Steve Stone

Developer. Designer. Youth Worker. Nerd.

Better Onboarding

September 20, 2021

I just finished Better Onboarding by Krystal Higgins. Krystal is a UX designer specializing in onboarding customers to products for companies like NVIDIA, eBay, and Google.

A lot of the main points in this book seem obvious when you read them, but, at least in the projects that I am apart, are rarely heeded to. Having all of this in one place was fun to read and think about. Definitely solidified some thoughts. I would highly recommend for anyone interested in getting users from not knowing what your product is to being proficient.

  • Think of on-boarding as a journey your user goes through, not just at single point of time at first use. Meaning, your users’ wont go from zero-to-fully-capable in a single tutorial or video. So you should treat the onboarding as a process, or journey, or narrative. Your users will learn as they use the product, not in one go.

  • Front-loaded Instructions (ex: tutorials at the beginning, reading a manual, etc.) rarely work because you’re expecting your users to understand core concepts before they have context.

  • Unsupported Immersion (ex: no instructions, expecting the user to figure it out without guided help) is also rarely helpful. You’re expecting your users to be committed enough with the future reward to figure this out. Unless your product is simple, this will likely have a falloff.

  • The answer is Guided Interaction (think a video game where the first level is a tutorial) is helpful because users earn their understanding of your product. With Guided Interaction they not only learn the mechanics but feel the reward of your product, hopefully enticing them to want more. There is obviously a lot of nuance here, I’m oversimplifying.

  • On-boarding needs to continually be part of the process of product design. It rarely works well when it’s glued on at the end. It needs to be owed and revisited reguarly and tested by everyone from product to support to marketing.

The book walks through how to build your product’s on-boarding journey as a team, using a stickynote method, how to test with users, and shows tons of examples of both good and bad UX for on-boarding. Super practical and thorough.