When it comes to improving product adoption, one of the most effective tools at your disposal is the user onboarding checklist.
A great checklist guides your users through various tasks. It helps them identify key features of your product, and it means they start getting value from it right away.
Building a checklist is easy. Tools like Userpilot can help you implement one into your product in no time at all.
Building a checklist that actually works, however, can be a little trickier.
With that in mind, I thought I’d share some tips you should use when you build your user onboarding checklist.
Let’s get started…
1: Keep It Simple
The whole point of a checklist is that it takes a fairly complicated and drawn-out concept, and then breaks it down into a series of simple tasks.
For an email newsletter tool, for example, the checklist may help guide users towards sending their first email. This can be a fairly complex task if you’re new to the product.
A checklist would break it down into different mini-tasks. You’d end up with something like this:
- Import your audience.
- Choose a template.
- Create your email.
- Schedule your email.
- Send your campaign.
By breaking large goals into manageable tasks, you make it easier for your users to follow the steps.
It’s also worth remembering that your user doesn’t have much experience with your product at this early stage. That makes it even more important that you keep it simple.
In this example from GrowthMentor, you can see how each of the items on the checklist is simple and straightforward.
Added together, however, the items combine to help the user fill out their profile and get started with the platform.
Asking users to “Fill out their profile.” and leaving it at that wouldn’t be as effective.
Breaking it down into simple tasks helps the user understand what they need to do, and also makes it seem much more manageable as a result.
Whenever you create a user onboarding checklist, remember the golden rule: Keep it simple.
2: Give Your Users A Headstart
There’s an old joke that you should start every to-do list you make with “Create to-do list.” That way you’ve already made progress.
Well, it turns out there’s some truth to that joke.
There’s a psychological phenomenon called the “Endowed Progress Effect”. In simple terms, it means people are more likely to complete a task (or series of tasks) if they feel they’ve already made progress.
This presents an opportunity for a great little hack you can use to enhance your user onboarding checklist.
Simply checking off the first item on the list is enough to motivate users to take the next step.
A famous example of this in action is when you receive one of those stamp cards from coffee shops. You get a stamp every time you buy a coffee. Ten stamps and you get a drink for free.
I’ve got plenty of unfinished cards like this lying around. Turns out I would be much more likely to collect those stamps if I’d be given a couple up-front.
That’s an example of endowed progress. It makes you feel like you’ve already made progress towards your goal.
Here’s an example more relevant to SaaS products:
When you first sign up to PayPal, that first “Account created” step will already be checked off.
Even though that first step is literally just creating the account, it’s enough to motivate you onwards to step 2.
If you’re going to use a progress bar (see “Measure Your User’s Progress”) then that provides another chance to use endowed progress in your user onboarding checklist.
Simply make sure the bar starts part-way along, say 10%, so that your user feels they’ve already made progress.
Kickstarter use this to great effect, showing a progress bar towards a project’s funding goal.
If somebody sees that the bar is already close to the end, they’re more likely to invest in the project.
Endowed progress is a powerful way of improving the effectiveness of your user onboarding checklist.
[For more psychology hacks you can use in your onboarding, check out this article.]
3: Measure Your Users’ Progress
If you have a lot of items on your user onboarding checklist, it can be a little overwhelming for your users.
This can often lead to them simply ignoring the list altogether and that can have a fairly big impact on the success of your onboarding.
A good way to make things clearer for your users is to add a progress bar to your checklist. This provides a couple of benefits.
Firstly, it provides your users with a clear indication of how they’re getting on with your product. Seeing that you’ve completed 50% of the onboarding is far more enticing than seeing you’ve completed 5 out of 10 tasks.
Secondly, it provides further incentive. As that bar moves steadily closer to the end, it encourages your users to carry on. They see a direct change in response to their actions.
If, for example, one of the steps on your checklist was to add an email signature, the user wouldn’t actually gain any value from that until they came to send an email.
By moving the progress bar along once they complete that step, they can see that they’re on the right track. In this case, the value comes from seeing their progress, as opposed to the product.
A progress bar, therefore, works extremely well when your checklist is relatively long, or when the tasks don’t provide immediate value to the user.
This example from Storychief is great:
The progress bar sits prominently above the checklist, and clearly shows the user’s progress. It also has an encouraging statement — “You are almost there!” — to help motivate the user further.
Progress bars enable your users to measure their progress, and inspire them to continue towards the goal.
4: Turn Onboarding Into A Game
Everyone likes to feel like they’re playing a game, especially when they’re at work.
When a user starts trying out a new SaaS app, the last thing they want is a checklist of even more chores they need to get done.
In some cases, a checklist might even put your users off. They might see the tasks and immediately decide that it can wait for another day.
Sometimes those users don’t ever come back.
To combat this, you can use gamification to turn even the most mundane checklist into something fun for your users.
Gamification is, as the name suggests, the process of turning something into a game.
You can do this in several different ways.
One way is to literally turn your app into a game. Habitica does this perfectly. It may seem like your standard task manager app, helping you to form good habits.
Under the surface, however, is a role-playing game where users can collect items like armor or gold to level up and become more powerful.
Users obtain these items by completing real-world tasks, and by engaging with the app. This is a great example of how gamification can influence your users’ behavior.
The other, more commonly used, way is to gamify your user onboarding checklist.
You can do this by adding badges, points, or even cold hard cash to each task. When a user completes a task, they get a prize.
Here’s an example from Khan Academy:
The folks at Khan Academy want people to continue learning through their product, so they’ve included a range of badges you can unlock.
The more you use Khan Academy, the more badges you get, and the better your profile looks to visitors. People love to show off, so any way you can help them do that will work wonders.
Another way is by enabling users to level up as they use the app, as Databox does in this example:
Everyone likes the idea of levelling up, and this is a great way of tying personal development into prolonged use of the product.
The example from Databox is also a great illustration of using progress bars (see “Measure Your Users’ Progress).
Turning your user onboarding checklist into a game is a fantastic way of encouraging your users to work through the tasks.