written by
Melanie Crissey

Every Onboarding Mistake I Made (So You Don't Have To)

product-led growth 6 min read

I’ve been working with FullStory for three years, working on Growth and Adoption. Lots has changed since I first came on board, but I’ve been ensuring our new users get the best experience from our product – especially since we introduced our freemium product.

We’ve done some amazing things at FullStory, but we’ve made our fair share of mistakes as well.

I want to share some of the mistakes we made in our onboarding process in the past with you, so that you don’t have to make them yourself!

So, let’s get into things and take a look at what FullStory’s original onboarding sequence looked like and the problems that we found with it.

To watch the video on this topic, click play below, or read on for more...

FullStory’s original onboarding sequence

In 2017, when we first launched our freemium product, this is what it looked like to sign up to FullStory.

We started with a super low friction signup form – all it required was an email address.

FullStory’s original onboarding sequence step 1

After signing up, users were shown the pricing page and told to check their email for the activation link.

FullStory’s original onboarding sequence step 2
FullStory’s original onboarding sequence step 3

It was a ‘minimalist’ approach to email communication, let’s say…

After clicking their activation link, we asked users to log in.

FullStory’s original onboarding sequence step 4

Then, their first look at the app was kindly interrupted by a modal selling our Pro product! Don’t worry, I’ll be dissecting all of this very soon – you don’t need to tell me this has problems!

FullStory’s original onboarding sequence step 5

After that, it was straight into profile setup.

FullStory’s original onboarding sequence step 6

And hey, why not throw another modal at them before they get into exploring the product?

FullStory’s original onboarding sequence step 7

This is where they first hit their real value proposition – installing our recording snippet on their site is the prerequisite of being a FullStory user. It’s no different to needing the Google Analytics Tag to run Google Analytics.

FullStory’s original onboarding sequence step 8

Once they ran through that process, they were brought back to their dashboard – which was a kind of zero state screen – to wait for their first session.

FullStory’s original onboarding sequence step 9

The Results?

Results from FullStory’s original onboarding sequence

This is what it meant – 22% of new users got to that first ‘a-ha moment’.

22% is not an especially great outcome. We wanted to, and we knew we could, get that a lot higher.

Our qualitative feedback was also painting a clear picture for us that things weren’t going right for our users.

Feedback on FullStory’s original onboarding sequence

So, all in, this was clearly not working. That’s why we wanted to redesign our onboarding – because our users wanted and deserved better, and our product wasn’t selling itself well enough. That’s a recipe for Product-Led disaster.

We set out a new plan to ace our onboarding, with three main goals. We wanted to:

1) Streamline fragmented, frustrating modals

2) Make it more clear why we were asking for personal data

3) Optimize for our ‘a-ha’ moment

FullStory’s redesigned onboarding sequence

All of us at FullStory were in agreement – the onboarding sequence needed some work. Our amazing product and development team helped us turn our vision into a reality, with the second iteration of our onboarding sequence looking like this…

FullStory’s redesigned onboarding sequence step 1
FullStory’s redesigned onboarding sequence step 2
FullStory’s redesigned onboarding sequence step 3

We made some really easy switches that totally transformed the process at the top of the funnel. As soon as we had a signup, we cleared all distractions and directed them to finish the job and click the link in their (beautifully redesigned) email.

Some elements had to remain the same – setting a password is one of them – but others could be tweaked.

FullStory’s redesigned onboarding sequence step 4

We built the different elements of the user account and profile setup into one step-by-step modal that makes everything a lot clearer.

This is a vital part of the sequence – getting the recording snippet added to their site. We built this into the 3-step setup process and gave users more options to get it done quickly.

FullStory’s redesigned onboarding sequence step 5
FullStory’s redesigned onboarding sequence step 6

The Results?

Results from FullStory’s redesigned onboarding sequence

It seems counterintuitive – we actually added more steps to the sequence to achieve a higher rate of users reaching that ‘a-ha’ moment (usually, the opposite is true) – but that 22% jumped up to 31%!

Now, truthfully, that still isn’t an amazing figure to have, but it was a big leap from where we started.

We were really happy with the results… until we adjusted and analyzed them over a longer period of time.

Turns out, this great redesign didn’t really do a lot – in fact, it lowered our funnel completion rate by 2% in the end!

Analysis of results from FullStory’s redesigned onboarding sequence

Now, sometimes, there’s only so much you can do. If you need a user to ask their development team to add the code to their site but they’re in the middle of a sprint, they’re just not going to get it done. Your locus of control only extends as far as your onboarding experience and the end user.

That being said, there are definitely lessons to learn from this redesign.

What made a positive difference to user onboarding?

So, our onboarding redesign turned out to be something of a non-starter. That doesn’t mean it was pointless, though. We learned a couple of things that made a real difference to improving our onboarding sequence, namely:

- Sending people straight to their inbox

- Giving the activation email a facelift

There were other smaller wins and minor boosts, but those were the two standouts – both were to do with moving people from the top of the funnel quicker.

What made a negative difference to user onboarding?

Solving problems usually leads to more, new and exciting problems! We ran into some issues with the redesign which gave us new targets to aim at in the next few iterations of refining our onboarding sequence. Some of the major problems included:

- 62% of users hit an error when clicking the Google Tag Manager sign in, due to a permissions fault

- 10% of users ran their onboarding from mobile, which we had not optimized for, and so ran into a UX error

- Further onboarding emails were feature-driven, not user need-driven

- Onboarding got bloated with requirements from different stakeholders (adding a marketing attribution survey, requiring phone numbers for sales teams, etc.)

- Not using the personal data that users shared for any useful or meaningful purpose

- Not enough thought-through zero states, which meant we needed to build post-onboarding, onboarding sequences!

Onboarding mistakes to avoid in your Product-Led Business

Summarizing the whole process is hard. Thankfully, we’ve iterated our sequence plenty of times since then and are a lot happier with things. But, as I said previously, solving problems tends to bring you more problems! Our onboarding sequence, and yours, is a constant work in progress.

That being said, there are some notable mistakes that we made in the early days. These are the decisions that you want to avoid:

- Data hoarding with no meaningful plan or purpose

- Forcing full account/profile setup before users achieve value

- Ignoring errors and frustration points

- Ignoring mobile onboarding

- Selling features over success

- Shoehorning in unrelated fields and requirements

- Stopping onboarding at the ‘a-ha’ moment

Every company is different, but these are universal truths when it comes to onboarding errors.

Onboarding best practices to aim for in your Product-Led Business

Reversing those mistakes and reframing them into positives, that leads us with a great guide for onboarding sequence best practice.

If you want to really nail your onboarding sequence, make sure you:

- Collect only data you need

- Show value before installation

- Squash errors and frustration

- Check the lowest common device users will access your sequence through and build for it

- Focus your messaging on user success, not product features

- Stay streamlined

- Continue tailored onboarding

Want to dive into your onboarding sequence further?

FullStory is the premium CX analytics solution. Our product can tell you everything you need to know about your customers’ digital experience, helping you to deliver exceptional experiences. Our easy-to-use, intelligent software pinpoints when, where, and how user struggle affects your revenue and retention.

Think Google Analytics, but dedicated to CX!

If you want to really dive into the details of user behaviour and maximize the effectiveness of your onboarding (or any other user sequence), we’d love you to see how we could help.

Rather than our standard 14-day free trial, we’d love to give Produc-tLed Institute readers a 30-day trial.