We’ve listed five exemplary situations when solutions with great UX could use the help of an onboarding guide. So, let's get down to it.
1. When the app is too complex
Even though every state-of-the-art website or app should be user-friendly, minimalism cannot always be in the center of attention. Especially, when you create a comprehensive digital product which should replace several partial services.
To prove you that this is not only about abstract terms, let's take a look at the example of a CMS for online shops.
Besides the product management editor, such system includes also an order processing tool, invoicing tool, and inventory tracking tool. Using a complex CMS could drive you crazy; therefore, you could use the help of an onboarding guide which can show you how to use the features one by one.
2. When the product targets various user groups
This paragraph relates to the first one. Usually, a complex service targets various user categories. Considering the above mentioned CMS for online shops, it could be stock managers, dispatch managers, accountants, economists, or, last but not least, even the owner.
All of them work with different features of the CMS system: stock manager reads the stock balance data, dispatch manager may deal with order status, account and economist handle the invoices, and the owner? He or she will be most likely interested in the financial indicators.
Each of them thus deals with different information and the onboarding guide must behave accordingly.
While the stock manager has to be taught how to determine the stock status, the accountant, on the other hand, how to account for paid invoices. And at last, the owner needs to learn how to work with the analytical section and how to examine the results of a particular period.
The user roles can be categorized by other factors than competencies, e. g. considering users’ previous experience, onboarding completion rate, or demographics.
In a nutshell, the purpose of onboarding can be explained as follows: there is no guide which would fit all the user categories, whether it's a newbie, an experienced user, or a professional.
3. When highlighting particular feature or product
If your website includes more options, which could be of interest for the user, and you would like to highlight a specific one, an onboarding guide may come in handy.
Existing users might be innovation-resistant because they are used to their routine flow when working with the software. A proper user onboarding informs users about the new feature first, and then teaches them how to use it properly.
The test version of the banking app Moja ČSOB can serve as an example. Here, we've created an onboarding guide on our YesElf platform which highlights one of the key functionalities - recipient search. And the results?
The users started to search for recipients 50% more often than before.
Tooltip for recipient search in the Moja ČSOB app
Enough of the apps, let’s talk about the onboarding on the website of the FIRO-tour travel agency. First, we’ve created a tooltip which should make the visitors search for the trips instead of browsing.
The results showed an increase of click-throughs to subpages with specific destinations and holiday packages of 9%.
As you can see, our solutions were not made to improve the app and website usability due to the poor UX. They were made to highlight specific features through onboarding.
4. When you want to send a reminder
User onboarding is not just about tooltips and popups. It's a long process which can keep going also outside the app. For instance, as instructional emails, in-app messages, or other additional channels use and benefits of which we discussed in our previous article.
Example of Bitly's email onboarding.
These channels allow you to communicate with users even if they are not using the app.
Furthermore, if you give the “dead users” a good reason, user onboarding may convince them to return to the app even if they haven’t used it for months.
5. When you have nothing to offer
We do not of course mean that your app is useless. What we have in mind are empty states which users haven’t filled so far. People actually create content only when the really use the app.
Some screens can thus stay empty during the initial days. User onboarding is a perfect way of teaching the users how to fill these screens for they learn how to work with your app at the same time.
As you can see, user onboarding is of benefit even if your app or website has good-quality UX and UI. After all, the main goal of the onboarding guide is not to improve the usability, but show your users how to use your service in the most efficient way.
However, should your app or website be really poor and contradicts all principles of good user experience, even a flawless user onboarding may not be able to save it. On the other hand, it can improve your app as it shows the users what are they expected to do in the right time.