After the initial buzz around your product, increasing your growth rate becomes harder than ever. You need to find innovative ways to onboard new customers and achieve greater growth. Here's the advice you need to do just that.

Steady growth is vital for any business, but to achieve this the focus is too often spent on ensuring more people know about your product. While that’s important, it overlooks an even more important factor in growth: onboarding.

In fact, for many businesses the problem isn’t about getting people through the door; it’s about getting them to stay. After all, what good is it if people know your business but don’t use its services?

If you aren’t able to encourage users to get onboard, all the marketing in the world amounts to nothing. But if onboarding is a problem within your organisation, it can be very difficult and time-consuming to make the changes necessary to improve matters. Here’s just a few things you can do to help. 

What Is Onboarding?

Just a quick aside before the tips though. Let’s clarify what onboarding actually is. When we talk about it here, we're generally not talking about when you hire a new employee. Our focus is on users or customers. However, if you have a system that new employees need to learn to use, our advice will still apply.

Onboarding is what we call it when you try to convert a passing user into a habitual user. Imagine the difference between a potential customer at a supermarket who never comes in and the customer who never shops anywhere else. Onboarding is the process by which you convert the potential customer into a habitual customer.

Now we have that agreed, we’ll continue with the tips! 

Define successful onboarding for you

First of all, you need to figure out what onboarding for your product currently looks like. In an attempt to make it easier to discuss onboarding, we’ll assume your current product is a website. To define levels of onboarding for the product, we need to know what our ‘in-use’ frequency is and what our key action is.

  • The frequency will determine how often users receive value from the website
  • The key action will define the moment users receive enough value to stay engaged with the website

Whereas knowing the frequency with which people use your website is important, it’s about understanding the moment when they fully engage with the product that takes precedent here. It can be difficult to identify that moment - how do you tell if someone has received value? 

With a forum like Medium, claps are considered as the moment when someone has received value - in other words, this is the key action. When a user likes an article, and has therefore derived value from it, they will clap for it. How often they clap for articles would determine how often they receive that value - this is the frequency.

Now, to know if we have successfully onboarded a user, we need to look at how frequently users perform the key action over time. In doing so, we can see how many of our users return time and again to our digital products. These users are our habitual users, those we can confidently say have been onboarded.

To measure onboarding, take a group of users who sign up to your website within a certain timeframe, and measure how many of them perform the key action at periodic intervals.

onboarding rates graph

If you want to succeed in the future, you need to onboard customers. People who churn are those who quickly stop using your product; they don't contribute to your growth.

Taking our Medium example, our key action is someone clapping an article. Assuming that a user only has to derive value from articles twice a week to be considered onboard, you would need to measure user behaviour once a week, every week, until the amount of users who continue to clap articles flattens out. Eventually, as the weeks go on, the amount of users who drop off, who churn, will decline and you will have a baseline of users who have been successfully onboarded. If it takes a long time for users to drop off, you’ll have a great product on your hands, but if they drop off quickly then you’ll need to improve how you on-board users.

If you don’t know how successful your digital product is at onboarding new users, you can’t make improvements to increase onboarding, so this is a crucial first step.

Talk to your users 

Once you have an idea of how many of your users are onboard and how many drop off, you can start talking to them to find out why they keep coming back and why they leave. 

You need to find out from both groups:

  • Why they visited your website in the first place
  • If there was anything that didn’t meet their expectations
  • If they didn’t return to the website, why they stayed away
  • Why they kept coming back to the website 

A close analysis of the answers should reveal what deterred users and what messages worked for bringing new users onboard. You can then improve your marketing and onboarding process to increase how often users convert to habitual users.

Discover More About UX Design

Engaging with and talking to users is a core component of user experience design. That’s something we know a thing or two about at Cyber-Duck. For more on UX research and design, give our manual the UX Book a read.

UX Book

UX Book is available now from our website. With it, you can learn the basics of User Experience design.

We also have an award-winning app that has been downloaded over 50,000 times. Check out UX Companion now.

Improve your introduction

After talking to your users, you can start to improve how good your introductory experience is. During development, the onus is usually on creating and launching a minimum viable product. Launching websites is now a fast-paced game, so more often than not companies simply don’t have the time to pay attention to what an experience is like from the very beginning. It’s treated as an afterthought, with the main worry on the product’s core. However, if you can’t get your users to the core you’ve worked so hard on, how can they appreciate it? 

Onboarding relies on a great introductory experience for users coming to your product or service. Initial hype about what your digital product can do might bring plenty of users to it, so your introductory experience might not need to be so refined in the beginning. But we’re concerned with growth here. To maintain or increase growth after the initial launch, you need to constantly improve your introductory experience to optimise your onboarding process. 

