This article was originally published on Digital-Adoption.com

In this article, we will look at 5 product onboarding best practices and guiding principles that can upgrade (or even transform) your onboarding process.

After all, onboarding is a crucial stage in the product adoption process, affecting:

  • User engagement levels
  • User abandonment and retention
  • User productivity

Onboarding ultimately affect the value that a user – whether that user is a customer, an employee, an app user, or all of the above – brings to the table.

5 of the Most Important Product Onboarding Best Practices, Principles, and Strategies

Positive onboarding experiences will decrease user frustration and burnout, increasing the bottom-line contributions they make over the long term.

For employees who are adopting products such as SaaS platforms, great onboarding experiences can boost satisfaction, engagement, and productivity.

For customers, good onboarding experiences can reduce churn, while increasing longevity, loyalty, and customers’ average lifetime value.

Regardless of who the end user is, it pays to create great onboarding experiences.

Below are five product onboarding best practices and principles. Following these guidelines can help improve and enhance the results of any onboarding process.

1. Be Data-Driven

Data can offer real-time insights into the onboarding process. 

Those insights can help onboarding specialists understand:

  • What works
  • What doesn’t 
  • How to improve

Data is also essential for tracking the results of any experiments, tests, or changes made to the onboarding process.

An organization that tests a new digital adoption platform, for instance, will need data to analyze that platform’s effectiveness.

In this example, that data can come from:

  • User surveys
  • Software analytics
  • Training data

Among other sources.

Using data in the onboarding process will, in short, help onboarding specialists ground their efforts in real-world, real-time information … and get better results from their efforts at the same time.

2. Focus on the User Experience

During product onboarding, the user experience plays a big role in the adoption process.

Good onboarding experiences should:

  • Be streamlined and simplified
  • Help new users achieve their goals as quickly as possible
  • Stay user-centered
  • Decrease time-to-competency 
  • Train efficiently

The better the product onboarding experience, the more likely users will be to stay on board for the long haul.

Experiences that are too frustrating, complex, or confusing, on the other hand, can quickly drive users away – and once they are gone, they will likely never return.

3. Teach Efficiently

Every new software product carries a learning curve.

In some cases, this learning curve is short and sweet – games or consumer-facing apps, for instance, may be learned in seconds.

Other situations, though, call for more in-depth onboarding and training.

Business-to-business SaaS platforms, for example, carry hefty learning curves. 

In these cases, a simplified onboarding process means:

  • Shortening learning curves
  • Simplifying complex platforms and functionality
  • Focusing only on the tasks that matter

Digital adoption platforms (DAPs) are good onboarding solutions that can assist with all of these aims.

A business that employs a DAP during onboarding, for instance, can exploit features such as:

  • Contextualized training that gives new users immediately actionable advice
  • Step-by-step walkthroughs that automatically teach even the most complex workflows
  • Software analytics that offer insight into onboarding processes and user behavior

All of these features combine to help onboarding managers deliver fast, efficient teaching, from the moment users open up a new platform or application.

And, with the right use of a DAP’s analytics, that onboarding experience can be continually refined and optimized over time.

4. Help Users Become Productive ASAP

Usability, UX design, interaction design, and product design all focus on helping one person: the user.

The user experience, as explained, is a critical area to focus on during onboarding.

And one of the most important areas to consider is user productivity.

Accelerating time-to-productivity during the onboarding process can have several positive results.

For instance:

  • Users will achieve their goals more quickly, which means that they realize a product’s value more quickly
  • Faster time-to-productivity also means users will spend less time learning the product and more time using it … decreasing their mental effort and time-to-ROI
  • Productive users are more satisfied and engaged

In other words, the less time that users spend being unproductive, the better.

Therefore, for product developers who create products – as well as businesses that implement software solutions in-house – it pays to help users become productive as quickly as possible.

5. Test and Optimize

No onboarding program is perfect or 100% complete.

Products change, users change, and businesses change.

Effective onboarding, therefore, should also be undergoing continual change.

To effectively adapt to user needs, businesses should:

  • Collect data, such as software statistics and user feedback
  • Analyze and understand trends that are indicated by that data
  • Learn what works, what doesn’t, and what to test next
  • Experiment and test variations, such as new training approaches or onboarding strategies

Testing and optimization can make a massive difference in the results of an onboarding program, positively impacting user retention, productivity, and value.