4 simple principles to win the Onboarding game

by Ahmed Abbas Last month, the entire team had gone on a workcation to brainstorm about the Crowdfire v2.0. We split ourselves into teams and every team took up the task of solving one problem. Our team took up the challenge of researching on and reviewing the on-boarding experience of 50 apps. The goal was simple: Analyse […]

by Ahmed Abbas

Last month, the entire team had gone on a workcation to brainstorm about the Crowdfire v2.0. We split ourselves into teams and every team took up the task of solving one problem. Our team took up the challenge of researching on and reviewing the on-boarding experience of 50 apps.

The goal was simple: Analyse what makes the on-boarding experience of these apps great and why a user falls in love with a product.

Very often, on-boarding is the most immediate way of defining what product becomes in people’s minds.

We decided to measure things which define the perception of a product to a user’s mind. These were listed down into 3 categories –

a) The principles which make the on-boarding of an app great. They are mostly well known UX principles that should drive the workflow and design of all online as well as real life experiences.

b) The mistakes — the ‘don’tsor the opposite of what can be translated to ‘principles’.

c) The excitation points or the promises or pleasurable moments which give the user the momentum to go ahead and use the app.

After listing down these extensive principles and excitation points, we could clearly identify there are limited principles great products follow to be successful.

Four primary principles which if followed diligently, can make you win the on-boarding game:

  1. Clear purpose, story telling, and creating context
  2. Gaining trust and excitation
  3. Learn by doing
  4. Creating FOMO (Fear of missing out)

Let’s understand each of the principles with the help of a couple of examples:

Clear Purpose

Let your audience know what your product does in the simplest way possible. The output of the product needs to be as clear as possible.

Foursquare and Periscope — defining the primary thing they do in one simple sentence

Story Telling

Stories go complementary with stating the purpose of your product. Stories help your audience connect with the way they would utilise your product or service. They are more useful than the features listing or product testimonials.

Evernote has stories of how people from various walks of life used it to simplify their life

Creating Context

Correct intent is more rewarding than vague compelling claims.

CTA’s should set the intent of the next screen rather than just asking the user to Do Something.

Replace vague words like Next or Get Started ; use active words like Start exploring, or Search a cat.

Saying “Start Learning” helps your user think forward as compared to “Get Started”

Gaining Trust and Excitation

From the moment a user lands on your product, every step, every screen either excites and gains him some trust, or could make him skeptical about your product. So we should question each step of our on-boarding to check with example users, if its helping in gaining trust or reversing it.

Evernote’s incentive to its users is that they would “Remember Everything”

Foursquare pre-addressing the user’s worry by saying that he can still chose to remove it at a later point

There are a few ways to do this — with a well-timed compliment (Nice Job), you can incentivise them to progress through your product by rewarding them for completing something (we got some points & savings ready for you) or pre-addressing worries (don’t worry you can choose to switch off x feature). Let the user feel like a Superman

Learn By Doing

Let your user do a demo exercise to learn your product, followed by celebrating the success with him. Mailbox, for example, does this well by teaching user the gestures by walking them through some dummy mails. This is true for on-boarding your users to a fresh product as well as to a feature within your product.

Slack allows its users to test how the desktop notification would look by testing them.

Guided interactions makes your user feel more confident about the ease of using your product.

Remember, this is the stepping stone where your users get used to your habit forming game. Don’t forget to give them their first reward wherever possible!

FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)

Whatever we do, we always have a fear of losing. Give your users an attractive incentive. It could be a complimentary cake on first order from a cakeshop, telling them they would miss on savings if acted late or the fact that they would be the updated with latest news or swag if they sign up.

Dropbox indirectly creates a fear in the user’s mind that he maybe missing free space, if he doesn’t invite friends.

For the best FOMO creation, follow what crowdfireapp ’s founder, Nischal Shetty, defines it as –

Be CUTE: Attack on user’s Curiosity, Urgency, Temptation and Ego!

Lastly, to win your users, your on-boarding needs to be extremely easy. Be simple, be transparent. Remember, simplicity wins!

Published on September 1, 2015.


4 simple principles to win the Onboarding game was originally published in Coding Big — The Crowdfire Engineering Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: Crowdfire