An Event Apart: On-boarding for Any Situation

by Luke Wroblewski April 3, 2017

At An Event Apart in Seattle WA, Krystal Higgins discussed how to make on-boarding part of a broader, long-term approach to customer guidance and engagement. Here's my notes from her talk: On-boarding for Any Situation

  • Companies are focused on on-boarding to help new customers get engaged and set-up but what is the end-state we're aiming toward? We need to know where we want customers to ultimately be.
  • Products are constantly changing and evolving so when does on-boarding actually end? When we design on-boarding, we only focus on the first run. We need to continue to adapt as our products and customers change. The most critical users sessions may actually be 3 to 7 days out (according to Android mobile data).
  • On-boarding needs to familiarize new users, learn about them, guide them to next steps, and convert them through a series of conversion actions. That's a lot.
  • Examples of sequential, longer-term on-boarding processes: Lumosity, Wealthfront, DuoLingo. Each waits for the right time to guide people through interactions. This helps build a personal focus (looking at it from end user's perspective).
  • Similar techniques can be applied to introducing existing users to new features and changes. Even in the case of major redesigns, we want to prepare users for the change, familiarize them with changes, guide them through it, and help them provide feedback to help us make improvements.
  • People returning from a lapse or infrequent use also need to be re-familiarized to a product and its changes.
  • On-boarding isn't a fixed path, people can take different ways through it. They have different goals, expectations, and preferred ways of learning. They also come in through different channels: personal reference, link, search, from a competitor, etc.

Diverse Toolkit

  • People learn new material best when they encounter it though multiple modalities and multiple times. So we want to have a diverse toolkit for on-boarding.
  • Defaults: a strong set of defaults can help introduce people to a service. Layout and empty states can guide, while default settings can minimize the number of choices people need to make. Less then 5% of people change default settings.
  • Inline guidance: weave information into surrounding content.
  • Reactive guidance: information that is surfaced base on an action they've taken. This is a great way is to reinforce
  • Proactive guidance: interactions that orient you to what is possible and how you can use it.
  • On-demand guidance: people will always have questions that we can't predict. For that, we need on-demand guidance.
  • We need more than one approach with multiple access points to support different paths through on-boarding.

Long-term Guidance

  • Start at the end to reveal key actions. What are the elements that make up a path toward success or failure? Start from the end and walk backward: how did they get there?
  • Look at core users: who is going to sustain & support your business through their usage? But also look at unsuccessful users: how did they fall off? What caused them to churn and fall off? Look for common actions behind each outcome: what made people successful or not?
  • Facebook: friending 7 people within 10 days of sign-up is their best indicator of long-term engagement.
  • How do you find these key actions? Interviews, surveys, cohorts, data analysis, etc.
  • Break key actions down to modules. Trigger, activity, follow-up: what is the feedback loop for a key action? It helps to look at these parts of an action to know where you can provide on-boarding guidance and how actions can connect to what's next.
  • Add reinforcement: people need to see/do things multiple times in order to grok them. If we show something just once, you'll be lucky to remember 1/3rd of it. But repeating things regularly helps people retain info.
  • Avoid mindless repetition: vary location, method, and frequency.
  • Are people in an exploratory state or on a mission? Is the product established or novel? Answers to these questions, help you decide which on-boarding techniques to apply. Think about both the product and user situation.
  • Ensure you have ways to learn about ongoing behaviors so you can adapt to user & product changes.
  • Design on-boarding for the long run, not just the first time set-up.