Frequently asked questions

Here, we succinctly answer some frequently asked questions about building Onboarding for your SaaS product.

1. Why do you need a different product mindset when designing onboarding as opposed to other features?

Onboarding isn’t just another feature. In fact, you could argue that it’s not a feature at all. That aside, here are two key reasons to give onboarding special attention:

Building onboarding can be expensive

Onboarding often involves multiple steps and can be expensive to build. So you’ll want to make sure you get it right in as few attempts as possible. This involves  knowing when to build onboarding as well as knowing how to allocate bandwidth to it.

Onboarding plays a huge role in conversions

Onboarding heavily impacts customers’ first impression of your product. It’s an opportunity to establish trust and delight them. Mess this up, and they walk away, possibly forever! To make sure that doesn’t happen, you ought to tailor your onboarding experience towards your most important customers. It’s also good practice to prioritise which features to include in onboarding and which ones to leave out.

2. When is the best time to build onboarding?

Onboarding can be a pretty heavy feature to build. Conveniently (or not), it’s also the first major product flow your customers see. Naturally, it’s important to get it right. 

There are two challenges you might face while thinking about the right timing to build onboarding:

  1. You don’t completely understand the vast variety in your customers’ workflows because you’re in the nascent stages of product development
  2. You haven’t figured out the entire feature set and therefore aren’t sure of what to include in onboarding and in what sequence

To tackle these challenges, our recommendation is to defer building onboarding for as long as possible without hurting your business. Instead, do things that don’t scale initially. Once you’ve figured out what works, you can find a way to scale it.

For example — at Pause, we weren’t sure of how exactly our customers would set up their vacation policies (they vary a lot). We were also pretty unsure of what features are must-haves for getting started, and which ones are strong nice-to-haves but not necessary.

So what did we do? We onboarded customers manually using a spreadsheet template that evolved as we moved from customer to customer. It helped us draw patterns and understand the most common customer workflows. Plus, it allowed us to figure out what features were table stakes for getting started. After that, building onboarding was a breeze, because we were operating on real data instead of assumptions grounded in gut feelings.

3. How do you decide which customers to tailor onboarding for? 

You want your product onboarding to be simple. It’s one of those features that help customers understand your product quickly and then decide if they want to continue or leave. It’s the window that gives your customers a peek into your store, so to speak. 

Now, it’s tempting to want to allure every customer that encounters your product by tailoring this window to what they’re looking for. But realistically speaking, a window can’t really give customers a complete picture of what’s in store. You have to decide what you can put on display so you attract a bulk of the customers you really want. 

To make this easy, we recommend dividing your customers into buckets. If you’ve found your product-market-fit, more than 80% of your revenue should be coming from under 20% of your customers. These are the customers you want to design your onboarding for. 

Heads up: The most common mistake creators make here is to try and design for everyone. No prizes for guessing what actually happens — they end up designing for no one.

4. Which features should be included in onboarding and which should be left out?

We address this question a little bit over here. Typically, once you have your feature set in front of you, you want to prioritise them in this order:

  • Features that are essential to getting started
  • Features that are strong nice-to-haves

That’s it. You stop there. In fact, we recommend reducing your strong nice-to-haves also down to a minimum.

But what about other good-to-have features that you worked so hard to get right? We understand the temptation to include those, but we advise against it. The reason is simple — you want your customers to experience the product’s core value as quickly as possible, and then guide them to discover the rest as the use the product in a more contextual fashion.

For instance, with Pause, we only include a basic organisation setup, creating a leave policy, and inviting your teammates in onboarding. We leave some great-to-have features like Calendar integration and Slack integration for our customers to discover later, at the right time, and likely through in-product hints and feature campaigns.

5. When is it important to get onboarding to be self-serving?

Unless your average ARR per customer is more than a couple of thousand dollars (at least), it’s best to make your product as self-serving as possible. Why?Because it’s likely that having a large sales or customer support team to onboards customers will prevent you from being profitable. So if you’re building a product that’s relatively inexpensive—say, under a thousand dollars a year per customer—you’d probably want to get your onboarding to do the job of a sales or customer support representative. You’re not bottlenecked on expensive human bandwidth, and you can onboard customers literally while you sleep.

We talk about how to make onboarding self-serving in more detail here

6. How much design and development bandwidth should go into getting onboarding right?

Short answer? As much as necessary.

Long answer: You just cannot afford to get onboarding wrong. You might have a great product sitting behind your onboarding, but if your onboarding flow is poor, most of your potential customers will never get to see it. They will get stuck, frustrated or just leave unimpressed. You don’t want that, do you?

But you don’t also have infinite bandwidth and resources to put on one feature. So what do you do? We spill the beans on how to build a heavy feature like onboarding with minimal investment here.

7. What business metrics will the right onboarding flow move?

The right onboarding flow can move plenty of business metrics, like customer NPS and referrals based on first impressions. But the one that it moves in the most direct fashion is reducing drop-offs.

With the right onboarding, you can prevent high intent customers from leaking out of your sales funnel, and that’s another way to increase overall sales. In fact, it’s worth allocating some of your marketing budget onto getting onboarding right because onboarding is a sort of in-product-marketing. If you’re thinking, “huh?!”, let us explain with some simple math. 

Let’s say you spend marketing dollars to reach 100 people. Out of those 100 people, 10 are high-intent buyers who try to sign up, but your onboarding only encourages 5 of them to complete the process. Your overall conversion is 5% (5 out of 100) in this case.

Now in another scenario, let’s say instead of reaching 100 people, you cut your marketing budget down to half, and reach just 50 people. Out of these, 5 are high-intent buyers, but all of them get through onboarding swiftly. Your overall conversion rate just went up to 10% (5 out of 50). Boom. 

What’s even better is that unlike marketing, onboarding is a one-time investment that continues to pay off in the long run. Now when you do more marketing, you do twice as many conversions!

But how to get onboarding right to reduce drop-offs you ask? Worry not, read this.

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