7 User Onboarding Best Practices

7 User Onboarding Best Practices

March 29, 2024
Content Development
Customer Onboarding
Customer Success
Training Strategy

Imagine this: new customers land on your product after signing their contract, but they hit a wall of confusing instructions instead of a smooth introduction. Often, companies focus more on flashy features and marketing campaigns, neglecting the crucial first impression. "They'll figure it out," they think, overlooking the research: About 40–60% of users who try new software lose interest, and a big reason is that the initial user experience is poor.That means you only have a window of time to wow new customers. If you do, you risk losing them long-term.Investing in a seamless onboarding experience isn't a cost; it's an investment in long-term success. In this blog, we’ll discuss user onboarding best practices and explain how Skilljar can help you build an effective user onboarding process.

External training programs deliver user onboarding best practices

External training programs aren't just about content repositories—they tap into specialized instructional design. In most organizations, the training team, learning design specialist, or instructional designer outlines the curriculum and picks the optimal delivery method.Content for external training programs can be laser-focused on diverse stakeholder needs. Imagine crafting compelling onboarding experiences for customers segmented by technical proficiency, industry, or use case. This targeted approach ensures each user receives relevant information, maximizing engagement and value derived.Then, external training programs extend beyond traditional onboarding, offering support across various company functions. Equip your customer support team with product-specific training modules, empower sales reps with in-depth feature knowledge, and provide marketing teams with user insights from training data. This creates a unified front where all departments speak the same language and seamlessly support users. It also allows customers to be self-serve and not bog down those teams with day-to-day education requests. Implementing a customer training program is an investment with quantifiable returns. Expect a tangible decrease in customer support calls as users become self-sufficient. As onboarding creates understanding and value realization, you’ll see higher product adoption and retention rates. Your customers' time to value (TTV) shrinks, leading to faster satisfaction.

7 user onboarding best practices to ensure customer success

If you’re building out your onboarding content and program, here are the eight best practices you should consider.

1. Understand and identify product and feature knowledge prerequisites

Forget information overload. Understanding and catering to prerequisites for product knowledge is the cornerstone of an effective onboarding process. Why? Because it's not just about presenting features; instead, it's about strategically guiding users based on their unique needs and goals. We call it building with learner groups in mind.How do you approach this? Segment your users by persona, technical expertise, or use case. This allows you to tailor content directly addressing their specific prerequisites, ensuring relevance and avoiding cognitive overload. The approach needs to differ if you are presenting marketing automation features to beginners versus seasoned professionals.Then, use prioritization. Identify the essential features each group must master as stepping stones to success. Present them in a deliberate order, building upon each other logically. Think of it as constructing a knowledge pyramid, where the foundation (prerequisites) supports the complexities users encounter later. (Spoiler: We’ll talk about how you can use automation to ‘block’ users from any other content in your learning academy to keep them focused on their core goals in the onboarding window).Remember to outline what users can expect from the onboarding journey. This transparency builds trust, manages expectations, and motivates users to progress through the learning process. AI can come in handy in this area—if you need help rapidly creating structured learning objectives or short descriptions from your existing course content, it’s time to lean in. Once you know what your customers need, you can build the right content and delivery.

Skilljar Academy

2. Consider how to communicate product information best

Effective communication is more than just a one-size-fits-all approach. To engage your users and optimize knowledge absorption, understanding how they prefer to receive information is important.Consider the following:Content format and delivery: Do users prefer written guides, engaging video tutorials, interactive webinars, or a mix of formats? For instance, detailed videos explain complex technical information better, while articles or short animations can cover more straightforward concepts.

  • Guided vs. self-serve: Offer options for instructor-led training and self-guided learning modules. Some users appreciate the structure and interaction of live or on-demand webinars, while others prefer the flexibility and control of self-paced learning at their convenience.
  • Microlearning: Break down lengthy content into bite-sized, easily digestible chunks. This approach enhances focus, improves retention, and caters to users with shorter attention spans. Consider offering downloadable transcripts or summaries for users who prefer text-based formats.
  • Dynamic content delivery: Identify information that requires regular updates (e.g., feature changes, new functionalities). Leverage training course modules or dedicated communication channels to deliver timely updates. This proactive approach keeps users informed and ensures they're always up-to-date.

Skilljar customer Solver uses a course module to announce monthly updates (see light blue box in the image) so their users know to expect this, and can then link to find more information about what’s new each month.

Solver Academy

3. Don’t share all of your training content in onboarding

"Less is more" when it comes to user onboarding. While the urge to equip users with all the knowledge upfront is understandable, information overload can be a headache.How do we combat knowledge overload? The first approach prioritizes delivering only the critical knowledge users need to understand the product's core functionalities. Think of it as building a solid foundation upon which they can gradually add layers of more complex learning.Then, align content delivery with user actions and progress. Introduce advanced features or functionalities only when relevant to their current task or goal. This will provide context and enhance the value of the presented information.For example, a Skilljar user doesn’t need to learn how to create a lesson while learning how to create a course. Presenting too much information at once can feel overwhelming. Here is an example of how Skilljar groups different content after the onboarding process so users can take the training they need, when they need it.

