YesElf co-creator: ‘The greatest flaw of onboarding is the companies’ lack of interest’

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peter-simun

User onboarding is still rather unknown concept. How would you explain it in a nutshell?

“It is a method of guiding the users on the web with a primary goal to educate users about the efficient use of the web apps. User onboarding is especially helpful if the users find themselves in the digital environment for the first time, which means they have no previous experience.

It is also closely connected to digital transformation when people with no digital skills enter the web environment. At this stage, user onboarding can lend a helping hand.”

What is the application range of user onboarding?

“It depends on the point of view. On one hand, there’s the marketing point of view; on the other hand, the HR perspective. In the first case, the goal is to minimize the number of users who abandon the app right after the first launch or after the first login. The introduction of the app is not an easy (and cheap) job. A company using an app without user onboarding risks losing its investment. Therefore, you should focus on the transformation of newcomers into active users.

With employees in the center of attention, onboarding should help them grasp the system they use at work on daily basis, and find their feet in the system with no obstacles on the way. And, of course, without several weeks or months to familiarize with it. Every company wants to turn the newcomers into active employees as soon they start working. User onboarding represents a technique, which has the power to transform an inexperienced newbie into an effective employee.

During the personal trainings, users usually find themselves out of the app environment, which makes them passive recipients of the information. At that moment, everything seems to be loud and clear, however, as soon as they really come into contact with the app, troubles are ahead.

This results in slowdown in processes because the employee has to contact the tech support or ask a colleague for advice. All these issues can be avoided if the company decides for digital onboarding. The employees can break in themselves and they don’t have to rely on others to do so.”

Is there a platform with flawless onboarding process?

“As the user onboarding is still an uncharted territory, it is not easy to find such. Most of the companies neglect its importance because they consider onboarding a part of the ready-to-use app, not a separate subject they should pay attention to. And out of the few apps, which pursue the user onboarding, there are even fewer of those, which do it properly.

Slack is by the way a great example. Its strength lies in its simplicity as it offers minimum of information in a single step. Considering mobile apps, there are more examples to follow. Like Evernote, for instance. Typeform or LinkedIn are in my opinion also a great example of webs with excellent onboarding.

Which forms of user onboarding are the most popular ones?

“Ironically, those, which bring the least results. Most of the platforms use “bubble guides”, which is fine, but onboarding effectivness depends mainly on proper timing. If you give the user the right tip at the wrong time, it’s useless.

Instead of worrying about the best form, I would suggest to focus rather on the proper timing. There are more groups of users so having one universal solution doesn’t work. Onboarding is about personalization. Each specific user group should be treated differently.

Some new users do not want windows or bubbles popping up from everywhere because they want to look around and try the app on their own. The guide can be handy in more complicated steps. Then, there are users with low technical skills, who need help even with the basics.

In an ideal world, we would be able to identify the users’ needs before they even realize them. Another idealized scenario is to anticipate what they need. The first priority of a fine user onboarding is the timing, the form comes second.”

As you’ve already mentioned, users do not respond on pop-up windows very positively. Aren’t they then contrary to the purpose of user onboarding, which should make a good impression?

“Users would appreciate the bubbles, if they came at the right time. They are more annoyed because the pop-ups usually appear when they are not needed.”

Does not user onboarding create a conflict with user experience? Is it really necessary if you aim at the perfect UX from the very beginning of the app development?

“It is true that many people think that if you design a fine UX, the app is automatically user-friendly. Google, for instance, with its single search field and a single button, can afford such statement. For apps with more features, it is not that easy. The more complex the app is, the more important is also the onboarding.

There are UIs, which are convenient for most of the users; however, writing off the rest of them would be a shame. There is no golden mean to meet everyone’s preferences.

Imagine you would divide the users into three categories: beginners, advanced, and the experienced. If you offer all of them the same user interface, it won’t work because you cannot treat the people with different set of skills the same way.”

What are the other common user onboarding mistakes?

“The greatest flaw of onboarding is the companies’ lack of interest. They either design the app by themselves or, in a better scenario, a designer pulls his or her weight or, in the best scenario, they hire a UX specialist.”

Those, who pay the onboarding at least a little attention, often do not focus on the timing, do not personalize it, or use only single channel. If the users abandon the app, you lose control over them.

User’s experience and skills can come to the deadlock if you stop interacting. This can be avoided by means of other, additional user onboarding channels, such as email messages.

How can a user onboarding system be of assistance?

“I will take our YesElf as an example. It is a complex user onboarding platform which can be used to design onboarding process in various visual forms. I mean bubbles, progress tracker, notifications, or even the email reminders.

Furthermore, it also evaluates the analytical data which can help you determine if your onboarding process is a success, or if you meet your objectives. If not, it can help you discover the problem areas.

If 90% of users do not get over the step 5 in the guide, the analysis tells you this is the spot which needs to be modified. Then, you can apply for instance A/B tests. The availability of such user onboarding tool is great because you can implement it in an already established app, you can try different versions, and test and evaluate them at the same time.

