Modern SaaS products can get pretty complicated. Don’t misunderstand us, it’s not a bad thing.
After all, you want to deliver all of those great features and functions to your users because that’s where the value is. It just means you need to have absolutely killer onboarding to ensure the user truly receives that value from your product.
And anyway, it’s not like anyone’s forcing your users to use it. Naturally, they want to use your product. Usually that’s a result of your killer, value-driven headlines and marketing material.
During the marketing funnel, it’s likely they’ve gained knowledge of what your product is and what value it can provide. Another matter entirely is the skill necessary to use it.
Broadly speaking, the more complex a system is, the more creativity and skill there can be in applying it. And it’s that skill which you must empower your users with so they can get the kind of value that will keep them signed up for a longer time period.
These days, it’s easy to pick up knowledge from how-to’s, FAQs and case studies that teach skill on a given subject. All of this stuff is awesome… But you know what? It has nothing to do with skill.
Let’s take a look at the definition of skill…
“An ability and capacity acquired through deliberate, systematic, and sustained effort to smoothly and adaptively carry out complex activities or job functions involving ideas (cognitive skills), things (technical skills), and/or people (interpersonal skills).”
The important thing to highlight for a SaaS user interface (UI) is: “effort to smoothly and adaptively carry out complex activities or job functions”. As far as your killer onboarding strategy goes, this is where the money is.
To put this another way, the user must complete the activity properly at least once to acquire the skill. If your onboarding does not take advantage of that principle, you’re losing money by the day.
For example, let’s say your SaaS helps store owners manage their bills and provide monthly expense reports. The most important skill your users must acquire is how to add their payment to your service. If you don’t have a tutorial that specifically guides users towards that goal, it’s costing you money.
Every SaaS is different, so let’s take a look at a process to set up action-based onboarding tutorials using some best practice principles.
1. Determine the different skills users must develop
Tutorials are best broken down to deal with one skill at a time. As we saw in a screenshot from our beginners guide to mobile onboarding (scroll down to point No.5 to see the example), using one tutorial to describe multiple features is not an effective way to onboard people.
Not only is it confusing, it’s certainly not in-line with our strategy of actionable steps. Before creating your actionable tutorial flows, sit down and draft out the individual skills necessary for someone to get the most out of your product.
For example, using our accounting SaaS once again, you might make one tutorial to create a monthly financial report and another one to share it with other staff members via the cloud.
Once you’ve properly differentiated the different skill sets you’d like to teach, you can plan your tutorials accordingly
2. Put tips on buttons you want to be pushed
Pushing a button is a simple action. But, not all UI buttons are created equal (just think of the “Publish” button in a WordPress CMS, for example). Whichever buttons are the most important ones, it’s essential that they are highlighted in your tutorial flow. Make sure you bring these buttons to your user’s attention, specifically choosing the most important ones that guide them towards that “Aha!” moment when they receive the value.
Sure, the button is there, and yes, it may seem self-explanatory to you. But only if the user actually presses it can you know they’ve taken that crucial action step towards becoming skilled at using your product.
3. Provide relevant info to situations where users are involved
Whenever you need input from the user, make sure they know their input is needed. It’s another one of those things that might seem obvious to you, but not so to them. Remember, when you ask for user input, you’re essentially requesting a time investment (no matter how small) from the user.
For that reason, make sure you explain whyuser input is needed at this point in a way that’s value-orientated and benefit-driven. If you do, they’re much more likely to spent the time, complete the step, and take one more box in your action-based onboarding flow.
4. Keep them rewarded for each activity
A great way to improve your onboarding results is to reward your users at each step of the process. Many SaaS products use some kind of in-service digital currency which can be used to unlock new features. This is a good example of the kind of reward you can offer.
If you don’t have such a currency with which to encourage (well, “bribe” is such a strong word) users to move forward, remember that a simple “Congratulations!” combined with a note specifically telling them what they’ve achieved at this stage can go a long way.
No one likes being lost, confused, or feeling like they’re achieving nothing. If you let your users feel like they’re making progress, they’re more likely to stick around.
5. User arrows, images, to describe actions they need to do
Arrows are a proven and highly effective tool in your user experience arsenal. There’s just something about a directional symbol pointing unambiguously and tantalizingly towards a particular point that just seems to get results.
Pictures paint a thousand onboarding hints, too. So whenever there’s an opportunity to show an image that specifically illustrates what a particular feature does, show an image of the result the action produces.
Both images and arrows drawing user’s attention to the next actionable step in your onboarding process significantly increases the chances they will take that action. When they do, it’s one more step towards developing that necessary skill.
6. Review results in real time
There are a number of great tutorial tools out there (not to give any biased mentions *cough* myTips *cough*) that arm you with tracking data from individual user actions at different stages in your onboarding tutorials so you can see how successful they are.
Once you’ve decided which individual skills are required for your tutorials and applied the best practice conversion principles discussed above, it’s time to review results in real-time and tweak accordingly.
Remember, it’s just like A/B testing a landing page. It’s an iterative process, and one where a little time invested can seriously increase your user activation rates, life time value, reduce churn rate and generally improve all the other important metrics of your SaaS.
While it’s true that everyone’s SaaS is different and have varying degrees of complexity, one single truth remains constant: Human beings develop skill through action.
If you approach your tutorials, and all of your onboarding efforts with this at the forefront of your decisions, you will significantly improve your results, and make for a happier, more skilled and ultimately, more profitable user base.
P.S. Sign up for the MyTips Free trial to create your first interactive tutorials