Sam working on a UX strategy

The best way to improve your introduction is through UX design. Research is key.

That’s because early adopters are willing to overlook a poor introduction in order to get to the meat of a product. But if you intend on growing your audience, you need to go beyond these fearless users: you need to attract newer, less enthusiastic users too. Make your website as accessible as possible to attract new users, giving them all the information they need to use your product successfully.

It’s worth noting that the new users you try to attract at first won’t be the same new users you try to attract in the future. Over time demographics change, and with those changes your website will also need to evolve. Constant research and refinement are crucial to establishing consistent growth. Similarly, redesigning or improving your website design regularly is integral to securing continued growth, as evident in our work with AnyVan.

Client Story – AnyVan

Back in 2013, Cyber-Duck worked with AnyVan to define their UX and designs. For those of you who don’t know, AnyVan is an online auction marketplace that connects people needing removals and deliveries with firms who bid for jobs. 

AnyVan Founder Angus Elphinstone said he wanted to ‘strike the balance of being really efficient and innovative but not too clever, so users are comfortable’ with using the product. That’s no easy feat, and requires a lot of time, effort and research. But Elphinstone realised he needed to relaunch his website to meet changing demographic and technological requirements.

Vital to AnyVan’s success was ensuring the onboarding process was simple for both customers wanting a van and firms providing vans. If the process was too complicated for one group, the model would never take off. That’s why we paid close attention to both, defining a responsible model that would help AnyVan to maintain their growth ascendancy of 80 to 90 per cent a year.

Show, don’t tell. Do, don’t show.

A great and flexible way of ensuring new users engage with your website is to encourage users to do things. Sure, you could tell them what to do. You could even show them what to do. But the absolute best way to generate more conversions is to get users to complete actions themselves.

Take a proactive approach and help the user through the initial experience by completing certain actions as default on their behalf. They can customise parts of the website afterwards, but during the first experiences your users need to feel successful.

Harry and May at work

Marketing teams focus on bringing more people to your platform. It's the role of designers to get those people onboard. A trick they employ is to do key processes for new users to get them into the product quickly.

Likewise, new users come to your product without a history of use with it. A lot of designers create digital products that assume users have this experience and familiarity already. To achieve growth, you need to give new users the same experience as converted ones, so you need default settings that promote that.

Let’s take Instagram as an example - what would the home feed look like if it was empty? Not great is the answer. Users are unlikely to return if they don’t get immediate satisfaction from the product, which is why Instagram encourages you to follow a variety of profiles when you sign up. Similarly, Medium asks you to enter several interests when you sign up so it can provide you with recommended articles to populate your feed. The difficult thing you’ll face when refining your own onboarding process is finding the best and most inclusive default setting for your product.

While we’re here, it’s worth addressing an idea that many designers swear by: that good designs need no explanations. It sounds logical, but in the real world it can be very misleading. Not everyone will intuitively know how to engage with your design, especially if they have no idea what functions the product has – after all, if users don’t know what something does, or where the value of using it can be found, they won’t return. By contextually explaining what users can do at certain points during their initial experiences with the product, you can increase the amount of users who return to your product.

Introduce users quickly, but not too quickly

This brings me in nicely to my next point. You need to get users through to your product as quickly as possible, but you shouldn’t get them through too quickly. If you drop users in without asking for the bare minimum needed to create a valuable experience for new users, they will leave. Prioritise what information you need and only request that in order to speed users through to your product.

Furthermore, sometimes it can help to tell the user why you need information from them and why that will be valuable to them. In this way, you inspire confidence in your product which can increase sign-up and convert users.


Constantly innovate your introductory experience

I’ve said already that you must not overlook the first experience your users will have when you’re developing the product, but it’s just as important to reinvent this experience over time.

Why? It may well be the case that your current user experience for new users performs well, but the source of substantial growth rests in untapped markets. Those users could have different expectations for your product, and you need to accommodate that diversity. Constantly innovate your introductory experience to increase your onboarding rate. 

Remove friction

Some friction can be good, but for new users you need an experience that’s easy to learn and use. In practice, eliminating unnecessary elements is difficult. The focus is often given to existing users who know the product well and demand additional features. But new users are a different kettle of fish. The functionality existing users crave will only complicate the product and confuse new users. To develop a successful onboarding process, you need to strip your product back to its basics. Once your new users understand the product, then you can introduce more advanced functions to them.

Drive Growth with Cyber-Duck

Onboarding is a major growth issue, but it’s also a huge user experience pressure point. Fortunately, Cyber-Duck has specialised in UX since 2005, making us one of the original pioneers of UX methodology. If you need assistance with driving growth in your business, we can help improve the first experiences your customers have with your product to increase onboarding. Get in touch with us today to find out more.