Why user onboarding is like pushing a button

We just moved to a new office space. This means new setting for our usual office routines. As human beings we are creatures of habit, so whenever you something happens in unusual way we notice it. This is a great way to discover small useful insights, especially in design.

I noticed that men’s restrooms had one peculiar detail that seems to throw everyone off. To flush the urinal you need to push a big shiny chrome button that sinks deep into the wall. However, when it’s pushed all the way in nothing happens. Only when you release the button it starts to pour the water down in a rushing stream.

I’ve caught many of wondering faces of men who stop with the button pressed in thinking: What’s wrong? Why is it not working? In fact I am constantly reminded of this as well, only a moment later remembering how it works.

In many ways user onboarding is like pushing a button. When you press it you expect to immediately see the result. If it’s the light switch — the bulbs should light up; if it’s ignition — it’s the roar of the engine starting you’re expecting.

As your users sign up for your product they expect the product to deliver on the marketing promises almost immediately. And just like with a broken hand drier in a restroom, if that doesn’t happen, they move on to the next one.