Why User Onboarding is so important for customer retention

It’s almost impossible to move ahead without clear onboarding, which helps the user understand how the product works. So, to grow sustainably and scalability.

The fact is that after day one, your product retention will fall absurdly if nothing is done. A product that does not help the user to understand what it is for has very low engagement.

And that goes for any product, be it physical or digital. Try using something that is not designed for ease of use and self-explanatory. Remember when you bought something new and read the instruction manual before using the product.

User Onboarding ROI

Another issue is related precisely to the financial return. Working onboarding to help the user get started on your product greatly increases their likelihood of buying your product. Especially when working with easy entry products such as freemium or trial models.

In a recent Profitwell article, NPS notes showed thatcustomers who said they received good onboarding on a new product had between 12% and 21% more willing to pay than the median.Users who responded negatively were 3% to 9% willingness to pay, indicating that poor onboarding does not necessarily detract much, but surely your product may lose a good willingness to pay.

But this is where retention is where things get really interesting. When comparing the first 60 days of customers with poor perceptions of integration with those with positive perceptions, customers with positive perceptions fall much less in the first 21 days of a customer.

And they conclude the data indicate that good onboarding is essential to encompassing the value of a product with a customer or, at a minimum, mitigating the slippage your customer will get when you start using the product. Especially for him or her to begin to see the value, thereby significantly accelerating their journey.

What they are and for what they serve

I separated this article basically into two parts:

Part 1 — User Onboarding Principles
Part 2 — User Onboarding Best Practices

Principles are strategic, linked to concepts. While best practices are related to key actions in the product.

The basics will help you in decision making. When something is unclear whether you or your team is making the best decision for the user, come back and reflect on what you are doing through the perspective of these 3 principles.

Good practices are intended to help with what should be done. I emphasized 10 good practices I learned and tested over time. This does not mean that you have to employ it exactly this way, as it depends on each context and each product particularity.

In general, I believe that the principles and practices can help many companies, designers, product managers, and developers to create better products.

3 Principles of User Onboarding

1# Onboarding Obsession

The obsession with making your life easier and helping you get started using your product. Be obsessed with helping the user to get started autonomously without someone helping. If the user is unable to enter your software or get started on your product yourself, it is unlikely to engage. Know the reality of your users. You don’t want to design for an area you don’t know well.

2# Onboarding is not a metric: it is an outcome

That means we should not measure Onboarding, any of that. We must collect how many users are entering, what is the dropout rate, where is the “bottleneck” of our product, if any. All of this is obviously very important. The issue here is the metric is the consequence of a job. If you follow the first principle (user obsession), this will probably have a direct result on the result. And how to improve the results? Talk to your user continuously, do not miss this contact. Help your user the results will come.

3# Onboarding Must Be a Continuous Process for Business

It all starts and stays with the mindset that Onboarding is an ongoing process. Anything you look at can look from the perspective of Onboarding. Is this helping the user? Within his journey, is this moment clear to him? If at some point we stop looking at the user’s journey, what was simple becomes a complement and will need human help to be solved. This is closely linked to the day one mentality, every day is like your first day trying to help the user.

Best Practices for User Onboarding

These best practices could apply to any product. But we often see products that we really enjoy using.

1. Focus on the user’s goal

Understand your user/customer. Let’s play the basic. Understand who your customer is and what their aspirations, desires, and motivations are. Understanding this makes it a little clearer where to go, based on evidence and behavior from real users. In practice, start as early as possible by talking directly to your users and find the leanest way to find out if your idea really helps solve a real problem.

Image for post
Understand the perspectives of your audience, the problems through the perspective of users.

Use case: Notion.so

As a use case to illustrate good practice I chose to perform Onboarding of a product that is totally geared to the Product-Led Growth concepts: Notion.so. This software has the value proposition of being an all-in-one workplace: writing, planning, organizing and more.

2. Remove the frictions

Create experiences that are easy to understand and use. Identify what is not essential to perform the key action on your product. Initial barriers are responsible for giving up the user in the first steps. Consider whether what is being inserted helps the user achieve their goal or if it serves to solve a product problem. The paradigm shift here is to guide decisions to solve problems for users, even if the implementation is complex.

