User onboarding is a vital element of any web-based service. By getting users to this stage, it means they have decided that the service as described on the landing page is worth their time to try out.
Therefore, the importance of effectively bridging this gap between landing page and using the product or service cannot be underestimated. Frustration or difficulty in the onboarding phase can lead to potential customers giving up or even trying a competitor instead.
Many companies fail to create an optimal – or even satisfactory – onboarding experience, allowing countless customers to leave before even trying the service. In an era where users can easily let their dissatisfaction be known to thousands of others, the negative implications of such can be extremely damaging to a brand and its reputation. For users who do still complete the onboarding, their very first interaction with the product or service is a negative one, and it leaves a lot to be rectified before they are to recommend or positively rate the service.
User experience is at the heart of any great onboarding flow, along with other criteria such as a carry-through of brand elements. In this article, we are going to outline and discuss a definitive checklist for creating the best user onboarding experience for your web-based product or service.
☑ What happens if the user makes an error?
☑ How can the interface be kept simple for the user?
☑ What happens if the user accesses the onboarding via different browsers and devices?
☑ What happens if the user wants to sign up quickly?
☑ What happens if the user doesn’t want to complete all the steps?
☑ What happens after completion of the onboarding?
☑ How can copy be kept understandable for the user?
☑ How can users be assisted when they don’t understand an input or option?
☑ How can branding consistency be ensured?
☑ How can I use onboarding to impress and differentiate from competition?
What happens if the user makes an error?
When a user inputs a value which serves up an error, it is extremely important that the following is applied:
- Clear and concise description of the error with detail on how to rectify
- Use of icons and/or text, as well as color, to communicate the error state to colorblind users
- Pre-select the error field so users can quickly re-input a value without navigating back to the field
- Store the inputted value to prevent the user from having to re-enter when only one or two characters are invalid or absent
How can the interface be kept simple for the user?
Avoid designing steps which contain too many inputs or options. Group each section into a step with adequate back and next navigation options. The fewer inputs and options there are, the easier it is for the user to digest. This serves not to overload them with too many options and unrelated steps at once, decreasing the chance of them becoming overwhelmed and giving up mid-way through the onboarding.
What happens if the user accesses the onboarding via different browsers and devices?
It goes without saying, the web user onboarding experience should be consistent in its user experience across browsers and devices, both new and old. One of the worst onboarding experiences is to have to switch browser or use a desktop computer instead of a mobile device. Ensure your onboarding works across as many browsers and devices as possible. If you are having trouble in doing so, your onboarding may be overly complicated. As a last resort, and potentially for very old browsers, warn users that there may be difficulties before they start the process and to switch browsers. Being upfront will save them a great deal of time and frustration.
What happens if the user wants to sign up quickly?
The integration of one-click sign ups through social accounts is an optimal user experience for most web services. While not applicable to all instances, social integration for sign up can significantly increase onboarding completion through its ease of use and security. It also serves as an easy way for the user to log back in after onboarding completion.
The disadvantage for users is when they are bombarded with steps after their details have been collected via their social media account. Be sure not to take advantage of this by keeping any surplus steps to a minimum with options to skip any that are not vital.
What happens if the user doesn’t want to complete all the steps?
Allowing users to fill in certain information after completion of the onboarding can be extremely beneficial. It streamlines the process and appreciates that the user may prefer to fill in extra details at a more convenient time. It also gives the user a chance to effectively trial the service before committing to sharing more intricate details.
In a phase where awareness surrounding privacy and data handling is at an all-time high, users may be skeptical to share too much information up front. It is preferable to first allow them to trial the product and build up a level of trust through good design and onboarding.
What happens after completion of the onboarding?
The onboarding is not concluded upon obtaining all the user information and selections. The subsequent stage is then to explain to the user how to get started. A simple dismissable modal with two or three steps will often suffice in educating the user before they begin using the product.
A tooltip tutorial can also be used, however these can feel more of a nuisance to dismiss for users who do not want their assistance and therefore should be implemented carefully with this in mind.
How can copy be kept understandable for the user?
The language and conciseness of step titles, descriptions, and error messages, is an often underrated aspect of a great user onboarding flow. By using short titles and descriptions, the visual noise and information is significantly reduced. This makes it easy to digest at a glance and emphasises the fields and inputs themselves.
Simple language makes the information more accessible, particularly to those of whom are not native English-speaking, and those whose vocabulary is not familiar with more specialist or technical words such as ‘onboarding’ or ‘JSON’.
How can users be assisted when they don’t understand an input or option?
Microcopy is the text that sits below a field, or behind an information icon or link. Simply put, it is an added layer of explanation if a user requires further understanding on how or what to enter into an input. It reduces confusion and should prevent any input becoming a sticking point at any stage. It’s important to keep this small and secondary, hence the name, but readily accessible should a user need an extra pointer during the onboarding experience.
How can branding consistency be ensured?
Less focused around usability, the carry-through of branding elements is still an important aspect of a great user onboarding experience. It conveys a sense of familiarity and trust when users are inputting sensitive and encrypted data. In a time where scam sites and phishing attacks are routinely frequenting the news, the more comfortable the user can be in doing so, the better.
How can I use onboarding to impress and differentiate from competition?
Design is as significant a differentiator as it has ever been. Companies are realising the importance of great design, both on a usability level, but also on an emotional level. The user needs to be impressed by the design: the typography, colors, user interface elements, and iconography. Now, more than ever, it’s an expectation and users want to be wowed with the consistency and creativity of the onboarding. This means going the extra mile with subtle animations and interactions, delightful illustrations which serve to explain each step, and any other details that can positively impress upon a user.
By following this checklist, you should be able to create a great user onboarding experience for your product or service, and give it the best chance possible at converting new users and subsequently retaining those users. Like many other aspects of designing for users, it is important to test onboarding flows and listen closely to any user feedback. It is an area that can constantly be improved and simplified, and differing approaches based on this checklist will be more effective for one web service and its users than the next.