When working for KPN (Dutch Telecom provider), in januari of 2014, I learned that the company is investing heavily in optimizing the “becoming a customer”-proces. It turns out that, when the customers go through a a positive “on boarding” process, they end being more loyal to the brand, even after several years. We did some research with potential new customers, and almost everbody we interviewed said that the easiness of signing up and installation was the most important criteria in choosing a new telecom provider. If it’s quick and simple, they stay customers for years.

A lot of projects I do revolve around helping first time visitors understanding how their new application or service works. None of these visitors really want to use the digital product, but they need the information or service that’s hiding inside. The faster we get them where they need to go the more positive the user will be about the service and the brand.

Many designers struggled with the needs of a first timer and came up with a “splash page” or a tutorial explaining every feature the product has. Most people don’t like these overlays full of information and their primary goal in this process is to exit a quick as possible. Splash pages actually prevents users to use the product, and they make a terrible first impression.

You never get a second chance for a first impression; that’s why we need to make users really like the product. It must draw the user in and empower him. We must give him just enough information to make the upcoming decision. After that we ‘ll learn him about the next relevant piece of the puzzle. And if he get’s it wrong?; no problem!. The system must be forgiving and allow mistakes so he can continue right where he left of. Game designers understand this and have already found the solution for the onboarding problem. Shigeru Miyamoto slowly guides his players through the features of Super Mario Bros while letting them play the game. There is no tutorial or splash page explains the control. Just start playing and you’ll learn. The first level of the famous platform game is a very clever designed tutorial without the player knowing it. The game mechanics are introduced one step at a time allowing the player to discover them at his own pace.

Check out this video from game designer Dan “OtherDan” Emmons, breaking down the mechanics and offering a lesson in game design techniques.

We should learn from these game-tactics and make onboarding fun! The onboarding process is very important; If we allow the user to lose his motivation on the first encounter with the online service, chances are we lose him forever…

Conclusion: Let users Learn by Doing