We’re on the second stage of the EMBED framework for user onboarding—and the M is for Map.
Today, we’re going to discuss 3 things you need to map in order to understand your user’s current onboarding.

We’ll first cover mapping user journeys. Then, we’ll find your users’ specific aha moments. And finally, talk about translating your user onboarding journey map to an analytics tool to gather meaningful data.  

Mapping a user journey

First things first, what is a user journey?

The user journey is a timeline of user actions that informs the relationship between your brand and its customers. It's all of a user's interactions across all channels—from their point of view.
“Look at your user’s journey from their point of view.”
A user journey map shows the whole process from the moment a person learns about your product, through becoming a customer, to the point at which they stop using it. Or it can focus on a specific part of this flow—like the onboarding flow. For the rest of this lesson, we’re going to only focus on the user onboarding portion of the user journey.
Mapping the user onboarding journey might take several hours and attempts. It’s the most difficult—and most important—step in this academy. You might even continue to add to the journey as you work through the EMBED framework and become more familiar with your users’ experiences.

Let’s start mapping your user onboarding journey! First, let’s explore where your users are before they touch your product.

Try documenting your users’ mindset:

  • Where is your user at in their day when they encounter your product?
  • How are they feeling? Rushed? Stressed? Excited?
  • What happened that drove a user to find your product?
  • What do they hope happens to them when they use your product?
  • Why didn’t they decide to use something else or nothing at all?
  • What are the challenges users are facing?
Great! Now you have a better understanding of how your product fits into your user’s life.

Now, let’s list all the things a new user needs to do with your product in order to reach your activation event. Try to sort them into what you believe is the most obvious chronological order. Keep in mind: We like to frame things in chronological paths, but the reality is often less linear. It’s ok if there are a few steps that can be swapped chronologically.
“User journey mapping is the key to understanding how your product fits into your user’s life."

Your list of "things a user does with your product before activating" most likely will include the following:

  • The inciting incident: The onboarding journey starts when a new user agrees to try out the product, usually through a CTA or a form submission on the landing page.
  • The sign up: The journey continues when a user moves from the landing page to an in-product welcome page.
  • The first experience: The steps after sign up should help users gain the most immediate value from your product. These steps should prime users to continue towards activation—and to come back when they’re done.
  • The activation event: The funnel should end at the first point where you deliver the value you promised.

Finding your users’ aha moment

Let’s dive a bit deeper into that last bit of the user onboarding journey—the activation event.

The activation event and aha moment are intrinsically tied together, but subtly different.

While the activation event is when a business first delivers the value they promised to a user, the aha moment is the moment when new users first realize value in your product—regardless of timeframe. It's an emotional moment.

You want your user to get to the point of expressing an audible “AHA!” or “WOW!”

The problem is the aha moment might not be the same for every user. To invoke the classic Facebook example of “7 friends in 10 days”, some users might get to aha after just one friend in the first day. Others might take a bit longer than the average. Just as no two users are the same, no two companies activation metrics will be the same either. The best way to approach this conundrum is by setting the expectation that there are levels of sophistication to determining your activation metric.

Facebook's 7 friends in 10 days metric is super advanced and nuanced. A simpler version of this might have been simply 'added friends.' If you're just trying to discover yours for the first time, you may just want to use your gut. If you're MailChimp, a simple activation event could be 'sent first email.'

If you're trying to be a bit more thoughtful, you can run a regression test against your behavioral events to determine correlation—we’ll discuss the tools to do so in the section below. This exercise may yield other helpful insights, but until your product and data normalize, your activation event will be a moving target, so keeping it simple is a nice first solution.

Either way, for your team and for your onboarding process, you’ll want to put a flag in the ground around a concrete metric that you can stick with for the foreseeable future. Using a behavioral tracking tool will also help—which leads us to our third part of today’s lesson.

Translate your user journey into an analytics tool

The benefit of having analytics tools monitor your user onboarding is the access they give to granular user behavior you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Tools like Mixpanel, Heap, and Amplitude also will correlate retention metrics with the in-app behaviors you mapped above, showing you exactly what points are most important to improve. They’ll take a bit of the guesswork out of what to focus on first. Think of analytics tools as compasses that will point you in the right direction.

You might already have an analytics tool set up. If you’re unsure, ask your development team or PM. If it is set up, make sure you check that the events you mapped above are being tracked.

Lesson 2 wrap-up

After completing Lesson 2, everything you mapped should now be pointing you in the right direction

Remember, mapping the user onboarding journey is the most difficult—and most important—step in this academy. Take your time with it. Consider your onboarding journey map a living document. This lesson is also a good reminder that onboarding is teamwork, as you’ll likely have to loop in a developer to set up your analytics tool and other members to get an accurate onboarding map. Remember the learnings from Lesson 1 about championing user onboarding internally as you begin that conversation.

The last thing we’ll leave you with today is a note on statistical significance, or ‘stat sig’. Ultimately, the more users you test, the more you'll know for sure; and the bigger the difference in performance, the more likely the result is to be real and not due to sampling error. In general, keep in mind that for good A/B testing, you'll need a lot of users to make sure you can be confident about the result. If you don’t have a large amount of users yet, you’ll have to rely more on qualitative feedback, which we’ll cover in lesson 3.

Homework for lesson 2:

  • Map your user onboarding journey
  • Identify your aha moment(s)
  • Grab your developer to set up or double check your analytics tool