The Right Way To Do Onboarding

On November 30, 2017 First Round Capital announced a new product called First Search, ‘the largest database of curated, high-quality advice for building startups ever created’. First Search is essentially a repository of blog posts and documents organized around topics such as ‘growth-hacking’ or ‘visual-design’. Pretty cool!

The one thing I did find missing was the ability to see which articles were considered top-quality. A review system, or points ranking, like that used on Reddit, would help me hone in on the best content. Hopefully they’ll be implementing that feature soon. But other than that, this is definitely a great resource!

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Growth And Onboarding

While perusing First Search I came across many great articles. One was entitled ‘Why Onboarding is the Most Crucial Part Of Your Growth Strategy’ and was written by Casey Winters of Greylock. In it he tackles the challenge of getting users to return to your product after a first engagement. It is called retention or ‘stickiness’ and achieving it can be challenging. Lots of churn happens here as users find new products confusing or not worth the effort. A valuable solution to this problem is onboarding. So, what does successful onboarding look like? Winters provides 3 insights, including this one on the subtleties of educating users on how to use your app or website:

Principle #3: Don’t be afraid to educate contextually
There’s a quote popular in Silicon Valley that says if your design requires education, it’s a bad design. It sounds smart, but it’s actually dangerous. Product education frequently helps users understand how to get value out of a product and create long term engagement. While you should always be striving for a design that doesn’t need explanation, you should not be afraid to educate if it helps in this way.

There are right and wrong ways to educate users. The wrong way: show five or six screens when users open the app to explain how to do everything — or even worse, show a video. This is generally not very effective. The right way: contextually explain to the user what they could do next on the current screen. At Pinterest, when people landed on the home feed for the first time, we told them they could scroll to see more content. When they stopped, we told them they could click on content for a closer look. When they clicked on a piece of content, we told them they could save it or click through to the source of the content. All of it was only surfaced when it was contextually relevant.

My favorite part of this tip is how nuanced it is. ‘Educating the user is bad’ is a common assumption. But there are certain ways of doing it that can be incredibly powerful. This goes to show how startups are more art than science, and that the right action can often be counter-intuitive. You can read the entire article here > Why Onboarding is the Most Crucial Part of Your Growth Strategy.