Onboarding matters—kind of a lot

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“Your onboarding sucks, guys.”

In between bites of breakfast, our friend, Pradeep Elankumaran (Kicksend CEO), was giving us feedback on using And Bang 1.0 right after the initial release.

We got a lot of input in the early beta days of And Bang and had already made some iterations based on that feedback. But Pradeep was one of the few folks we’d sent an invite to without having some discussion about the app as they were using it for the first time.

He quickly pointed out that we were almost certainly skewing the accuracy of our results by our involved presence when working with customers. So what did we do?

The great thing about that conversation is Pradeep followed up his withering feedback with a full set of outstanding advice.

“We made the same mistakes,” Pradeep said. “See, you guys know the app—but you have to learn to look at it from the perspective of a first-time user who doesn’t know and doesn’t care and isn’t going to give you more than a minute of their time.”

Anonymous user testing

The first thing we were going to need was a way to generate anonymous users on demand. I’d heard of usertesting.com but hadn’t used it. Pradeep insisted we give it a try and said it had been a lot of help to them at Kicksend.

In a very short time for a negligible fee, we had a dozen videos of people using (or completely failing to use) our app, along with their commentary.

Watching those videos was eye-opening, embarassing, and encouraging—all at the same time. I remember Henrik and I looking at each other and saying sheepishly, “Well, the cool thing is we can fix all this!”

As soon as we saw this feedback, we immediately had all kinds of very simple ideas for how we could improve the app for first-time users—the best being an interactive, scripted walkthrough of the app.

Metrics with user funnels

Pradeep asked if we were tracking user metrics. “Of course we’re tracking tons of metrics!” Were we using funnels? “What’s a funnel?”

We were tracking user activity, but we weren’t doing it in a very useful way.

We knew how many users had signed up, and had all kinds of details like how many were using the app, how much had been shipped, how many members per team, how many users were online.

But, as Pradeep quickly pointed out, none of that is useful in understanding the story of an individual user.

Pradeep pointed out, “You need to create funnels of the major milestones in turning someone from a prospect into a paying and happy customer, so you can see where you’re losing people.”

SaaS metrics apps like KISSMetrics and MixPanel allow you to create funnels to see how many customers you’re losing—and where.

When we created a funnel, we saw that with each stage of our funnel, we were losing an increasing number of users in the early couple funnels.

We saw that once a user had signed up, invited teammates, and they and their teammates had all performed the actions of the app, they stuck around long enough to truly trial it as a team, and from those, quite a decent number converted to paying customers.

We believed our idea of a scripted walkthrough would improve the main problems we saw when watching the usertesting.com videos—and now we had a way to measure its impact.

An interactive walkthrough

We had a screencast, but based on the results, it didn’t seem to do much good to orient people in the app. We believed that a forced, fun walkthrough of the app could be a great way to familiarize users and increase the likelihood they’d invite team members, who would also use the app.

In executing an interactive tutorial of the app, we built a step-by-step “flying” animated overlay to take users through the key features of the app, constraining users’ interactions to the specific step we were asking them to complete.

We didn’t want to be annoying, so we made it easy to exit, but something they could bring back just by clicking “help”.

After deploying the new scripted walkthrough, right out of the gate we saw an improvement in the key problems we were trying to solve.

When combining a simple, one-minute, interactive walkthrough, we were able to increase the likelihood that a user who signed up would give the app a trial with their team—and we were able to determine this because of the funnel metrics we built.

Incidentally, our friends Max Cameron and Cameron West have since launched kera.io, which aims to help very simple create walkthroughs of the sort that we originally built manually for And Bang 1.0. Highly recommended!

tl;dr

  1. Get advice from other folks who’ve built and iterated successful products and who will be blunt and honest with you. (Thanks, Pradeep!)
  2. Get anonymous user testing with a service like usertesting.com
  3. Create and track user funnels using tools like KISSMetrics and MixPanel.
  4. Build an interactive walkthrough (instead of a screencast video) using a tool like kera.io.

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