Why user onboarding isn’t hand holding

First impressions count.

You’ve managed to convince a user to give you their personal details, now you want them to keep coming back. It’s been proven many times that users don’t come back to services which are hard to use. Frustration isn’t just the name of a boardgame, it’s a killer for apps and websites.

Onboarding a signup can be compared to a new employee.

Onboarding a signup can be compared to a new employee.

Onboarding helps you there. Walking your new user through your system, asking them little questions about themselves, showing them where all the important things are and then leaving them with an “if you need anything else, just ask” sounds like introducing a new member of staff. And that’s what your new users need. You wouldn’t call telling your new employee where the kitchen is “hand holding” so why doesn’t the same ring true for showing new users where your main features are?

Too often the onboarding process is forgotten, clunky signup forms with dodgy validation leave users frustrated and less likely to a) continue the process and b) use your service again. While you’re patting yourself on the back for having both front and back end password validation, your users are throwing laptops across a room because you neglected to let them know that you have a 12 character limit (and one has to be a number and one has to be a capital and you need to have special characters but not quotemarks because they’re the devil).

Top Geek Scot Tips for User Onboarding

  1. Don’t reinvent the wheel – look at what major services are doing, is your idea for onboarding wildly different to that? Maybe you should test it out with prototypes first (which you should be doing anyway…)
  2. Let the user know what you need – if you have strict password rules, let your users know about them
  3. Give users a reason to continue (so if your users need to give your app GPS location permissions, tell them why it’s needed)
  4. Allow sign in via social media – it’s quick and it’s easy (for the user)
  5. To do lists – ticking things off a list feels great. If your service requires a multistep process, show the user how many steps they’re going to have to make. As they complete each stage, cross it off the list.

If this has so far left you worried that every signup form you’ve ever made is off-putting and terrible, fear not. The lovely people over at User Onboard are there for you (this isn’t a sponsored article, we really do think it’s great). They go through the process of signing up to services and teardown their onboarding process, putting everything in a nice annotated presentation for you to go through. You can pick up hints and tips along the way to make your services better and get a better feel for the major mistakes, which even the big boys are making (linking a social media profile and then still having to type in your name?  Just why?).

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