Engage your users with User Onboarding

Johan Verhaegen

UX Strategist

Offering value is the start of every great digital experience. A digital product that doesn't provide clear value to customers is doomed by definition.

If you’re not sure that you’ve got this right for your product, you might want to read my article on how to define value before you read on.

But building a valuable product is one thing, convincing users that it is valuable to them is another. You might have put tremendous effort in your product and you might be convinced of its phenomenal value, but are your users? Do they care?

That would be a shame, wouldn’t it? Those all-nighters you’ve put into it, all for nothing? Not necessarily, but you might have overlooked an essential aspect of every valuable technology: you need to get your users on board and keep them there.

Enter User Onboarding.

User Onboarding consists of 2 facets:

  1. Get new users up and running with your product.
  2. Keep them coming back time and time again.

It’s a technique that blends the best practices of:

  • user insight: behavior, skills and characteristics
  • UI design: interaction design and visual design
  • user assistance: user help, coaching and training

Let’s start with the first facet of User Onboarding: how to get users up and running.


Getting users on board without effort

Good User Onboarding starts with well-crafted design patterns. Design patterns are user interface elements that users often encounter in products, and that they are familiar with.

An example of a well-known design pattern is the Welcome screen. You might not automatically associate welcome screens with good user onboarding, but that’s because most welcome screens are designed very poorly. A good welcome screen contains at least the following elements:

  • a description of what the product’s good for
  • what the user needs to do to start using it
  • any additional things they might need to get through the process

Take for example the welcome screen that we designed for Satellic, the organization selected by the Belgian government to collect toll on her behalf from heavy goods vehicles:

Satellic welcome screen

This welcome screen is divided in 3 easy-to-digest sections:

  1. an explanation what it is, accompanied by a demo movie
  2. the steps a user needs to take to complete the process
  3. the additional things users will need during the process

Toll-collecting is a fairly complex procedure for the non-initiated, but in this case it’s very well managed via a clear and easy-to-understand user interface. If you look for effortless user onboarding, this is the way to go. If you’d like to know more, check out the project description.

Another example is Corona Direct, another respected customer of ours. Corona Direct is an ever forward-thinking insurer, trailblazing the digital insurance market. A couple of years ago Corona Direct paved the way in Belgium for a fully online pay-per-kilometer car insurance. We designed this welcome screen:

Corona Direct welcome page

Same here, it might seem a daunting idea – especially for digital non-natives – to subscribe to an insurance online, without the help of an intermediary. But thanks to a well-structured welcome screen that explains what is going to happen in each step, even the most uneasy user won’t hesitate to embark for the process. Again, if you like to know more, here’s the project's full story.

There are plenty of other techniques to choose from to get new users on board: Product tours, Coach marks, Tooltips, Wizards and so on. If you start using a new application in the near future, try to evaluate whether it gets you on board without hassle - or not.


Keeping users on board for eternity

The second – even more challenging – step is keeping your users on board.

For most products, once your users are on board you’d like to keep them coming back. That won’t happen by itself.

Good news is that there are UX techniques available to keep them on board. However, the ‘keep-them-coming-back’ patterns tend to be more complicated, simply because you’re requesting users to keep investing their time, money or some other valuable contribution into your product.

In some cases it can be quite straightforward what to do. For example, in products that are aimed at users who like a good competition, gamification techniques like badges, awards, progress tracking and leader boards are super-efficient.

We applied some of those techniques in the design of the new VDAB & Cevora app. ‘Talent for Sales’ educates sales people and supports them after they have completed their training. Most sales people are very results-oriented and fancy a good challenge now and then. Offering them a valuable app with attractive gamification elements is a guaranteed home run.

Cevora Talent for Sales – scores & badges

Of course, user onboarding isn’t always as straightforward as this. There are a lot of different contexts and users where gamification doesn’t work, even possibly harms. Take healthcare for example, a completely different area where topics to be dealt with are much more sensitive and users much harder to profile.

At this very moment we’re designing a patient platform for a large Belgian hospital, to improve interaction and communication between patients and caregivers. One of the initiatives to support this mission is the development of a mobile app that patients can use to find information, make an appointment, fill in pre-operative questionnaires, update personalized health-related diaries, and so on.

These functionalities often require web forms to fill out and like any UX designer will tell you, forms on smartphone screen size are a tough challenge. Now, we know our trade, so we’ve designed a very decent form. It’s a good solution, but we want more.

That’s why we’re experimenting with replacing our classic form with a conversational interface, also known as a chatbot. Because it’s work in progress, we cannot show it right now, but it looks very much like this:

Chatbot for fluent interaction with patients – www.your.md

Conversational interfaces have an enormous potential for customer engagement, brand loyalty and user intimacy. By definition, a conversation is a much more immersive experience than a screen where you have to tap around.

Conversational interfaces are a goldmine in value terms and a magic potion to keep your users on board. Because once your users are properly engaged, they’ll come back without you having to poke them time and time again.

Would you like our help with the User Onboarding of your products?

Then get in touch and let’s get and keep your users on board!






Discover our cases

Corona Direct

Belgium’s 1st online car insurance


Paving the way for the new kilometer tax

Cevora & VDAB

Tips & tricks for top salespeople

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