How the Best Products in the World do User Onboarding

Apr 7, 2020 4:05:22 AM
Author: Kieran Flanagan

In this episode of the GrowthTLDR, we talk to Samuel Hulick, a world-renowned expert in user onboarding, and writer of much great content on

Many more companies are taking a product-led growth approach to their go-to-market, making user onboarding a vital part of their playbook. But, improving metrics like user activation and free to paid upgrade rates isn't easy.

We talk to Samuel about some of the most common mistakes companies make in their user onboarding. We step through Samuel's process for identifying what features and jobs to be done you prioritize in your user onboarding. And, we talk about how some of the best products and apps in the world succeed in creating world-class onboarding experiences.

Time Stamped Notes

[2:40] - We talk to Samuel about the prospect of him starting a podcast and give him some ideas. Samuel is also now doing his teardowns via video.

[6:10] - We talk to Samuel about some of the common mistakes brands make on their user onboarding. 

a. Tooltip tours: Most brands default in implementing tooltip tours. Samuel has never seen tooltip tours make a material impact on the user activation rate.

b. The second is onboarding people to the value they'll receive from the product vs. what you think is valuable about the product.

[9:10] - Samuel feels there is a lot of value in providing different user segments with a customized onboarding experience. However, instead of segmenting on data points like user roles or customer persona, instead, segment based on the job the user wants to get done. 

[12:40] - Samuel brings us through an example of how MailChimp used in-app questions to understand better what the user was trying to accomplish, and onboard them onto the collection of features that could help them achieve that goal. 

[15:30] - We talk to Samuel about doing user onboarding for products that have a broad feature set. You need to look at the actions a user took before they transitioned to delivering value for your company, e.g., like signing up for a paid plan.

[19:15] - Marketing can help improve a product's user onboarding by building trust for the company, sending lifecycle emails, and generally enriching each user's experience with the product.

[21:10] - We talk to Samuel about his general process of improving user onboarding. His process always starts with going through the experience himself. At a strategic level, Samuel looks for the moment a user transitions to being of value for your company (upgrading to a paid customer). He tries to identify the patterns that lead up to that moment.

[24:10] - Understanding why users transition from free to paid, and designing your onboarding around what users find valuable, not the company, are two fundamental principles to improving user onboarding.

[25:50] - We talk to Samuel about some common design patterns that consistently improve the user onboarding for products.

a. Blank states: How do your most valuable screens look when no data exists, which is the most common state when users first signup to your product.

b. Lifecycle emails: It takes time for some products to demonstrate their value to users. Great lifecycle emails help to bring users back into the product and to be more successful with it.

[30:30] - We talk about the best ways to solve the problem of zero state screens in user onboarding.

[31:15] - We talk about some of the user onboarding experiences that are best in class. One of Samuel's favorites is Duolingo. Scott feels like TurboTax also has an incredible onboarding experience.

Samuel on Twitter / LinkedIn
– Kieran on Twitter / LinkedIn / Medium
– Scott on Twitter / Linked / Medium

Topics: Podcast, Leader, User Engagement

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