lessons she learned.