Image for post
Creating a Notion account is very fast: the only thing you need to get started is an Email.

Image for post
Notion identifies the type of account and requests authorization (if it’s a Gmail, Hotmail, etc).

O Notion identifica o tipo de conta e solicita a autorização (se é uma conta Gmail, Hotmail, etc).

3. Customize onboarding

Single Onboarding is not for all your users. But for this you will need to contact your users and understand their behaviors and needs, customizing the journey according to each profile. If it is personalized, it gives a lot more confidence and he believes it is for him. There is even a theory in psychology that reports just that, when we offer something to a person there is an unconscious tendency to return that favor. And you can use the cheapest tool in the early versions, mainly to collect learning.

Image for post
Understand who your audience is: profile, needs and motivations.

4. Few steps, very clear

Decrease the cognitive effort and skill level that is required by the user in the first steps. Define what steps are required to perform the first actions on your product. Make it clear what skill level is displayed, what should be done, and most importantly, why it needs to be done. People like a reason. The combination of these factors helps to create simple and objective steps. Show a few steps at a time, if possible break into smaller tasks. A 10-step onboarding is a huge effort for the user and a waste of their business.

Image for post
Set the workplace — WHERE.

Image for post
Anticipate data loading — WHAT.

Image for post
Places that can interact with the software — HOW

5. Anticipate the WOW moment

Think about the first thing your product can do for the user to create the first positive feeling of amazement or surprise. Anticipate the WOW moment. Work to deliver this moment as soon as possible, creating the first moments of positive emotion right from the first contact with your product. These small interactions create affective relationships with users.

Image for post
Find out that by importing Evernote data you get $ 5 — my WOW momentum.

6. Show, don’t tell

Whenever possible, be clear about the customer’s goal. The logic is to focus on what makes sense to the user about the problem he wants to solve, not what we want him to do. As a result, you will be able to work with a smaller amount of text, less text means less complexity. Communicate and ensure that everyone, within the moment of your journey, has the reasoning ability, skill and justification to perform the desired action.

Image for post
The product itself already shows how it works, without explaining. Fewer words, less complexity.

7. Action Makes Sense While Educating

This interactive approach drives users to take meaningful actions while instructing them on how to use the software. In addition to making sense in the context where the element is inserted, it is essential that visually it is part of the UI composition. You see, we have to be careful not to be filling the interface with balloons and indications at all times, it’s nothing like that. Key actions need to be integrated with the interface and clear of the objective. Identify potential communication noises and resolve by educating action within the product.

Image for post
One last thing! Use expressions that help connect the user during the journey.

8. Give Rewards

Clearly understand what rewards prompt the user to proceed. If the user is able to move forward and is not properly rewarded for each cognitive effort that is required, the tendency is to leave most of them in the middle.

Image for post
I earned $ 5 credit simply for logging in to any web browser. Uhuu!

9. Templates to make the job easy

Templates help reduce the mental effort to create something. Doing the necessary key action is easier if we suggest how it can be used. Maybe without templates, the user will spend precious minutes thinking about something, while if we offer something ready according to their journey, it is easier to decide what to do. The idea was to create templates so easy to use that the user could just exchange the text for your company name and already publish your first content.

Image for post
Templates help reduce the effort to initiate an action, lower the decision hill.

10. Show the next steps

After the action is completed, show the next steps. Clarify what immediate action the user should take if possible to align with that expectation. A list of tasks to complete creates a clear expectation of the completeness of what has already been done and the next interaction with your product.

Image for post
A list that shows what the next step is: expectation between required skill and dedication (time).

Human beings are conditioned to not like to leave lists that are unfinished or with things to do. So this is a good way to continue customizing the user experience while not completely eliminating the momentum in the first experience.


Onboarding is a process, a way of developing and looking at the product. It is how the user experiences a product and how it is guided through it. Good products have development and design teams obsessed with Onboarding.



The home of the product experience. This was the Pulse 2019 call.

And for being a designer and acting directly with product, it caught my attention. Especially because I work directly with the concept of product-led growth since the beginning of 2018.

