How Xero Onboards New Users

Here on the myTips blog, we recently did some user onboarding teardowns for accounting SaaS products.

The first was FreshBooks, and then we decided to compare it to another accounting software QuickBooks.

It was kind of cool seeing how similar products got new users onboard. So we decided to finish off with a nice round trio and look at Xero, too.

It’s been an interesting process with a lot of insights. So let’s get down to business and see how this company onboards their new users.

Starting at the homepage

As always, we start off with the homepage.

Having the opt-in form the same color only as the logo in the top left is a smart move. Because it now stands out against the rest of the page. The bright white CTA button in the middle takes things a step further.

Man, did we want to push that button…

One unusual choice here, and as we’ve discussed before, the model is an unusual choice. It’s possible that she looks like the typical Xero user (for example, she doesn’t look like a stand-in for 1960’s punk band, The Sex Pistols, which might be cool, but it is essentially somewhat inappropriate).

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But the fact that she’s facing neither at the camera, nor at the CTA (directing the user’s eye path in that direction) means there’s room for improvement.

Similarly, it seems like she’s folding laundry. Or perhaps she’s doing large-scale origami? It’s tough to tell.

Perhaps laundry is a task many people would consider on the same level of excitement as doing accounting. But it’s definitely another odd aspect of the image.

Also out of the ordinary is that this was the first time we’ve seen an accounting software request a confirmation email from you before you continue with the flow.

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Not only does this categorically remove users from the flow, it gives them an opportunity to get lost in the Bermuda Triangle-esque chaos of the average email inbox.

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Very few SaaS companies do this these days, but perhaps Xero’s had problems with spam.

The loooong set up process

After filling in some relatively standard details such as company name and password, you’re met with the setup process.

As you can see by the green directional box at the top left, a quest checklist lets users know how far into it they’ve come, and how far’s left to go.

Typically, this is a good idea, although one thing that was quite surprising is just how lengthy this process is.

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So much so in fact, that a FAQ on the page answers the question “how long does this take?” Evidently, after getting half an hour into this configuration marathon, people are frequently left asking that question.

Fully comprehensive

There are so many steps in the process that including all of them would result in a repetitive strain injury from scrolling down the article page. So we had to skip a few steps.

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Something cool here is that Xero has included every possible tax form you could want to easily add to your setup. It gives you information about each one, so if you’re accounting skills aren’t quite as sharp as your average Wall Street professional, you have a little guidance that’s more than welcome.

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At long last, and after you’ve taken a break from the exhaustive setup process, you’re met with a similar pattern we saw in the other accounting SaaS products.

Guided tutorials are set up to teach you each of the individual skills necessary to get the value from Xero. Each white box below is a different feature.

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As was done by both FreshBooks and QuickBooks, and as is considered best practice, the placeholder introduction requires people a click to start the tutorial.

It’s only removed once the skill is learned and the tutorial is complete.

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It’s good to see this pattern. But the only problem is, we felt the overall onboarding flow fails to deliver enough small wins prior to that arduous setup process.

Why not get people a little more onboard before you asked them to take that on? Getting users a little more enthusiastic beforehand would be a good idea.

Conclusion

The Xero onboarding process was an interesting one.

Maybe it’s just us, and while it does do some things quite well, it feels a little bland. Text is often a little small (making it harder to read) and there’s a woman folding laundry at the start.

Considering there are penalties involved for those who don’t fill in their tax returns properly, you certainly can’t argue that Xero isn’t’ thorough. It might be plain, but it’s comprehensive and useful.

Just make sure you don’t start that setup process without a good chunk of time spare and sufficient caffeine levels in your bloodstream.

What did you think of the screenshots? If there’s anything that stands out for you, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.