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I was only ten years old when my mother said to me, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.’  Always be friendly, be polite and say your please and thank-yous. I find that in the startup world, the first impression is often overlooked.


[tweet_this] When startups launch they overlook the most pivotal part of their business: the onboarding process. [/tweet_this]


How come startups don’t spend time designing and creating a beautiful first impression? Onboarding is the most critical phase of your users journey and startups tend to neglect this during their design process. Customer acquisition can always be a hurdle, but there are ways to ease the process and make new user onboarding as seamless as possible.


I have signed up for my fare share of services and products in my day. Recently,  I have become a signup addict and have been heavily researching, critiquing and admiring the user onboarding processes of companies such as Dropbox, Basecamp, Zapier, Mailchimp, IntercomAsana, Box, Podio. You name it, I’ve signed up for it.  We are in the process of  redesigning Hubba’s onboarding flow and want to make it as easy and intuitive as possible. We are working towards a self service signup and realized creating a signup flow from scratch isn’t easy.


There are so many moving parts to the signup flow and so many steps where it’s possible to have a new user just drop off half way through. I can’t blame people for not completing those beastly steps for creating a new account, sometimes it’s confusing! So, how do you build an onboarding process that is easy to navigate though and will get your customers using your product or service as soon as possible? Keep it simple, don’t add too many input fields, sprinkle a dash of humour in your copy, add engaging graphics, and make it snappy. Kind of like how Zapier sneakily adds some humour into their signup form.


zapier onboarding process




Make your steps very clear and use simplistic language


Always light the path of least resistance for your users. Keep the steps as simple as possible and compliment your verbiage with clear visual guides and graphics. It helps to use encouraging language that gives your users that little pat on the back when they complete a step and urge them to complete the next one. This helps your user feel as if they are being productive using your product right off the bat.  Basecamp does a great job at letting their user know exactly what step to take next and encourages them to take the next step.


Basecamp onboarding example



Monitor what your users are doing and respond accordingly


We are planning on either building our own internal solution for our in-web app communications or will use an external tool for monitoring and analytics. This kind of monitoring lets you see users who are experiencing any issues and reach out to them directly at the moment of pain or confusion. Being able to track where users are succeeding and failing during your user onboarding flow helps you mitigate these kinds of problems and create solutions.


.  intercom onboarding process1





You can’t please everyone, but you sure can try


Pleasing users is tough. Some want you to hold their hand and guide them around your product while others want you to beat it and let them do it on their own. Whatever the user’s onboarding style is you want to try to cater to that. Make sure to find the balance between not asking too much of your users and not asking enough. Providing top tier customer service and support from the get go is something we do to boost our customers confidence and empowers our users to figure things out on their own if they want to. Intercom does this nicely, giving the user the option to DIY or ask a colleague for help.


intercom onboarding process



Never leave a user hanging


It’s highly intimidating to log into a brand new service and be greeted with a blank screen of death. You can help your user navigate your site by filling that white space with a tip or trick. When you first log into Evernote, instead of seeing a blank screen they fill it with a ‘Getting Started’ guide and a little welcome note which is a nice touch.


Evernote onboarding process




Remember that onboarding is a relationship and is ongoing


Relationships are built on trust. Don’t mislead your users and make it easy for them to trust you. Remember that your customer is just getting oriented with your product or service, you need to nurture that relationship to keep it going. Engage with your users in a natural, helpful way. At Hubba we gain our customers trust by spending time very early on in the onboarding process getting to know them and their needs. This could involve sending a personalized note to each customer right after the moment of email verification to let them know you’re here if they need you. Podio does a nice job of pre-populating some of their users information right when they first sign in and telling the user why they are asking for certain data.


podio onboarding process



I imagine startups are going to continue to iron out the kinks in their onboarding processes and continually tweak and improve their flow. Have you signed up for any products or services with a killer sign up process? Let us know in the comments below!