Blog: Improve customer onboarding by reducing UX friction

Improve customer onboarding by reducing UX friction

Marek Sotak
User onboarding

It’s a scary prospect, clicking buttons. After years of teaching how to use software, we’re never surprised to hear: “What happens if I click this?”

There’s nothing instinctively fear-inducing about clicking a button; it’s not like the fear of heights or fast moving objects hurtling towards you. However, negative experiences reinforce this fear. Unfortunately, we all have devastating experiences that all started with the click of a button. How can we design a more empathic user experience?

The “send” experience in Mailchimp is charming because it demonstrates empathy for users. Sweat drips from the chimp’s hand onto a RED BUTTON while it hovers… as it’s waiting for you to click send. Mailchimp reminds you that you’re sending an email out to 1000, 5000, or even 1 million subscribers. And you know: that is the multiplier of any mistakes you may have missed.

Jennifer Riggins recently wrote “Why Empathy is the Secret Sauce of Good Software Development” in The New Stack. She advises taking a more empathic approach to all aspects of software development, and bringing the user closer to architects, the QA team, and even Ops. We can design a more empathic user experience.

It’s not UI; it’s me. Where do people need guidance?

Over 20 years ago, Jakob Nielsen outlined 10 Heuristics for User Interface Design which still hold true today. Users are still confronted by unforgivable UIs which cause anxiety:

  • Unclear statuses and states,
  • Lack of control and freedom,
  • No undo option, lack of error-recovery,
  • Lack of error prevention, No checklists or confirmation.

You can design applications to avoid these user experience pitfalls. Can even the best UIs overcome these scary things which cause friction, and slow people down? It seems no matter how hard we try, there are points of friction which ultimately might make people abandon their task altogether.

The fear is real. Many people can relate to this feeling:

Identifying points of friction

Our Analytics can reveal drop-off funnels in user experience. What if your users are sitting there, getting to the point of completing some process, and then... they stop. Is it doubt? Is it second guessing? Perhaps most are variations of feeling like the risk is too great to click that button.

Hotjar is a service which lets you see the frustration and prevarication, click by click, scroll by scroll. Step 2 of their recommended action plan is to look for “barriers” on pages with the highest traffic and biggest drop offs.

You may find that many of the issues are related to issues of trust (in your application or service) and confidence (error prevention, sharing).

Watch out for these scary things:

  • Inputting in personal information
  • First-time configuration
  • Changing global configuration
  • Administering access
  • Sending something
  • Publishing something
  • Uploading something
  • Inviting or connecting to someone
  • Chatting with someone live

With services like Hotjar, you can observe your potential users sitting there, getting to a point and then finally deciding that clicking a particular button isn’t worth the risk. They may need to delay, pause and maybe come back later after a cup of coffee. If they do come back, that is.

Mapping your user experience, where do you need to build a bridge?

These are the points where a friendly, guided tour can help users reach their goals. Imagine the benefit if you could reach out during any of the scary tasks with a step-by-step tutorial, providing confirmations and clear statuses at each turn. Using a walkthrough you could guide your users through some of the trickier steps to offer assurance and encouragement at each stage. The nice thing is, it won’t clutter up your UI for users who are more confident. That’s how you can make your UI more empathic with in-app guidance.

Here are some other ideas for how you can reach out to users at gaps, and help them make the next move:

  • Place Launchers around potential trouble spots.
  • Use Automation to autolaunch tours for first time users, or for existing users when a new feature is rolled out.
  • Offer inline knowledge base articles so users can see help without having to leave the site.
  • Let users dismiss tours with a clear “Got it!” so you can make sure they know help is available when they need it, and doesn’t get in their way.

In the next post, we'll look at how you can apply these techniques to help users, and use the right tools in Inline Manual.