Reduce your time-to-value
You know successful onboarding is all about delivering value to your users. And you’ve defined your activation moment so you can track it. Now let’s help new users activate their accounts.
User onboarding is a momentum game
There's a certain amount of time and attention a new user will dedicate to your product. Use that time well, and they’ll spend it building momentum and realizing value. These users will be more likely to come back, turn into an active user, and (maybe) convert into a paying customer.
But if you don’t build momentum—or waste users’ attention spans on low-value actions— they’ll probably churn and never come back. That’s why it’s important to know your time-to-value, or the time it takes for new users to experience your product’s value.
The key to successful onboarding is shortening your product’s time-to-value, so new users understand the value of your product as quickly as possible.
Some common momentum killers
There are always more things a new user could configure in their new account. But doing everything is a distraction. Instead, focus on doing just enough to see the product’s value. Finish the rest later.
Helpscout has the right idea in its onboarding guide. They get users to create their mailbox and install a beacon (where most of the value is). Then, they encourage users to finish the setup by connecting apps and inviting teammates later.
The first time you do something won’t be the same workflow as the 4th time. Don’t worry about teaching people the optimal workflow. Just make it simple and easy to get started.
Here’s a great example from video hosting company, Wistia. Instead of forcing new users to create an empty folder (before uploading any content), they pre-load an empty folder so new users can focus on uploading their videos before they have to worry about file management and folder organization.
The end-user experience is key to a successful onboarding flow. Anything that’s not intuitive or easy to understand will add friction to the process. Friction kills users' momentum.
Not sure how to start reducing time to value? Here’s a simple exercise:
After confirming the activation definition, map out the major milestones & product checkpoints along the way. Then, put them in a list and begin tracking them so we can identify any drop-off points!
This is friction. Your mission? Find it and remove it everywhere you can.
Your goal is to help users make it through the product milestones as quickly as possible. So look at your conversion rate between each milestone.
Once you’ve identified steps with low conversion rates (like Milestone Step 3 in the image above):
• Zoom in to understand why users are getting stuck inside of the product. You can use quantitative data to look for specific segments. Or use qualitative data (and even tools like Fullstory, Hotjar, CrazyEgg, etc.) to see where users are getting stuck or distracted.
• Experiment with different designs, experiences, copy, and instructions to improve conversion.
How to track your progress
The best way to measure how quickly you’re delivering value? Track your time-to-value (or time-to-activation) for every new account.
It’s important to determine your own baseline here. Once you’ve got it, aim to reduce this number as much as possible. If you haven’t optimized your onboarding before, your goal should be to cut time-to-value in half: by removing unnecessary steps, reducing friction, and increasing conversion between your onboarding milestones.
This will help simplify your onboarding process and deliver value sooner.