However, if the user onboarding process as such is poorly designed, not even the complex tool can save it. As a part of the YesElf platform, we also offer consultancy services which are aimed at onboarding design based on the client’s analysis combined with our experience from previous projects. As this topic is still in uncharted waters, it is crucial to have a consultant by your side who knows how to approach users in the web environment.”

Is user onboarding intended for app developers or rather for companies with read-to-use apps in operation?

“We want to avoid developers because most of them think they can code the guide themselves. They underestimate the complexity behind it. Developers do not see the conversion rates or growing number of users. From their point of view, onboarding is only an ordinary hint in a bubble.

YesElf can be implemented in the interface without codes being touched, which makes it suitable for any web app. So, we avoid developers as much as we can. Maybe they will hate us for this but on the other hand; we can free them up and take over the work.

Continuous changes in the app would add onboarding maintenance to their task list.  It is not a problem to create one bubble, but if you add one hounded more, the programmers have to modify them after every change in the UI. They would become “bubble maintainers” instead of feature developers. To our target group therefore belong managers, HR managers, or marketers.”

In which cases can HR department benefit from the user onboarding tool?

“HR’s job is to introduce in-house software used at work on daily basis to new employees. They can choose personal trainings or hire an external firm. YesElf is of benefit if they decide to do it more effectively and cost-efficiently.”

Considering the process complexity, is virtual onboarding still more cost-efficient than a regular face-to-face training?

“Absolutely, we’ve talked about the financial issue in a separate article on our blog. Statistically speaking, replacement costs for a single employee can reach up to 81,000€. The amount for lower-level positions varies from 24,000 to 32,000€. The same applies to the hiring costs of a new person.”

Furthermore, if newcomers don’t receive a proper training, they can get more and more frustrated. Employees with poor training are 40% more likely to leave the company within a year. After all, a replacement has to be found, which costs again huge amount of money.

This statistical data comprises a solid calculation basis for ineffective onboarding costs. And even in a small firm, they can climb up very high.”

You’ve mentioned training dissatisfaction or active user shortage. Are there other factors which can show you whether the company needs a user onboarding?

“At first, we must raise the awareness of user onboarding and highlight its benefits if we want companies to show interest of their own accord. They have to face many onboarding-related problems quite often, even if they do not realize it.”

Let’s take 100 new employees a year as an example. All of them receive a standard training. About 30% of them later find another job and the company is not able to find out if it was caused by poor onboarding. Most of the employers even do not know that there is a more effective alternative, when it comes to the user onboarding.

And you cannot blame them. At the beginning, we also didn’t have a clue that this area of expertise is called user onboarding.” [laughing]

At which point can you call the user onboarding beneficial and successful?

“Between the benefits for the user and for the company is a positive correlation. If the user cannot benefit from the onboarding, neither can the company. When it comes to specific indicators, you can aim at the increase of registrations or bookings. This is the successful strategy we used also for our client, FIRO Tour.

If the channel is not selling oriented, your goal can be just to spread the word about your product or service, reaching as many people as possible. If this is the case, feedback form is a great tool to measure the users’ or employees’ satisfaction.

Analytical data from our platform also show the success rate of the user onboarding. The evaluation should be based on both the data and the targets you want to meet.”

One of the targets of user onboarding is to provide value to the users, preferably at the first launch. Bearing this in mind, could be the user onboarding platform also used for marketing purposes?

“Absolutely, user onboarding is (or should be) part of every marketing strategy. Sygic, for instance, also grasped the onboarding to find out when it is the right time to ask for user’s email, how to ask for it, how to ask for it visually, and which components should be used to acquire as many addresses as possible.”

Was there a moment when you were really surprised by total opposite user behavior as you’ve expected?

“When we experimented with eye tracking, we gathered few people together and put the app with implemented onboarding in their hands. Then, we’ve compared their behavior to the behavior when working with the app without user onboarding. It showed us that in some cases people subconsciously ignore the pop-up windows and bubble hints.

If they are not visually interesting, people do not even notice them. One thing you could do is change the color. In our onboarding project for FIRO Tour, the blue bubble blended into the background and the people ignored it more than a yellow bubble.

When we had asked them after the test how come they did not notice it, they looked at us and asked: “What bubble?”.”

What are the future perspectives and innovations in user onboarding development?

“Onboarding of the future has a great potential of collaboration with the AI. We’ve been working together with the Faculty of Informatics and Informational Technologies of The Slovak University of Technology, analyzing user behavior and identifying functioning and problematic patterns. Such research could last for years.

Within another project, we are collaborating with a student who works on his master’s thesis on brain excitations measurement. Using a special device, we want to identify how users perceive various forms of onboarding based on their brain perception. The research outputs include patterns, which can determine the right time and form for onboarding.

Even though there are more teams working on similar scientific research, it is something new that no one has put into practice before.”

Elaborated by: Erik Oravec

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