On-boarding, your one chance to make a good first impression

Getting new users to understand how to use a social platform is very important, but often, we tend to invest time before a deployment (if at all) then check off the box and move on. While this material may be appropriate for a new network, often times it loses relevance as the network grows. I have personally made this mistake and have since realized that there will always be new users.

In my previous post Enterprise Social Networks and the 3 Bears, I talked about the different size networks and that getting new users started often required different approaches depending on the size and maturity of your network. Let’s talk about the key areas of focus to get new users to have a good first experience.

Keep it simple – Many people have very full plates. Adding yet another tool to their day may in the end make their jobs easier, but initially, it’s learning something new and can add stress. Think back to when you learned how to drive (or pick another complex task if you don’t drive). That feeling of all the things you needed to remember can be overwhelming. For a first impression, you want to focus on the very basics that will give users the ability to see some value without getting lost in documentation or features. I’ve traditionally said that a new user should have what he/she needs to know in < 5 minutes and “get it” in 10. These are good benchmarks that you can ask your users to see if you are accomplishing.

Keep it together – Have a single page that brings them to documentation that can help them go from very basic to more mainstream to more advanced. Have each function broken down in a single (short) topic and have them categorized with topics such as Getting Started, Finding answers, Finding experts, etc.

Get fresh perspectives – As we become more skilled at anything, we tend to lose sight of what it’s like to be a new user. Make sure you are asking people who have that fresh perspective about the quality of the documentation and getting started. Solicit open feedback. One suggestion would be to include a link to a short 1 or 2 question survey on the help page.

Do periodic reviews – Things change, and usually documentation is not one of them. I would suggest that you schedule quarterly reviews of your on-boarding documentation and review it with your team as well as some new users. This will give you a good sense if the material is still relevant or not. One key area that is often neglected is User Interface (UI) Changes. There is nothing more frustrating for a new user then being told to do something that is no longer possible, or has changed.

It requires diligence and attention to details, but by investing the time in updating new user information and making sure it’s current, you will continue to make that ever important first impression.

Do you have other tips on the on-boarding process that I may have overlooked? I’d love to hear them.

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