Product Management

5 Ways to Keep User Onboarding Simple

5 minute read

Whether you are creating a new user onboarding experience for the first time or are iterating one for the dozenth time, simplicity is a design principle worth following. 

Simplicity isn’t just about reducing screens and clicks. It’s about helping users get more value with less effort. Simplicity makes the next step, i.e. continuing to use your product more, the obvious choice. 

As humans, our preference for simplicity is clear. We want to reduce cognitive strain so much so that we exhibit familiarity bias. We find words that are easier to pronounce to be more trustworthy. We filter out what we perceive to be distracting and unnecessary stimuli, including important product features. The list goes on. 

New users are highly motivated to gain value from your product, so make it as easy as possible for them to do so.  

Designing the new user onboarding experience with simplicity in mind can help you identify and eliminate the barriers that prevent users from reaching value. And since most users who sign up for an app don’t return, nailing that first onboarding experience is crucial. 

Eliminate the Tedium of Filling Out Forms

There’s a lot of information that can be unpacked from an email address. Tools like Voila Norbert fetch user data like name, current job title, employer, location, and social networks from just an email address. Similarly, forms that use Clearbit’s Enrichment API can access and seamlessly return additional relevant user information.

The results can be dramatic: For instance, when Mention implemented Clearbit in their sign up forms, conversion went up by 54%.

Clearbit autocompleting a form on Mention

The benefits of BI tools aren’t just in saving the user time. The user data can help you better understand who is actually using your product and how to improve your product experience for them. 

Let Users Sign Up in Seconds with Single Sign-On

Single sign-on, usually through Facebook, Twitter, or Google profiles, makes signing up a snap. We’ve seen 3% to 60% increases in conversion rates due to social login. While the range of success is large, a 3% lift from one small change is still pretty impressive.

Single sign-on lets users complete onboarding in less time. They also don’t have to activate their accounts via email and have another set of passwords to remember down the line. 

To address privacy concerns, products often put a disclaimer that they’ll never post without your permission. SurveyMonkey’s sign-up page reassures new users that single sign-on will be quick, easy, and secure. 

SurveyMonkey's single sign on form

Single sign-on can help you provide a more personalized user experience with existing data from social sites (birthday, gender, location, website, etc.) and an immediate community for new users. It can also help you block out fake accounts. 

Consolidate Steps that Don’t Add Value

There’s probably an exhaustive amount of boring but necessary information, such as terms of services and private policies, that you need to convey to new users. Most users won't read these documents, and providing the information upfront doesn't add to the user experience and makes the product look more daunting.

To convey necessary information in a user-friendly way, try nesting it into steps that have clear value for users. 

The Japanese messaging app LINE used this approach when it redesigned its onboarding, to much IPO success. LINE’s terms of service agreement used to take up a full screen on their onboarding flow: 

LINE registration step before IPO

LINE’s new onboarding flow combined the two screens and embedded the scary-looking agreements within the phone number registration process: 

Line registration after IPO

Users can always access the terms of services and privacy policy through the hyperlinks or in the settings. This approach aligns with how most users actually behave, without cutting out necessary information. 

Give Users Fewer Options

While you want to deliver a highly personalized experience to users, giving too many options leads to indecision, less sales, and lower satisfaction. Even if your product can perform a wide range of functionalities, presenting fewer options will push users through the onboarding process much quicker. 

While Blue Apron could offer a limitless amount of options for their meal plans, their new user onboarding is simple and focused on a limited amount of choice. 

Instead of asking customers how much they eat or all their favorite dishes, there’s just two options for plan sizes and 5 choices for what customers are able to eat.

Blue Apron's onboarind screen for different plans
Blue Apron's onboarding screen to pick food preference

These plans may not meet all customers needs perfectly every time, but less choice keeps new customers focused during onboarding and ultimately more happy with the product. 

Let Users Know Where They Are Going Next

Setting expectations for what will happen after user onboarding ends prims users for success. Are they going to be dropped into a product tour? Are they going to their dashboard for the first time? Are they going to perform their first meaningful action? Let them know!

Here at Appcues, we saw firsthand the importance of a good redirect. We recently changed our new user onboarding process to guide users into designing their first Appcues flow. 

Appcues onboarding new modal

The CTA on our modal window said “Design your first flow,” and accordingly, users were led to the design page. Previously, users were dropped into their dashboard for the first time without much further guidance. This change, along with a few small tweaks, helped us increase our activation rate by 2.5x

Simplicity Changes Behaviors

As the psychologist B.J. Fogg writes, “persuasive design relies heavily on the power of simplicity...simplicity changes behaviors.” 

New users are far from being fully persuaded by your product. But in order to drive long term habitual product usage and eventually change behaviors, your new user onboarding experience needs to be compelling and simple.

Want to become a User Onboarding Master? Check out our free User Onboarding Academy!
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