A First Date With Your User
Onboarding is like a first date with your user (MK Cook)." You want to make a good impression so the user will return for a second experience.
Introduce a new tool to our users and get them started using it. Oh yah, and make them want to come back for more.
Luckily, this project came just after I read a chapter on design patterns for tutorials and invitations. I learned that it’s best to tell less and show more, resist frontloading, reinforce learning and make it rewarding.
1. Show, Don't Tell
This principle should be followed even outside of onboarding experiences. When people enter a site or use a product for the first time, their instincts are to explore not to read. Eye-tracking data show that people consistently skip entire paragraphs of text while scanning for bold headlines, images or buttons to interact with.
Our onboarding experience pointed out specific parts of the UI with limited text.
2. Resist Frontloading
Imagine that your date tells you everything about themselves in the first 5 minutes. How would you feel? We have all seen apps that do this same thing: give you everything you need to know about a product when you first login. They show you pictures of their UI and use text to tell you how to use every part of it. This is troublesome for a couple reasons: 1) People have horrible short term memories and they won't remember everything you showed them. Don't set users up for failure. 2) It’s overwhelming and annoying. 3) Users lose context of where they actually are in the interface.
We welcomed our users and then let them take an optional tour or start using the tool right away.
3. Reinforce Learning
This is all about those a-ha learning moments you had in classes. A lecture from the teacher is great, but practicing what you were just taught is even better. It makes you realize what you did or did not know about the material. Practicing also helps lock things into short and long term memory. Once users start getting the hang of it they will naturally want to continue exploring.
We helped users practice using the interface by adding and customizing their first card.
4. Make it rewarding
A tutorial should be interactive and engaging. One reason frontloading does not work is because it's not interactive. Rewards encourage users to complete tasks and continue exploring. If your brand personality is more friendly, use playful colors or animations to show them a job well done. Our users received a congratulatory message, but we found that the most rewarding part was seeing their own campaign data within their "home."
The onboarding experience that we released got positive feedback and adoption of Trader Home continually increased over time. But there is a lesson I learned from this project: Don’t show users where to find features that are planned for future releases as they may never come.