Today I see that the investment I made in terms of flight tickets, lodging and everything that participation in such an event needs, especially for those who live so far (37 hours of travel), worth every penny.

There were 3 days of immersion that were worth as a course or a specialization. It is an investment in education that every design professional or product worker should perform at least once a year.

The event took place May 21–24, 2019 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Namely, the Moscone is the largest event center in the city, where approximately 5000 people were received. This was, according to the organizers, the largest edition of the event and probably the most luxurious.

Image for post
With Guilherme Lopes, Co-Founder and Head Product Growth Resultados Digitais.

I summarized the catch-ups and insights of the main keynotes. For a 3-day event that I participated, it would obviously be practically impossible to summarize everything here. What I did then was a clipping and I edited what I really believe can help solve the problems that are on the agenda.

A lot will be left out — and it breaks my heart. But patience, an important part of my job is making decisions. So I decided to show what really caught my eye.

But why a designer in a Customer Success event?

Product Experience is Customer Experience

Product experience takes center stage.

Especially SaaS companies, the Customer Success team helps many companies engage and lead customers to adoption. However, this feature is somewhat limited. It is not possible to scale personalized attention to customers who want to experiment or simply have the first contact with the product.

In this context the experience in the product takes center stage. It is precisely at this point that the event converges to one of the basic pillars of the Product-Led Growth concept, that is, the product becomes prominent. So much so that the first item addressed at the conference is precisely the importance of Product and Customer Success teams working together.

If on one hand the CS team works directly in contact with the customer, raising the main points of pain and improvement needed, on the other we have the product team that has the ability to provide solutions in an efficient and scalable way for the company.

The alignment of these vectors results in the improvement of the product made based on real data and pain of the clients, making a connection with the next point that is related to the evolution of the concept of Customer-First, that is, the human vision of the client.

Human-First Leadership

Do whatever it takes to create a better experience within your product. The concept of Human-First works hard with the issue of building a vision of community, of integration. It was very interesting that one of the speakers (Allison Pickens, COO Gainsight) spoke especially about the importance of preserving our human characteristics and how we need to make the right balance of our day-to-day activities.

Especially in a high-productivity, high-demand market, addressing these issues sounds like a taboo break. And it really is necessary because we need to realize ourselves as human beings that we are, full of failures and needs.

The first step is to understand and respect ourselves as a person. Take time to study, to work, to rest, to take some time off from technology. She even mentioned an example of going to a weekend in a country house with no electricity or internet and how important it is to replenish our energies.

The second point is to note that our client is also a human being. In practice there is no relationship between companies, but a human relationship between people. And that these people’s decisions are based on emotions, much more than logic. In fact, 80% of our decisions are driven by emotions, we use some 20% logic just to justify the decisions that have been emotionally made.

Being alive is proof that you can win in business by putting the human being first.

The 5 Principles for Creating Human-First Products

Every human is in search or would like to be treated within these values. To create Human-First products it is necessary to follow these principles and put them into practice.

  • Humans Seek Growth : Understand that all humans are in search or growing. It is part of our nature to pursue an evolutionary scale. Support them as they move toward your future. Treat them with respect and become part of their journey yours.
  • Human beings are special : What is special about humans is our humanity. As humans, we can think and articulate thoughts, we also have a sense of right and wrong, which means our consciousness. Seek the customization and customization of each individual who wishes to make a positive mark on this planet. Treat everyone kindly — not because they are kind, but because you are.
  • Vulnerability : We are vulnerable beings, capable of making mistakes and of suffering special deficiencies (temporary or permanent), diseases and limitations imposed by the stages of human life. There are also social, political and environmental determinants: for example, culture, economy, power relations, natural disasters. Not just us but also our customers.Understanding and respecting this is a fundamental part of this process.
  • Treat humans as ends, not as means: Humans should be treated as ‘ends’ and not as ‘means’. Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.
  • Autonomous Beings: Respect for people is the concept that all people deserve the right to fully exercise their autonomy. An autonomous person is defined as an individual who is able to self-legislate and is able to make judgments and actions based on their particular set of values, preferences and beliefs.

It seems easier to talk than to do, but these concepts are critical to building products based on the Human-First vision.

