Types of Onboarding

dylan dulleaNews2 Comments

My rule to live by for registration and onboarding is “the shorter the better”. Users have to get something out of each step of the registration process for it to be useful, and if they feel like they are being given unnecessary steps to take they will bounce fast. Quick and easy, only clicking 2 buttons and you’re in.

Side Note: If you’re making a user sign up through another service like Facebook, make sure they feel safe with copy like this:

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Take a dating app for example — you probably need to fill out some personal info to get in, or at least you WANT to, that way you feel like you’ve put your best foot forward when it comes to getting a match. If the steps are necessary, like using an app for your bank where you have to fill in addresses and numbers, users are going to feel like the tasks were actually worth it.

I see a lot of differences in the use of the term onboarding. And there’s a lot of confusion with registration and onboarding. Let’s make one definition first. Registration is not onboarding. Registration is the method of acquiring user’s information in order to create an account based upon specific user details. Onboarding is the process of teaching a user how to use a specific application.

As far as onboarding goes, one school of thought is to show them screenshots of features in the app and explain how they work. Totally boring, and most people will skip after a few screens, or swipe really fast to get through so they can get into the experience. But it’s a cheap and easy way.

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Another is to drop an overlay on a screen when you first see it that directs the user to the buttons and outlines their functionality. Great, thanks for teaching me, but I don’t even remember what that overlay said. I’m going to go and click around and figure it out in a few minutes anyways. Another very useful cheap and easy way.

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The third is leading the user through necessary actions while teaching them how the app works at the same time like Linkedin or Twitter where you have to complete and experience the actions first hand in order to get to the app itself. In my opinion, making a user add a friend as step one is much better than showing them that there is an add friends feature or an add friends button.

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The third approach comes automatically for content based apps. If you are onboarding in a content based app like Nuzzle or HuffPo, you need to make a few choices before seeing any content. Another comes from social, you need to know people that are already on in order to get any value out of your first use. It’s not cheap to build, and adds a bit more time to development, but is so much more engaging. (There are also interesting ways to get around this, by directing the user towards a certain action but not forcing them.)

A few final points to keep in mind while on boarding:

  • Break everything into short, easy to understand steps.
  • Make sure that you explain why the user is doing what they’re doing.
  • Always make sure users feel safe in giving you their personal information. You can do this with copy pretty easily.