How to Design a Better User Onboarding Process.

To create a smooth onboarding process, you must understand your users, what they need to achieve, and how they learn.

First impressions matter.

Much more than we realise, the initial experience determines whether users will proceed with a product or simply abandon it to explore alternative options. When a product fails to make an excellent first impression, it's unlikely that users will stick around long enough to see what else it has to offer.

Research has shown that first impressions are formed within an incredibly short time, as little as 50 milliseconds—every second counts and the user experience must be intentionally designed to help users achieve value within the shortest time possible.

When individuals or businesses sign up for a product, they usually do so because they have a specific job to be done in mind, and throughout the onboarding process, they continually form opinions about the product and assess its ability to solve their problems effectively. If they perceive it as a waste of their time at any point in the process, they are more likely to drop off.

Therefore, given the short attention span, it is important to quickly capture users' attention and effectively demonstrate the value of your product with as little friction as possible.

Steps to Create a Better User Onboarding

Beyond the sign-up process, a well-designed onboarding process is essential for introducing new users to a product. It is the product's responsibility to help first-time users get started by clearly explaining how the product works and highlighting its unique value proposition.

However, creating an exceptional and intuitive onboarding experience can be challenging, especially for complex products with numerous features and operations. This is because it can be difficult to balance the need to provide users with enough information to get started with the need to avoid overwhelming them.

As a result, many products fall into one of two traps: either they dump users into an empty dashboard and leave them to figure it out for themselves, or they use a one-size-fits-all onboarding strategy that doesn't provide enough reassurance that the product is capable of addressing the user's needs. Either way, if users can't understand the product or how to arrive at their "Aha" moment, they'll likely leave and never return.

Here are some steps to take to create better user onboarding:

1. Identify your User Segments

User segmentation means categorising customers into distinct groups based on different criteria or variables tailored to the specific product and target audience. This segmentation allows for a deeper understanding of the smaller groups that constitute your target audience. It is a collaborative effort involving multiple teams and roles within a company, including marketing, UX research, data analysis, customer support, and sales teams.

By combining one or more segmentation types, such as demographic, psychographic, geographic, or even firmographic data, teams can create more refined segments that offer valuable insights. For example, Bloc adopts the Benefit segmentation type. During the sign-up process, users are prompted to answer the question, “What do you need Bloc for?” based on their selection, we can determine the dashboard view that’s best for them.

A snapshot of Bloc's benefit segmentation type on the Bloc Dashboard.

2. Define What Value Means to each of these Segments and Lead with it.

After identifying user segments, it is important to develop a unique path tailored specifically to their use case. It is helpful to approach this process as storytelling.

Create a flow that presents a compelling demonstration of how your product effectively addresses their problem. Each onboarding step should revolve around the specific problem your product solves. While showcasing all the features and advanced technology your platform offers may be tempting, it is advisable not to try to teach everything at once.

Break down the learning process into smaller steps that users can easily digest. Otherwise, you risk overwhelming users or merely acquainting them with many features that may not be relevant to them at that point. As your product grows and evolves, your onboarding flow must adapt to accommodate new features, customer types, and priorities, and this may mean adding new core features to the onboarding process or removing those that are no longer essential.

At Bloc, we can tell what matters most to each group by analysing the data collected from demo sessions and screen recordings from our analytical tools. By engaging in meaningful conversations and understanding the unique requirements of different businesses, we can personalize their onboarding process and promptly aligns their flow to benefits.

Snapshot of Bloc's onboarding setup guide.

3. Decide on your Onboarding Tools

Identifying potential friction points within and outside the onboarding process and assigning appropriate tools to assist users is essential.

In the case of in-app onboarding, a combination of visuals and interactive content is a good place to start, as it enhances user enjoyment and facilitates learning through observation and action. This can include screenshots, demos, tooltips, progress bars, empty states, and more. Interactive guides can also be helpful as they are an elegant way of guiding and teaching users. Some guides can be designed or customized to display tooltips at critical moments when users are likely to doubt their next steps.

Introducing gamification techniques alongside these tools is also an effective strategy to keep users engaged and motivated as they familiarise themselves with your product. Awarding badges or points can be employed to incentivize user progress.

Linking your help centre, which contains comprehensive and well-written articles, to your support widget is highly effective. This approach offers self-service options and grants users access to your entire knowledge base without relying heavily on customer support. These tools can be custom-designed and developed from scratch or integrated through platforms like Intercom, Zendesk, and customer [dot] io.

Bloc's help centre

4. Treat Onboarding as a Continuous Process

Onboarding should not be limited to users signing up for the first time. It should be an ongoing process that continues as new features, updates, and iterations are added to your product. This is why it’s very helpful to accompany each major change with a strategy for onboarding current users.

Sometimes for complex flows or features, it may not be enough to show users how to do something once. You may need to show them multiple times or provide different resources to help them learn.

It is also important to consider users who have been away from your product for a long time. They may not remember how to use certain features, so rather than relying on their memory to recall these actions, instead provide a way that helps them refresh their understanding and gets up to speed.

Finally, you should consistently use web analytics tools like Hotjar to monitor your users and observe their interactions with your onboarding design. Collecting user data and feedback will allow you to iterate and improve your onboarding process based on their needs.

Dashboard screen guiding users on Bloc.

5. Be There When Users Need You

Users will likely encounter difficulties or have questions about your product during onboarding. Like a dedicated tour guide, you must be available whenever your users need assistance.

By deliberately incorporating help engines into your product workflow, you can improve user satisfaction and address any frustrations they may experience. Doing this presents a significant opportunity to re-onboard users who have veered off the path to customer success and guide them back onto it.

One effective approach we employ at Bloc is creating a Slack community where all registered businesses can freely join. This community serves as a platform for providing general and technical support to businesses, ensuring that we are always just a message away from helping our users overcome obstacles and move forward.

Real-time support on Bloc.

To create a smooth onboarding process, you must understand your users, what they need to achieve, and how they learn.

Once you understand this, you can design an onboarding process that guides them through your product or service efficiently and effectively.

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