December 12, 2019
For actual tips, go to User Onboard
Onboarding is a chance to teach new users about the whole product. If it’s unfocused, nearly every product team will want to showcase their feature, action, value etc.
It’s a common pattern to recreate functionality so that you can teach a user how to use the product. For example, maybe with Grammarly, they get you to write a sentence so that they can give you suggestions. What do those suggestions look like? Are they illustrations, or are they literally the product. Some argue that if you get too detailed, you might as well drop them into the app already… Which takes me to the next thing.
At this point, onboarding is forgotten about, and the product team starts talking about all their hopes, dreams and aspirations for the core functionality. If only search did this.. If only the home page could do that.
Digital products are always copying each other, that’s how we get better right? Well, if you have a good idea that’s er, not defensible, well you’ll see that quickly spread around. For some reason onboarding seems particularly prone to “just doing what X is doing.” Again, without a tight strategy, you are really spinning around with a blindfold on at this point.
A savage remark, but speaks to a core user need “how do I get past this modal?” In many cases, onboarding walkthroughs are so tired, badly written and designed, that it becomes a game of ‘find the next arrow’ and tap as quickly as possible. We see a similar effect on every media website circa 2019. SHOW ME THE RECIPE FOR BAKED SALMON!!
Onboarding struggles to support all user types. Too simplistic, smarter users get no value. Too complex, and the average user never makes it past step 5… Speaking of steps.
In a similar way to just doing what you saw another ‘well designed app’ do, onboarding seems fixated on ‘steps’. I get it, you’re telling a story, you don’t want to overwhelm, but by fixating on steps, and the number and order of them, may be missing the point.
Since onboarding inevitably drops you off somewhere into the app, usually a home page, the two things become very linked. Maybe onboarding ‘never dies’ and lives on as educational tips littered around. There’s no simple way to separate onboarding from the rest of the product. In fact, the more useful onboarding becomes, the more users might say “how do I get back to that nice thing at the start?”
There isn’t one.