Attention to Action: Crafting the Best Onboarding Sequence for Your Product

Translating attention into action

Once you’ve gotten your customer’s attention (Discovery), you need to wow them with a powerful Onboarding sequence.

At The Octalysis Group, we see two types of companies. In the first category are companies that don’t understand how valuable their Onboarding could be. These companies don’t get the value of engaging user right from the early stages of their experience.

The other group of companies knows they lose users very early in the customer experience lifecycle. They correctly spend a lot of time, attention, and money to build what they believe is a great Onboarding experience. But what they are missing is effectiveness.

In both cases, a design styled to the varying needs and motivations of customers is the only way to carry them into the Scaffolding and Endgame phases of your product experience.

In this article, we’ll examine why different types of products require different styles of Onboarding. Defining and understanding these differences is one thing, and identifying what style you should use and implement another. Gamification and human-focused design will be our guide. Let’s dive in.

The appropriate sequence for your product

An email marketing software solution is different from a social media site is different from a charitable giving community is different from a telecoms provider. Users are simply expecting different things from these experiences. You probably know the foundations of what your users expect for your product. This foundation is important because once you know what the “rules” are, you can break them effectively and in your favor.

Quick wins and head starts in email automation software

When a CEO decides it is time to market a product to the public, email automation usually enters the conversation. While careful thought should be given to this frame of marketing, companies want and need a head start when so many other parts of their business take higher priority.

This is why email automation software like Mailchimp or AWeber provides email templates. Then, the user starts with a beautiful canvas to quickly create marketing content. This makes the user feel smart (Octalysis Core Drive 2: Development and Accomplishment) which is very important in the Onboarding of new users.

Drip and LeadPages do one better, offering ‘concierge’ services (with 24-hour turnarounds) on gorgeous and effective email campaigns.

Newsletter services like Revue or TinyLetter do similar. They also give users the choice to publish to various social media channels with one click.


Ownership on social media or mobile-only products

Most social media sites don’t use lengthy signup processes. Often, users are given the option to sign on with Facebook or Google or Twitter (even on competing platforms!). This gives the user speed and convenience. This is especially true if your product is built for mobile first–its painful to input too much text information on a smartphone.

Later, the Onboarding sequence can ask for information to fill out an avatar or profile creatively. LinkedIn does this effectively with its progress meter and comparisons to your colleagues and people ‘similar to you’ in your network.

Engaging with and building up an identity in an experience is an effective way to build feelings of ownership (Octalysis Core Drive 4) of your experience. The more more ownership I feel the harder it is for me to not return to your product.


Narrative to set long-term path or vision

In the case of charitable communities, a completely different message should be communicated during Onboarding. For example, the Head Start could appear in the application of a credit or matching bonus for the first donation or contribution. The Onboarding should ideally capitalize on (Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning and Calling) to remind users of the higher purpose that likely brought them to the product to begin with.

Creating long-lasting White Hat motivation upfront is crucial for charitable giving, even if they balance this with Octalysis Black Hat triggers later.

Solving common Onboarding challenges

Regardless of the type of product you have, you probably face one or more of these common problems. Let’s solve them.

Collecting basic user info

Collecting basic info can feel tedious to a user but is often crucial to the value your product will later provide during Scaffolding. How to solve this conundrum?

First, many sites use ‘sign-in with’ APIs for Facebook/Google/Twitter, allowing one-click signup.

If you must use a signup form, try making it more interesting and fun with interactive fill-ins or elements of ownership and creativity. Based on entries, your product could actively stack interactive fill-ins with various game elements:

  • elitism: making a person feel special about being part of a certain group
  • free lunch: reward before doing anything
  • boosters: an item that make something else more powerful or effective

LinkedIn goes a step further using co-creation and third person empathy: they activate your peers to get ‘recommendations’ and ‘featured skills and endorsements’.

Interaction with other users

For products where interaction is key to the experience, consider designing for watercoolers, conformity anchors, or evanescent opportunities contact us if you would like to find out what these features are).

Slack’s #random channel defaults for all new users, immediately making new users to a team feel at home in a ‘watercooler’ and casual setting.

Conformity anchors (‘most people do this’) give users direction in the context of meaningful choices.

Evanescent opportunities (‘you can only attend this live webinar event during onboarding’) can help to increase activity during the crucial early sessions. Ditto on discounts in the first few days of a product enticing users to make a commitment to stick around long term (careful, this is Black Hat). But since you have your customers’ attention and have just given them value, it can work!

Tying a bow around Onboarding

Creating Onboarding experiences is necessary and tough.

Once you’ve built and tested your Onboarding, you can use Octalysis to brainstorm new game techniques for your specific problem areas. Adjusting designs based on user behavior is the next step. We have helped hundreds of companies with this.

If you want us to help you design better Onboarding, contact us.


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