Skilljar Academy

Related: Success Strategies for Scaling Customer Education, Training, and Onboarding

4. Consider different use cases

You may have different personas and use cases, especially as your company grows. So, you’ll need to craft your materials to accommodate varied users’ needs. Identify the primary use cases for your product and analyze the specific tasks and workflows associated with each. This understanding will allow you to create targeted learning paths that directly address their needs.While recognizing common ground across use cases, avoid creating generic content that lacks focus. Instead, modular components can be easily swapped to address specific user needs. Consider developing a content library of reusable elements covering foundational topics, specialized features, and industry-specific applications.You can use online training platforms to create personalized learning pathways. These platforms allow you to segment learners based on a persona or use case and deliver relevant content modules in a targeted sequence. The biggest benefit? This will ensure users receive the information they need most.

5. Emphasize quality

In user onboarding, as in many aspects, quality surpasses quantity. Review your onboarding materials (articles, PDFs, videos, etc.) and analyze their effectiveness in terms of user engagement, completion rates, and knowledge retention. Use tools like LearnExperts, where AI amplifies your existing knowledge across the right formats. Another best practice for creating new training content is to analyze frequently asked questions and open tickets to identify common user challenges and knowledge gaps. Address these issues directly through targeted training content, reducing support burden and empowering users to self-solve.

6. Track metrics

The true mark of a successful onboarding program lies in its ability to evolve based on data-driven insights. This means you must track the success of your onboarding program content effectiveness as early as possible, so you can build benchmarks for success.For example, track learner registrations and course completions and match these against customer renewals, churn rates, and ROI regarding product usage later on to evaluate success.By monitoring these metrics for a period, you can identify which materials in your onboarding program work and which don’t. Keeping training content current and relevant is a user onboarding best practice that requires regular evaluation, iteration, and updates. Analyzing these data points is critical to finding ways to improve.Then, we recommend that you go beyond individual content pieces. Track user engagement across the onboarding journey, including completion rates for different learning paths, time spent interacting with materials, and feedback from surveys or polls.You can accomplish this user onboarding best practice with the help of an online learning management system (LMS). These platforms provide detailed insights into user behavior, course completion rates, and content engagement, letting you make better decisions about your onboarding initiatives.

7. Celebrate small wins and milestones

More than just a checklist, your onboarding program should be a journey of discovery and accomplishment. First, acknowledge effort and progress. Recognize completed tasks and the commitment and effort users put in, especially during initial learning stages. A simple "Good job completing your profile!" or "Congrats on your first completed project!" can go a long way.Don't wait for major milestones to celebrate—keep it consistent. Sprinkle small wins throughout the onboarding process to maintain momentum and excitement. Consistent recognition reinforces positive behavior and encourages continued engagement.

Don't forget to promote your training

Maximizing the impact of your onboarding program goes beyond crafting well-structured content. Promoting and guiding users toward relevant training resources is equally essential for driving engagement and completion.With a leading LMS, you can automate welcome emails upon user signup, inviting them to explore personalized onboarding courses. Upon course completion, send automated confirmations, badges, or certificates. Based on their progress and goals, recommend relevant follow-up courses to recognize their investment and encourage them to continue their learning journey.

Measuring the success of your user onboarding strategy

Building a stellar user onboarding program is just the first step. True success comes with understanding its impact and optimizing for improvement. Here are four key metrics to measure:

  1. Completion rate: This measures the percentage of users who finish your onboarding program. While high completion is desirable, dig deeper. Analyze drop-off points to identify areas causing friction and hindering progress. Are specific tasks too complex? Do instructions need more clarity? Refine those sections to improve completion rates and user experience.
  2. Time to Value (TTV): Monitor how long users can achieve specific goals after onboarding, such as completing their first course, contributing to discussions, or using key features. A long TTV can indicate unclear guidance, inadequate training, or technical barriers.
  3. Feature adoption: Monitor user activity across different LMS features and functionalities. Analyze which features are used frequently and where adoption is low. Identify less popular features that could provide additional value to users. Tailor onboarding to encourage exploration and adoption of relevant features.
  4. User feedback: Qualitative data is invaluable, so do quarterly surveys to collect feedback through in-app tools. Also, it’d be great if you could monitor support tickets related to onboarding to understand how effective your onboarding really is.

Deliver better user onboarding experiences with Skilljar

Skilljar is an enterprise user onboarding and training platform with all the features for successful user onboarding.The user-friendly authoring tools let you build interactive courses, informative videos, and helpful quizzes without programming knowledge. With personalized learning paths, you can tailor the content to individual user needs and roles, ensuring each customer receives the most relevant and impactful training.Watch the Skilljar demo to learn how it helps nail user onboarding and improve product adoption.This post was updated in March 2024 and was originally published in 2021.

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