There are some words that are repeated sometimes like respect , gentleness , autonomy .

If you could give a hint to put these principles into practice, you would follow these concepts as slogans in your next decision-making.

Before we are customers, we are people. We are human beings.

Best Product Experience Through Empathy

In this session, Andy Mcmillian, CEO of User Testing , showed how product teams can combine Big Data with human perception to bring empathy to the customer’s current digital experience.

McMillian said that companies with superior customer experience consistently outperform and perform better than others. According to a Forrester survey (2018 Customer Service Trends: How Operations Become Faster, Cheaper — And Yet, More Human) that point to CX trends, the rate of return of customers to companies that perform outside the curve is extremely high. Once again the word consistency appearing as a key factor for business success.

Another issue is that consumer expectations are harder to meet. Companies should think beyond channels — and in addition to just switching conversations to digital channels. They should focus on providing the best experience based on the type of context and query, including via chatbots, visual engagement, and voice interfaces.

First of all companies need to admit that there is a problem. While 75% of organizations believe that they themselves are user-centered, only 30% of customers believe this is the case. According to Capgemini’s study, this gap between what companies believe and what actually delivery to their customers is what the CEO of User Testing calls the “empathy gap.”

Tips for Building Customer Empathy :

  • Everyone needs to be able to see, listen and feel as in fact the customer experience: it is often digital.
  • Use technology to scale solutions.
  • Overcome what he called the development team’s curse of knowledge (when he thinks he knows what the user needs / wants).
  • Measure the hours of exposure to the customer, especially in functions that are not customer oriented by nature.
Image for post

Good inventors and designers understand their customers deeply. They spend tremendous energy developing that intuition. They study and understand many anecdotes rather than just the ones you’ll find in surveys. They live with the design.

Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO Amazon.

The 3 Inconvenient Truths About Leading Human-First Vision

In this talk, Chris MacNamara shared his experience as a leader and manager in the role of VP of Customer Sucess at Glassdoor — a site where current and former employees anonymously analyze companies and their management.

The perception that employees have about culture and leadership matters. Is very. Putting it in an order of magnitude, first and foremost what matters is the seniority of its leaders, followed by the company’s culture and the third quadrant financial compensation.

According to research by MacNamara, 65% of participants identified that respectful treatment by all employees is the primary unit of job satisfaction.

Human-first may not be the same thing Customer-First. On the contrary, as much as it sounds like a game of words, they are completely different concepts and prerogatives. It is important to correctly interpret these concepts in order to put them into practice. Watch out for the hype.

Human-first may not be speed first. Steering is more important than speed.It is better to be going in the right direction with things that you truly believe and that are aligned with your principles than trying to achieve results in the short term.

Human-first may not be comfort first. Making decisions is not an easy process, especially when it is necessary to make decisions that are seen as unpopular. The best way to get your team members engaged is to be transparent and open the reasons why they made such a decision. Reasons are the key to understanding.

Key lessons from Chris MacNamara:

  • Your decisions as a leader directly influence the culture and engagement of the company’s employees.
  • Human-first may not be customer first, speed first or comfort first. Human-first, very often, is feeling first (based on feelings).
  • Human-first means you do not always agree — but the reasons are the key to understanding.
  • Transparency over constraints build trust.
  • Transparency over mistakes build the culture of accountability.

Customer-centric product innovation — How the Slido product team reinvented itself with deep collaboration from the Customer Success team

The case of Slido is very interesting. It is a very intuitive and easy to use tool and is used at the end of each Pulse talk as a question and answer window. At the end of each talk the audience could ask questions to the speakers directly through the application. These questions were quickly approved by a moderator and

Image for post
Slido in action: The audience asks the questions in real time and they already appear on the panel.

According to Peter Komorkik CEO of Slido and Jo Massie, VP of Customer Success, 1 year ago (2018) Slido was totally focused on user retention. In order to reach their retention goals, they tried everything to move the pointer: onboarding, surveys, data, processes, customer education, etc. Nothing gave a very expressive result. To really make a difference, they had to change things on the product side.

In order to reach their retention goals, they tried everything to move the pointer. To really make a difference, they had to change things on the product side.

