Anyone that has been around web apps for a while would have noticed that most of them are doing something different UI wise when a user first signs up or when they are first seeing a new feature. Be this an overlay of information within the natural usage of the product or be it a completely separate page.
For example if you sign up for Twitter nowadays you will be sent through a series of pages which encourage you to follow a host of people that you may find interesting. The logic being that someone who signs up and is greeted with a completely blank feed may easily just give up on the service, an engaged user with a full feed is much more likely to stick around.
When you first see a new feature of Facebook you are usually presented with a Guider like overlay which points to the relevant parts of the page and describes how they should be used.
When we first approached a getting started process for AffClicks we modeled it off the UserVoice getting started page, which is a single page (now separated into basic and pro tips tabs) where there is a list of things a user getting started should do with the instructions to complete them. Completing them generally requires navigating to another parts of the app and using the regular interface. When tasks are completed they are marked as being completed by being given a tick and crossed out.
The original AffClicks version is show below:
As you can see it has some fairly dense slabs of text and can quickly become confusing. The left sidebar is there because the getting started page was built into the user accounts/ settings page. This just succeeded in distracting the user (I have seen users the signed up, click on all the side links, then leave). The font was relatively small and the tasks were close enough together that people could skim them without really reading them. They were also ordered wrong (more on that below). By observing user actions my guess would be that only really motivated and fairly technical users were getting much out of it.
Like many who have worked on their startups for a long time I can sometimes delude myself that everyone from our target niche will be highly motivated to get setup in AffClicks. The truth for most startups though is that a large number of users will only have a passing interest in using a product at first, they may give up before they really see any value.
We needed to step back and think about which actions were the highes priority for new users. The first thing we really want a user to do is to connect with an Affiliate Network. This kicks off automated importing, so any sales they get end up appearing in AffClicks. With sales coming in users can get a feel for how AffClicks works and how their information is presented. Getting sales also populates a weekly update we send out, which can remind users that their sales are still being collected and encourage them to come back to AffClicks and continue to use it if they had gotten busy and forgotten about it.
In order to streamline this connection process we duplicated the UI for connecting a network in the getting started process. This is a positive and a negative. A positive in that the first and most important action is even easier to access, a negative in that it could be slightly confusing to the user that adding subsequent networks occurs on a different page to the first. This way a user can complete this task in a matter of seconds from their first signup.
Another important change as you can probably see from the screen above is that the tasks have been separated into tabs, as not to further confuse the reader as they skim ahead.
The second task, adding a tracking snippet to their site is potentially a lot harder for a user to do than filling out a form. They have to add the snippet to their pages HTML and also add class=”affclicks” to their affiliate links. In order to split it up, the user is now asked what method of tracking they use before they are presented with how they can pass the task, as to not prematurely confuse. This could probably still use some more work, not just in explaining how the snippet is installed, but exactly the benefit that the user will get from it. We always have to remember that many users may have only quickly glanced over what we have to offer before signing up, not read all our copy and blog posts. Some good examples for snippet installation are StatCounter and Google Analytics. StatCounter is probably more interesting because they have gone to pains to make the process as easy as possible for as many users as possible, listing out individual platforms and providing precise instructions. Google Analytics offers a clean and simple interface for the snippet but is probably closer to what AffClicks does right now, provide the code and instructions that users might need to be slightly techy to follow. Something such as a wordpress addon would be definitely on the cards if we find enough users using wordpress with AffClicks.
The third task, connecting to Adwords is currently unavailable, as we must pass Adwords minimum 3rd party app requirements. It is still there though and the PPC features are still prominent in the app but just not available yet. As some users may have signed up because of what they have read about our PPC features we want to remind them that they aren’t far off when possible.
The new Getting Started page has been done in conjunction with improving the signup process, first in removing the need for someone to register interest and then be invited and second in putting a lot of time into the form to ensure it is as intuitive as possible. It makes best guesses on values when possible to reduce the amount of fields the user needs to change.
I think with user acquisition for web applications in general there are 2 main stages that a user goes through. When they first visit your site, possibly knowing very little about your app, I like to think of things very much akin to an ecommerce site. Generally in that situation a user has very little sticking them to your site, at any second they could get bored, confused or misdirected. This could result in them switching tabs, clicking a link off your site or just hitting the back button. In this stage I think you have to do everything possible to streamline the experience. Kind of bootstrapping in a way, you give the user the minimum amount they need to know to get to the next stage, signing up. Then you give the user just enough information to perform their first in app tasks. Then you can slowly layer on complexity. Once the user is using your app, getting real value from it, be that value time/ money saving, new insights or just plain fun, they transition into the second stage.
In the second stage a user is going to be a lot more sticky, you can throw some more complex concepts at them without alienating them. You can reasonably expect them to come back without having to put special effort into reacquiring them. So a big part of user acquisition is going to be what strategy you employ to transition users to the second stage.
For AffClicks a lot of time and effort has gone into this recently and the early results are promising, seeing more users signing up and completing some in app actions. This will be something we will continue to focus on as we grow.
I am interested though, what kind of strategies others are running to best hold onto new users and sell them enough on your concept before they navigate away for any number of reasons in that first stage.