Why conversational interfaces rock at onboarding

Onboarding has always been a major pain point for those of us who build products. How do we set user expectations and demonstrate desired behavior? In the past we’ve had to rely on splash screens and marketing copy to set the user up for success and it hasn’t always worked.

However, thanks to the magic of conversational interfaces and content design onboarding is about to get a whole lot easier…

To see why conversational interfaces are so great we need to contrast them with our existing tools. Luckily, social app Peach uses both standard onboarding techniques and conversational interfaces to get its users activated so it makes a perfect case study of the differences and why things need to change.

Standard onboarding techniques

This is the weakest screen of the flow, the value proposition of “See what’s new with your favourite people” doesn’t differentiate it from any of the other social apps already in the market and certainly doesn’t reflect the warmth of the brand voice one you get further into the flow.

I also have a problem with the statement at the bottom - saying “By using Peach you agree to the Privacy Policy and the Terms of Service” makes me feel like I should’ve already read them before I reached this page. Simply switching “the” to “our” would help to humanise a scary sentence and prevent this dissonance.

The one thing I really would’ve liked on this page is more of a reason to sign up. What does giving you my details allow me to do?

On the surface this screen seems to do the job but I think it could be significantly improved.

For example, it would be nice to know that you can change your username later if your imagination fails you during the sign up flow. I also want an explanation for why my email is required and reassurance I’m not about to receive a ton of spam.

It is, however, nice to see that the password requirements ahead of time rather than getting a stupid fail message and having to retype.

The use of “Continue” on the button makes clear that this isn’t the last step in the process but gives no sense of how many screens are left before I can actually see what the app is about.

I wish this had come before the previous screen so Peach could suggest me a username based on my full name. Also, why do I need a username and my full name? Either we’re going for real identity or we aren’t. Peach should only ask for one during onboarding and then allow the user to add / update the other later.

Also, being picky, I’d like to see a proper CTA for adding a photo e.g. “Add a Photo”.

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The old asking before you ask trick. Pretty much the nightmare for an app developer is if a user clicks “Don’t Allow” when asked if the app can send them notifications. This pretty much guarantees the user will quickly forget about the app and it will never be opened again.

Apple’s system messages are scary and confusing at the best of times and using a modal within your app try and convince them to click “OK” before the system message appears is a must.

While this is standard practice these days there are better ways. For example, a natural time to ask the user to accept notifications would be after they’ve messaged a friend so they know when there’s a reply.

Conversational onboarding techniques

This is where the magic begins to happen. Rather than being forced into a set of screens that tell me nothing about the product and why I should enter my data I’m now chatting with a new friend.

Apart from the vivid flashbacks to long discussions over “Posting in or Posting to” at Facebook it feels warm and friendly and instantly shows me what to do.

The comparison to texting makes Peach feel like a messenger app rather than a social network but I’m not convinced that is actually how the product works…

If I was building Peach I’d scrap everything prior to this screen and make this the first thing the user sees when they download the app. It’s so simple and effective. In one word and an emoji it has completely set my expectations for the kind of conversations that should take place in this space.

Purely by sounding like a human Peach makes it almost impossible not to upload a photo and continue the onboarding flow. Why didn’t they do this for notifications?

Yes, I intellectually know that this is robo text but it doesn’t make the heart-eyes feel any less sincere. I’ve just shared something on Peach and now I feel pretty damn great about it.

I’m not really sure why other social platforms don’t do this already

A gentle system generated validation to something being shared could have a meaningful impact on the amount and types of things people are willing to share.

If Peach can establish itself a place where sharing is pleasurable in its own right it’ll eat every other social app’s breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I also love how the flow introduces the idea of ‘magic words’ without calling them out explicitly the first time around. This lets the user focus on the value rather than the product’s mental model.

This is a textbook example of progressive disclosure, showing the user the right information at the right moment.

I really like that the final step is a choice. Instead of getting the user to the end of the onboarding flow and expecting them to know the whole app it invites them to continue exploring.

The only thing that would improve this is a command to show all the other commands: “help”?

I really like the personal voice here. Peach is quite comfortable telling its users that it likes them and that they’ll like using it. By letting the user explore on their own “for now” Peach has left the door open to communicating with the user again and when they do the user will almost certainly be pleased to hear from them.

The only thing that ruins it is the slightly forced “P.S.” Seeing as the brand is communicating in the first person it would be much more fun to say something like “But you don’t want to talk to me all day, why don’t you invite some of your friends to join you here too?”.

Despite the imperfections in the conversational flow it’s obvious just how much easier and more pleasurable it is to learn about a product from a person / bot than it is from another set of screens.

By replacing your splash screens with correctly timed, context aware, advice you can not only increase your activation rates but start to build the brand love that’s so important for winning your next hundred thousand users.

Want to know more? Say hi @tomhewitson on Twitter or at www.tomhewitson.com