First because the product team was just running a roadmap. The Customer Success team had the feeling that their voice did not matter to others, even though it was on the front line with the customer. In a few weeks after starting the quarter, no one else in the company believed in the product roadmap.

Image for post
Developers regularly participate in interviews with users of the product.

They have created a team called Customer Experience Team, or customer experience team. In practice they connected the engineering team and the customer success team to work together, attacking the major pains, and solving real customer issues.

Product Side Changes:

  • Abolished product roadmap
  • They have created truly autonomous teams
  • They defined a clear product strategy (and simple)
  • They identified the main problems
  • They put the customer sucess team inside the product

Change of mindset in the Customer Success team:

  • Embrace the pain of the user as an opportunity to learn and improve;
  • Do not solve the problem just for one user, try to solve for the next 1000;
  • Repeat the pain / insight (critical frequency for product teams);
  • See the product team as an ally;

The first results for Slido:

  • It’s a big change. The first results will take some time to appear;
  • They achieved 20% improvement in the activation of new users;
  • Many Q1 roadmap ideas have not survived the Discovery phase;
  • The biggest things we did came from the conversations with the users;
Image for post
The best products are built from the intersection between engineering and customer success.

Customer insights are the lifeblood of user-centric product innovation. To keep insights flowing, you need to continuously demonstrate your impact on the product.

Slido was one of the best cases presented in my vision, especially by reinforcing the importance of teamwork as we continually keep the conversation process with clients.

The 5 Principles behind Google’s Product-Led Growth

Product growth is often thought to be driven by smart growth hacks or the delivery of functionality that is always promised in the next product launch.

Image for post
Ken Rudin, Mr. Director of User Growth at Google.

But companies that dominate providing consistent product growth take a different approach. They have identified a core set of product principles that drive growth reliably, and the continued application of these principles is at the heart of their product growth strategy.

In this talk, Ken Rudin, Mr. Director of User Growth at Google, addressed some of the key growth principles that help Google deliver consistent, reliable product growth.

Principle 1 — Get the first right mile. Focus on activating users on your product, not just onboarding.

Principle 2 — Growth is a game of inches. Focus on multiple small victories in return for a great single win.

Principle 3 — Increase product discovery. Gradual progression in awareness of available resources. Do not show everything at once. Add more entry points.Promote features in a contextualized way.

Principle 4 — Focus on your worst users, not your best. Focus on marginal users, not the most powerful ones. Growth is often driven by churn reduction versus increased acquisition.

Principle 5 — All “What” needs a “Why”. Identify motivations for the actions you want to encourage. People are predictably irrational. Incorporate behavioral science into your product and marketing initiatives.

Image for post
People are more likely to complete pre-filled cards.

How to Build a Team Focused on Product-Led Growth :

  • Small team working all the time together is better than a great team that works only a part of the time. The team’s formation can be composed by product manager, designer, engineer and an analyst.
  • Choose from a distributed or centralized structure. But do not stand on the wall, set one up.
  • Objective: to apply scientific method to move the metric. Try and iterate over (do not build and bid for the market).
  • Quick target, measurable wins.
  • Promote victories.

As I said, making decisions is not always easy, but it’s a task that needs to be done. Showing everything means almost the same as showing nothing.

I also attended Maria Martinez, Dan Olsen, Ilan Frank, Christina Kosmowski, Ciara Peter, Guilherme Lopes, Jonathan Mildenhall, Emily Chang (author of Brotopia — Breaking up the boy’s club of Silicon Valley), Leah McGowen- other names that were equally sensational.

Image for post
Beside Nick Mehta, CEO Gainsight.

Many thanks go to Gainsight and Nick Mehta for providing such an incredible event and an absolutely enriching experience in every way. The Pulse 2019 was flawless and certainly one of the best events I’ve ever attended. Thank you!

A talk by Cameron Moll, Head of Product Design at Facebook for Awwwards Conference San Francisco, may 2018. One of the most impressive and memorable presentations at this conference.

The main aspects of what Cameron said how to build great teams and products.

As a design leader, what you need to know and do.

