How To Design a Great Product Onboarding Experience

Build it and they will come - unfortunately, many SaaS founders find out that this is far from the truth, months into building a new product. Having the best product in the world means little if it’s too difficult for customers to learn about it and get accustomed to it enough to get value.

Product onboarding is one of those things which are “nice to have” for most product experts and software company founders. And yet, great onboarding has a major impact on all product and business metrics.

So, what can you do to get your onboarding done properly? Today, we show you the most important things to bear in mind with your product onboarding experience.

What is onboarding and why does it matter?

Onboarding is the process of new users getting started with your app, getting familiar with how it solves their pain points, and learning how to use it for this purpose. A good onboarding process educates the user on your app, shows them value, and gets them hooked to go from a free trial to a paying customer.

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Good onboarding affects every important metric in a SaaS product, including:

  • Churn

  • Lifetime value

  • Activation rate

  • Monthly recurring revenue

As you can see, a great onboarding process is not just a matter of good user experience. It can actually make a difference between a failed startup and a thriving business. Here are some basics for creating a good onboarding experience for your users.

Make it easy to get started

How difficult is it to sign up for your product? The basic CRO logic says that the fewer fields someone has to enter when signing up, the better. Ideally, you want to grab just the customers’ basics upon signing up, such as:

  • Email

  • Name

  • (optional) Phone number

You want to get them to start using the product as soon as possible, so ask for a little at the signup stage. You’ll be able to collect more information for segmentation purposes later on.

If you require emails, consider skipping verification in order to start using the account. Verification errors are frequent and it can happen that emails get lost in the spam folder and you decrease your chances of the customer using the product immediately after signing up.

Alternatively, you can display a note at the top for the user to check their spam folder to help them get verified more quickly.

In fact, the ideal scenario is where you allow the customer to get started by using SSO (single sign-on) with an account such as Facebook or Gmail. With just a few clicks, they’re already in and using your product and you have all the data you need to push them further down the funnel if they’re on a free trial.

Watch what your customers are doing in the product

We often make assumptions about the way customers use our product. In reality, they could sign up and do something completely opposite of what we expect or run into a roadblock that stops their entire onboarding process.

Luckily, you don’t have to rely on a hunch. You can use a several tools to help your product onboarding. Apps such as Hotjar, Livesession, Smartlook and others allow you to look into session recordings and find out how individual customers use your product. If they get stuck during onboarding, you can watch what happened, click by click.

Even more useful is the heatmap feature. Take a look at the map of your product pages and see where the popular (red) zones are and where your customers don’t go at all. If you have any UX and UI issues, these tools unearth such problems very quickly.

Segment your customers after signup

There’s a good chance your target audience isn’t just one user persona. Different types of customers use your product in different ways and they do not need the same onboarding.

After signup and before using the product, segment your customers based on different criteria for a more personalized and efficient onboarding. These could be:

  • What they intend to use the product for (personal use/work/school)

  • Their industry

  • Their department

  • Their role in the department

  • And others.

The more information you have, the better the onboarding process can be. Depending on their intent, they’ll use different features and solve different problems.

Put email to good use

When they’re not in the product, you can get customers to continue their onboarding through emails. And since you’ve properly segmented them in the step prior to this one, you can send personalized onboarding emails.

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It’s important to keep in mind that onboarding emails have to be triggered. In most cases, SaaS companies send emails that are time-bound, e.g. a week after signing up, there’s an automatic email that goes out reminding the user about certain features.

Instead, make sure your emails are triggered by events within the product. For example, once someone uses a feature for the first time, once they charge money to their customer or something else that is crucial for their onboarding.

Identify your “aha” moment

This is the precise moment when the customer perceives value in your product and they realize how you solve their pain point. Ideally, you want them to get to this point as soon as possible. However, it can be a bumpy ride and this is why you need to determine what this moment is so you can nudge them along to get there sooner.

This will be different for each product and target audience, but you can take an example from one of the biggest software companies in the world - Slack. Their “aha” moment is when a team exchanges more than 2,000 messages between themselves in a workspace. After that, the chances of them continuing to use the product (and eventually pay for it) increase significantly.

One of the purposes of a great onboarding process is to get the user to this moment as early as possible.

Show progress in a visual way

We live at a fast pace and the truth is that your users probably have hundreds of other things to do in a day besides getting started with your product. The onboarding could take anywhere from minutes to hours, but how would they know which of the two is the case?

One of the oldest tricks in the onboarding book is to guide the process visually using checklists or progress bars. For each item ticked off the list, show them progress in real-time. We have a natural tendency to not leave tasks unfinished, so this is a neat psychological trick to get them to complete the onboarding process more quickly.

Make the process interactive

Onboarding is rarely a story that flows in a straight path. And thanks to so many different types of users, the chances of all of them following the same onboarding pattern are quite slim. Don’t just tell your customers what to do and guide them from step to step. Instead, show them visual cues about the product so they can determine what to do next based on their needs.

Slack is a famous example of great onboarding. The app itself can be pretty complex if it’s your first time using it and the team knows it. As you load it up for the first time, it shows you cues on different parts of the app - the channels, the search function, the team member list, the text formatting features and so much more.

This makes it more valuable for the user as they can get help on the features they want to use rather than being forced to walk through the same set of onboarding steps as everybody else using the app.

Capture feedback along the way

Even during onboarding, your customers will have feedback to provide. Your onboarding process is not something you can set and forget, so make sure to revisit it frequently and optimize it to get even more out of it with each customer.

For example, you can use FeedBear’s feedback board on your website to collect feedback in the form of feature requests, bug fix suggestions, or just general suggestions for improvement. Users can leave feedback anonymously or by logging in and they can vote on others’ ideas with a single click.

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You can use this approach to collect feedback on your onboarding process. And with the voting features, you can get a quantitative aspect of your qualitative feedback too.

Wrapping up

Great onboarding is no longer something that is nice to have. As customers get more tech-savvy, they expect amazing user experience at every step of the customer journey. And given the immense benefits of great onboarding for any SaaS business, proper onboarding should be a priority for any product team.

If you want to make your product better, there is no better place to start than by collecting feedback from your customers. Sign up for your free trial of FeedBear and get on the path of becoming a customer-centric business today!

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