Designing the perfect first experience

What should your product's user onboarding be like?

Hey everyone it's been a while :)
This edition will touch on what is easily one of my favorite activities as a Product Manager: Designing the user's first experience.

I've talked about the importance of retention, engagement, cohort metrics on this newsletter before, but I'd be remiss if I didn't emphasize that every successful digital product excels in delivering a superb first experience.

As you read through the post, I’d love to hear your thoughts, disagreements and ideas on Twitter/LinkedIn 

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Why is User Onboarding so important though?

  • First experience acts as multiplier driving almost every single other metric upwards or downwards.

  • First experience is usually one of the easiest components to iterate on. Besides having a higher N by being at the top of the funnel, most of the low hanging fruit improvements can be done by simply tweaking the copy.

Designing the perfect onboarding flow

The perfect flow shows and delivers value to the user in record time. We plan for long term success by making sure the right users are appropriately engaged.

It usually contains the following ingredients:

A clear activation metric

What's the moment where the light bulb switches on for your user? Can you set it up as a proportion and monitor it closely? If the usage interval makes sense, can you clearly plot a retention curve on that event? How many users come back to actively derive value from your app in D7? M1?

A clear value prop metric

This can be secondary to your activation metric if you're early stage. This is an especially important aspect to monitor because sometimes the problem is not with your product but with value prop communication throughout the journey.

Before landing on your product the user might have seen an ad, landing page or heard something interesting about the solution you're offering. Does the narrative fit?

What percent of users understand the product and enjoy it VS those that don't?
What percent don't understand the product at all?

Here's a fictional product score card. Try measuring and iterating towards the right proportions. We'll never reach 100% but it's important that the proportions are viable and feasible.

Show the user what getting from A to B is like

When I use your product what is it like to go from A to B? What does B look like?

Duolingo and videogames in general are excellent at this. In as little time as possible the product shows me one simple mechanic that get's progressively more advanced as I go through the funnel. In 30 seconds I've already understood what your solution does and what is expected of me.

Delivers value to the right user.

Most user onboarding advice centers around removing all unnecessary friction or noise. In fact I just mentioned a little earlier that our main objective is to deliver value to the user in record time. But depending on the product or stage this might not necessarily be the case. Sometimes adding some deliberate friction and prequalifying the user might be applicable.

A few years ago I was responsible for redesigning the new onboarding flow for PlayKids, a mobile education app designed for kids aged 2 -3 years old. We had just launched a new feature called PlayKids Parents which offered an opportunity to closely monitor their child's educational development.

We noticed two things:

  • Parents were completely unaware of the feature.

  • Parents mostly interacted with the app upon installation and seldomly ever again

After a healthy dose of trial and error we eventually decided to add phone number verification to the onboarding flow. Why? Because we needed the child to hand over phone to the parent to finish the installation, which is exactly where we delivered our new value proposition.

The new approach yielded a drop in absolute number of new users but the ones who made it through the friction had an over 40% increase in conversion rate with a much lower M0 churn.

Another example of smart friction I saw recently was done by Kemtai:
They are a video fitness website which uses your computer's webcam to track and check on your form during exercise. Their first experience requires you to grant webcam access and actually do almost 2 mins of exercise before hitting you with a paywall.

Behind the scenes Kemtai is really vetting all your insecurities away

In the end of the day, a little friction is ok if it's set up for long term success.

User onboarding is never a finished product, as the product and market shift so too must your onboarding.😉

As always, if any questions popped up feel free to reach out. I'd be happy to help!

If you want to go deeper into user onboarding:

23 mins video - Why onboarding is the most crucial part of your growth strategy

Casey Winters is one of my favourite product thinkers, here he talks about the long term effects of a successful product onboarding.

Make your Product Onboarding Better by Trying It Yourself

I've been guilty of not repeatedly testing the first experience flow. Don't make the same mistake as me 😅

The Definitive Guide to User Onboarding

A pretty neat guide on best practices and non conventional advice. Good resource to add to your flow checklist

A classic and the one that got me interested in user onboarding in the first place. Great resource for both UX and Product Managers making new products

🌍 Cool links from around the web

In an empowered product team, the product manager is explicitly responsible for ensuring value and viability; the designer is responsible for ensuring usability; and the tech lead is responsible for ensuring feasibility.  The team does this by truly collaborating in an intense, give and take, in order to discover a solution that work for all of us. - Marty Cagan

Insider TikTok's Killer Algorithm

Although the whole “Ban/Sell TikTok” was all rhetoric, it's one of the most interesting products to flourish during 2020. I think part of the success is owed not only to the algorithm but to the type of content it promotes. It's so meme friendly that much of the negativity takes a back seat. Perfect for 2020 or an authoritarian government

Teaching our five year old to code by cheating

Parents throughout the world became homeschoolers overnight. This parent was responsible for teaching his daughter math and inadvertently turned it into a cool programming lesson. By letting her cheat the math quiz (changing the code) she would learn how programming works. Short and sweet read :)

High Output Founder's Library

Lots of good articles and frameworks in here. Some are well known classics, still it's a handy resource to share around with new hires

That's it for this edition 😉 What did you think of the new format? What would you like to see more? less? Hit `Reply` with a specific question on product, growth or anything startup related and i'll be happy to offer my thoughts. 🚀

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Have a great weekend and stay safe :)