Let’s look at some principles to consider for onboarding. 

Stand out

Before someone installs your plugin they have to find it in the WordPress plugin repo. If your product sits alongside similar products you’ve got a matter of seconds to make sure it’s clear what it does. In the context of the WordPress plugin repo, you need to make sure your plugin is visually distinct from similar looking or sounding plugins.

Instant Activation

When a user activates your plugin, take them straight into the product. Don’t leave them on the plugin screen. 

Aha moment

Get users to an “aha” moment as fast as possible. They should feel a lightbulb go off, that this product will help them accomplish their goal, and they’re on the right path.

Helpful blank states

The first time I use your product I’ll have blank states, empty areas that are waiting to be filled. Take the opportunity to use these spaces as aspirational guides, don’t make me feel bad for the place being empty, I just got started. This is your moment to shine, show your product in its best light. This helps with understanding how it works, and often provides a starting point.

Happy path

Design a clear, happy path for the main purpose of your product. If multiple uses exist, emphasize the primary one and visually downplay the rest.

Offer Support

Offer accessible support options, direct chat, such as videos, a beginner’s guide, direct contact links, FAQs, and more. While you shouldn’t rely on these as a substitute for a well-crafted onboarding experience, they’re often needed because you can’t foresee every question that users could have. For your SaaS this can be a differentiator.

Inspire users

Help users see what they can do with your product, from the first screen all the way through to in-product interactions. Sometimes this can mean a well-placed visual showing an inspirational use case, other times it’s through finely-crafted copy and buttons.

Reward success

When a user finally creates the thing they need, make sure to reward them. Give visual feedback that they did the right thing. 

Explain requests

Every time you ask something, whether it’s an address, email, choosing an option, etc., you’re forcing users to give you something. Always explain why information is needed. If you’re asking a question purely for analytics purposes, say that. Users will trust you more. If you don’t have a good reason, don’t ask for it.

Show progress

If there are multiple steps to onboarding, show them. Help users see how far along they are. 

As you build out your onboarding, focus on one thing at a time. An onboarding that throws up a spaghetti of options is overwhelming. Even if you have a lot to ask, focus user attention toward one thing at a time. This also forces the team to keep things simple. 

Lots of steps isn’t necessarily bad. Long onboarding flows don’t necessarily mean you’ll lose your users. If the ideal customer profile is clear, and users can move through one step at a time, the number of steps (as long as each helps toward the goal) isn’t a problem. 

Show me what I did after I do it. If a user accomplishes a series of steps during onboarding, and are about to enter the actual product, take one moment to remind them what they did. This helps provide assurance that you heard them, builds trust in the product, and offers an opportunity to edit the decisions they made. 

If the free product doesn’t match the ideal customer profile, make that clear. Does the paid product have the main feature most users are looking for? Call that out from the beginning. It will save a lot of frustration all around.

In future posts I’ll share reviews of existing WordPress products, comparing them against these principles, and seeing where they do well and need improvement. These principles will be the barometer I’ll measure against, and may need modification as we dive in. 

Do you resonate with these principles and need help with your product? I specialize in onboarding, and have been doing this across consumer and business apps for a long time. I’d love to help. Reach out and let’s talk!