Don’t Ask Users to Bring the Beer

by williamldennis

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Your app is a party. It’s great. You know that. Unfortunately, users don’t.

Accordingly, your app’s first-time user experience needs to act like an invite to the party. You want to drum up excitement, give guests a taste of what to expect, and provide key details so they can prepare to have as much fun as possible.

A succesful party invite gets people interested enough to commit their time to your party. An app’s onboarding experience is no different.

Imagine getting this party invite:

Dear Guest,

Please bring beer. We have a lot of awesome things planned, but to be honest this party is going to be super lame without beer.

Once you’ve bought the beer, you’ll see what I mean.

Thanks!

-Shitty Host

So many apps start their onboarding process with “Invite Your Friends!” – the new-user equivalent of “Please bring beer.”

This is an awful approach to product onboarding, not to mention user growth. You’re putting a lot of the responsibility on a user who can’t properly be an advocate for your service. In addition, many services aren’t significantly improved with friends. “Invite your friends” comes off as a thinly veiled effort to fuel an app’s user numbers.

If you’re looking to build your user base, don’t focus on invites from first time users. Instead, show users the core value of what you’ve built. Give them a taste of the experience. Ideally, boil down your app to the “Ah-Ha” moment. Get the user to that point as soon as possible.(Even before signup if possible).

Product walkthroughs and tutorials, though common, aren’t successful onboarding strategies. They’re boring and have no “Ah-Ha” moments.

Aside: An “Ah-Ha” moment is a single occurence of your app’s core value. It solves the user’s problem. Often it is dependant on a user taking some action. Ah-Ha moments release dopamine and should be the main cornerstone of your product’s user experience. When looking to improve product, think about increasing the speed to and frequency of Ah-Ha moments.

If your app relies heavily on network effects (and the corresponding “empty room” problem), craft a unique onboarding experience that hacks the Ah-Ha moment. Create fake users, manually generate content, make a “single-player mode.” If the onboarding process doesn’t mimic the full in-app experience 100%, that’s OK. It probably shouldn’t.

Any good app gets users to the Ah-Ha moment during onboarding just like any good party has a well crafted invite. Focus on getting users to have an Ah-Ha moment and RSVP to your party. If they’re a good guest, they’ll show up with friends and a six pack of cold ones.


If you want to see how we handle the onboarding process, sign up for early access to our app Hollerback.

Let me know if I can be helpful.

will@hollerback.co // @willydennis

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