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I'm beginning work on designing the onboarding process for a redesign of one of my company's products, a platform for managing websites and other related services. Are there any best practices for introducing users to a redesign, or do regular onboarding techniques still apply?

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I recently wrote an elaborate article that lists some awesome ideas to make your User Onboarding Experience smoother. - 10 Ways You Can Make Your User Onboarding Experience Irresistible! (With Examples)

Although, I'd recommend you to read the article, here are some of the ideas that I think you should implement.

1. Automate a getting started session like that of Evernote

Evernote welcomes the user by asking them what is their goal. And then, proceeds with a getting started session where it shows how to use its multiple features, tailored to the user’s goal preference.

2. Interactive Onboarding and Training tour with tools like Whatfix

Asking users to figure out the application or expecting them to do too much right from the start is perhaps the most common onboarding mistake. Instead, if every step of onboarding new users is made shorter and simpler, the overall reaction would be better.

Interactive guided walkthroughs like the ones created using Whatfix, can be used to guide the users to the main touch points on your web application, show them how they can be used in a step-by-step manner, and help them feel at home.

3. Habit forming desire engines of Facebook & Instagram

This is simply the reason why the world is hooked on to Facebook and Instagram. They have built a platform and uses a methodology for users to self-trigger their desire. This method of manufacturing desire or “hooks” is basically an efficient way of creating a habit-forming experience.

4. Welcome email from the man in charge from Buffer and Groove

As for the best example, I would pick emails from Joel Gascoigne, CEO of Buffer and Alex Turnbull, CEO of Groove. (in the article)

This helps in creating an instant connection between the user and the company, more than what a nameless company account like Customer Success at ABC.Inc can accomplish.

5. Gamified user onboarding experience of Duolingo

No doubt, Duolingo does this best! It’s level based onboarding, is fun, engaging and gives the user a sense of satisfaction.

6. Progressive onboarding of LinkedIn

Progressive onboarding is a way by which the users don’t feel overwhelmed with all the information asked by website (like full name, email, DOB, occupation, Credit Card details, etc.) right at the sign-up.

LinkedIn is my pick for this. Their progressive profiling is a kickass way to ease the user in and get the required information when they are comfortable.

This allows the user to get the real taste of the value you provide first, removing all the barriers that hinder them to get there.

7. How DropBox brings users to its ‘Aha’ moment

When DropBox launched, they had two significant hurdles to overcome.

  • Understanding their concept was a bit tricky
  • It wasn’t as lucrative as its contemporaries

But, Dropbox found a way around it, and that was by creating a simple yet appealing user onboarding experience.

Users mostly came in through referrals. (which offered free storage space as perks) As soon they were on the website, they were shown a friendly, easy to follow video that explained one single thing – Why do you need a cloud storage like Dropbox? Directly taking the user to the ‘Aha Moment’ even before they got started with the product.

8. Engagement even after onboarding on Quora

Quora’s ‘Improve Your Feed’ list keeps showing up on your newsfeed till you complete all the tasks. This keeps suggesting the user things to do even after they are complete onboard the platform.

If you’d like to read more, then check the article in the link above.

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Most marketing techniques focus on attracting new people. In your case, it sounds like you want to make an existing user base ready for the new design. Therefore I think that onboarding is not the right term since your users are already onboard. The difference is that you don’t need to convince users to use the software but to make the change as smooth as possible for them and thus for your company too.

Slightly introduce the new design

A good way is to send bite sized newsletters with each a few images and short description of just one or two changes. Keep it positive, tell why it was designed that way and show the benefits contrary to the old design. Also communicate about when and how the change will happen, what the user will notice during the release itself (like down time).

When sending newsletters, send them over a manageable amount of time, say once or twice a week. The first can introduce the choice of style, color and layout, the second newsletter can introduce one or two of the biggest functional changes, the third a few smaller changes etc.

Tutorial video’s can be great if people are willing to invest some time to watch them, in my case (see below) I skipped that idea.

There is no golden rule, it all depends a lot on the kind of product and the audience. I just introduced a new design for business software that is used daily, and we needed to get everyone up to speed as soon as possible (to prevent endless calls with questions).

Important is that you know how big the impact of the change will be to the users and how to communicate that. Be sure to reach the right people too. In our case we had to reach managers to make sure they would properly inform all employees. A few of our people went to some of the bigger companies to demonstrate it and to answer questions.

A good idea is to send one more newsletter before the release with a summary of the changes. Use it to inform users about the exact date and time, implications that might occur and how to solve them. You can also address the most asked questions in it and if there is a new manual (I highly recommend having one before release) add it as attachment.

Also get ready for an above average amount of support calls and emails. Hire and train some extra people to answer them.

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You could try something which is very popular on Android.

ShowCaseView

It works amazing as tutorial and is proven.

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Smashing magazine has many articles about onboarding. I went through some of them last week.

There are some rules like:

  1. Use less text.
  2. Don’t frontload.
  3. Make it fun.
  4. Reinforce learning through play.
  5. Listen to your players.

And some detailed articles:

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