Knowing your user’s story is central to a great onboarding experience – but how do you actually tell that story?
At some point you need to write the content of your onboarding: words, sentences, value props, the works. Ultimately, it’s the content that helps your users achieve their goals. That’s a lot of heavy lifting for just a few bits of text. As it turns out, writing your onboarding is a real job, and it’s often harder than you might think. The hardest part of all is figuring out where to start.
In this presentation, Jonathon Colman shares an approach and a few tools that make it easier to write a great onboarding experience.
- Voice of Design Podcast #18: Kristina Halvorson
- Useronboard.com: Onboarding teardowns
- Nicely Done: Onboarding Patterns for Inspiration
- UI-Patterns: List of Onboarding Examples
- Mobile Onboarding Design Patterns
- Josh Seiden: Outcomes Over Output
- Mark Boulton: A Richer Canvas
- Karen McGrane: Adapting Ourselves to Adaptive Content
- Jeffrey Zeldman: “Content precedes design.”
- Donna Lichaw: The User’s Journey
- Donna Lichaw: Storymapping Toolkit
- Kathy Sierra: Badass: Making Users Awesome
- Samuel Hulick: UserOnboard: “Features vs. Benefits”
- Intercom: Product Tours for Onboarding
- Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action
- Robbie Allan: What Jobs to Be Done Can Teach Us About The User Onboarding Experience
- Jonathon Colman: A Content-First Approach to Product Onboarding
Jonathon Colman – A content-first approach to product onboarding
Content: “it’s the stuff I came here for” Jonathon Colman
A content-first approach to product onboarding with Jonathon Colman pic.twitter.com/uwpMSb5iwO
— Jean-Jacques Halans (@halans) November 1, 2019
The four basic interactions of the universe:
- weak nuclear force
- strong nuclear force
The four forces that act on people who are considering moving from one solution to another:
- push – away from what you have
- pull – to the new
- anxiety – about leaving
- inertia – change is hard
Let’s consider what content is – if Jon was to ask everyone we’d all have a different answer. So the most minimal definition of content: “it’s the stuff I came here for”.
— Elle Geraghty Content Strategy (@EllenGeraghty) November 1, 2019
Design from the content out, not the canvas in – Mark Boulton
Think about the way the responsive web works – it really expects the content to respond to the space available to it. Which often breaks – great example of a headline being truncated and changing the meaning.
Content-first flips that – the layout needs to expand to fit the content.
Design without content is just decoration. – Zeldman
Most onboarding is created as decoration. Little pointers and hints scattered over what you already have.
Stop decorating! Start narrating.
Conceptual model for a narrative: Exposition → Inciting incident → Rising action → Crisis → Climax → Denouement → End. Star Wars follows this narrative arc perfectly.
Users go through a narrative when they use your product. You can design onboarding with these stories in mind.
resource: concept story worksheet
Story matters – we are connected to stories and we live through them.
Kathy Sierra – “Upgrade your user, not your product. Don’t build better cameras, build better photographers.”
— Sample Coffee (@samplecoffeebar) November 1, 2019
You don’t sell your product, you sell the vision of the person you could become using the product. “People don’t buy products, they buy better versions of themselves.”
At Intercom they use Jobs To Be Done (JTBD), which is a useful model for building stories.
Think about how to translate the four forces into feelings:
- Understand the push
- Strengthen the pull
- Calm their anxieties
- Overcome the inertia
Speak to feelings, not mechanics.
Example of bad mechanics – light switches that need extensive documentation. Light switches!
“Stop trying to solve product problems with content”
— Imogen Baxter ? (@imogenhbaxter) November 1, 2019
Product problems cannot be solved with content.
Focus on benefits not features.
example: introducing formatting tools in a chat client. The content is ok but it does mostly talk about the mechanics, what to click and what the buttons do. What people really want is for people to actually read and act on their messages!
Empty states are onboarding – you are missing a huge opportunity if you’re not using them. Talk about what the user will get by using the feature – the why, why should they use it. Then move on to how to do it and what will happen.
why/how/what comes from the book: Start With Why – Simon Sinek
- Understand the push
- Strengthen the pull
- Calm their anxieties – how will this make you and your stakholders successful
- Overcome the inertia – what’s the best, shortest path to success
Six key messages of onboarding, based on Jon reviewing hundreds of onboarding flows:
1. Welcome – acknowledge customers and make them feel valued
2. Identity – show how the customer should consider interacting with the product, establish your voice
3. Problems to solve – lead with the benefits of your solution and show how they address my needs
4. Explicit value proposal – set clear expectations for what your customers will get using your product
5. Show the mechanics – walk customers through how they can get the most out of your product
6. A call to action – don’t just explain the product, get me to start using it effectively
Onboarding is not a feature. Don’t build as decoration or an extra feature.
Onboarding is a product and ideally a team. Intercom has a dedicated onboarding team to build, measure and improve onboarding.
When you handle the four forces, magic can happen – and users see a world of possibilities.