Mark Wheatley knows a thing or two about web apps. He’s worked for Microsoft and Nokia, and co-founded music intelligence app Audiogum. Now Head of Product Management at Cookpad, he’s in charge of onboarding new users – and making sure they come back.

Mark spoke at our last Design/Build/Market event at the Engine Shed. Here’s our summary of his top tips for a seamless onboarding process.

Let users skip ahead

Nobody likes filling out a million questions, especially if they can’t see how they’re relevant. Users will be happier to provide information if they understand how it will improve their experience – so make this clear from the start.

Don’t trap new users in onboarding jail. It’s frustrating and makes them more likely to bail on the app altogether. Ask for only the most important information up front and make the rest of the form optional or skippable (you can always prompt them for more information later).

Consider putting your entire sign up form after the onboarding process so users can experience what the app is about before committing. This will help you retain real users – those that will actually use your app long-term.

Show, don’t tell

Don’t make your users read a manual. New users typically only read the first few sentences of a written guide (if anything). Showing them what they need to do and having them complete tasks themselves will help them learn what to do faster, and remember it for longer.

Progressive contextual information (where the user learns as they go along) is more effective than long tutorials they have to complete before actually using the app. Show helpful tooltips after a few logins to remind your users of useful features. Provide more information as and when they go to complete a new task so they’re not bombarded up front.

Help users feel in control

Ask your user what they want from the app and customise the onboarding and tutorial process to fit – there’s no point wasting their time on features and services they won’t be interested in. Users who feel in control of the process are more likely to volunteer data and less likely to get frustrated with the app.

Use the data your user provides to do simple personalisation (such as show recommended products). The more useful you can make your service early on, the more likely your users will stick around and make the most of the app.

About DBM

Design/ Build/ Market is a meetup for people involved in the creative and digital industries who are passionate about design, development and marketing.

Our next event will be DBM #6: Successes and Failures, on the 19th of July in The Engine Shed, Bristol.

Book your space now.