Unity over uniformity: users used to dislike unfamiliar experiences they always expect to do something naturally. The degree to which user successfully navigate new, unfamiliar experiences based on knowledge acquired in previous experiences.

Chemistry over culture: we need to be the voice and talk about this. Group of similarities. Leverage can be given culture. Think of the workplace. Think about your approach to your projects.

People over process (6 six ways that we can put):

1. Listening before leading.

As creator professionals, you are leaders. Listening is the great enabler of the leadership. Faster answer the right question, given proper feedback. Design fundamentally is about solving problems and the leadership is about the same thing. Emphasise. Is impossible to solve a problem before defining them.

2. Don’t be a jerk to work co.

A teammate said — I want to be in the team that is the nicest work within at the entire company. Doesn’t mean that people be around you. Just be nice, be great.

3. Don’t let the minutia get lost in the essential.

What is the importance that is lost in the minutia. Prioritise the essential in your work. Put people first. And let the minutia fall away

4. Have strong opinions but hold on in the slushily.

You willing to have, your mind changes by your pairs. Be willing to compromise. Be willing to experiment. And the willingness to align your culture more close to the become more like chemistry.

5. Ship imperfect products. Perfection never ships.

I only know one way to successfully ship products. And that is — Ship imperfect products. Get stuck in this endless loop of “I will just fix this one more thing and I will be done with it”. And do be never done with it. I run this so many times. Great designers are in that constant task between shipping and quality. People that use those products. People above the process of trying to get. When you ship imperfect products, you allow yourself to place people above process. The people that will use those products Done is better than perfect. Ship imperfection.

6. People above culture.

If you are the moderator, and any and people will (If people dominate). Identify people that don’t have a voice in that room. Ask if have something to share. Fill the people have a place in your team.

For many years, especially in the 2000s, the trend was for clean interfaces. Interfaces using “good design” concepts were believed to be constructed using very small fonts, many shadows, and some 3D effects. In other cases, some established concepts minimized the importance of copywriting in the interfaces. I have also heard that it was not necessary to pay too much attention to the text, after all, nobody read them anyway. People who worked for many years in this area probably will remember that.

This is not exactly how the book of Kinneret Yifrah begins, but I have lived much of this beginning of 00’s on the Internet. Today, seeing the growing importance of the UX discipline for organizations and large companies, it is increasingly evident that UX and Microcopy combine. I used to say that the definition of UX itself is somewhat confused with the microcopy which populate the interfaces of digital products.

According to Yifrah, the definition of microcopy is:

The words or phrases in the user interface which are directly related to the actions a user takes:

1. The motivation before the action;

2. Instructions that accompany the action

3. The feedback after the user has taken the action.

This concept is very important because it establishes a new vision about the importance of Microcopy to design an interface. It also brings the strategic approach leading the issue to a new level, taking copywriting to the heart of decisions at the highest levels of the corporation.

But after all, what can a Microcopy do for the interface? Yifrah addresses some perspectives on what can be done.

1. Create a positive experience and engage the user

Expand engagement and create a new vision for users who use your product. Helps reduce the chasm between the machine and human feelings, always present in any situation. Show the user a vision which also uses the product. Make clear that someone before him thought and designed that experience in the sense of helping him to complete the task, humanizing the relationship.

2. Increase usability

Significantly improves the usability of what is designed, minimizing possible points of friction with users. Small words well thought out and designed to appear at the right time and at the right time to make the whole process more fluid. It gives a view of who is a system user for who actually uses your product.

3. Enhance branding and differentiation

Here I believe to be the most important view from the strategic point around the concept of microcopy. Thinking like the voice and tone, what we are going to say and how we are going to say affects the whole perception of users around the brand. Bring to interface all the personality we design for a product, creating a truly unique experience. Analyzing the brand strategy, mapping the points of contact and differentiating your product from the rest of the competition.

There is a huge potential in the study of Microcopy. How they can extend the brand experience in a world so saturated with information. Yiafrah’s book provides a very in-depth methodological study, recommended not only for who already working with UX for many years but mainly for those intending to start in field of UX study. Indispensable for all ages ;-)

Bibliography: Yifra, Kinneret. Microcopy: The Complete Guide. Haifa, 2017.