The importance of a tight onboarding flow for any consumer internet businesses is almost always the most critical part for the company. Funneling in users to have the company’s value prop understood, the user’s expectations met, all with a minimal amount of friction is no easy task. So, as I’ve been working through future improvements at Sourcerer, I wanted to walk through various examples from prominent sites in the hope of better detailing ours better.
I chose 5 sites, not all are specifically related to software engineering, professional networking, or recruitment but definitely relatable in one way or another. I specifically chose LinkedIn, Facebook, GitHub, StackOverflow, Upwork, Reddit, and Twitter. Let’s begin.
In terms of a professional network, Linkedin is the closest comparable we have and so I was very keen to start off with them.
Before diving into the specifics, I think it’s also important to note, that while Linkedin started as a digital resume they’ve evolved into so much more including but not limited to news, community, and recruitment which I would expect to influence their registration process.
- Registration form starts on the homepage.
- An SMS mobile security check is presented.
- A user is then immediately funneled into profile creation.
- Location is asked for.
- Recent job is asked for.
- Email confirmation and privacy notification is presented.
- Invitational recommendations is presented.
- User’s picture is asked for.
- User’s interests are asked for.
- User is then landed on Newsfeed with callouts to get started.
I find the above flow quite fascinating for a couple of reasons. Firstly, while everything looks pretty standard starting off, a user is immediately funneled into the profile creation process. This alone isn’t interesting but the minimal amount of information they ask for is. I have to believe that this information is the most important and beneficial that Linkedin deems to further engage users downstream. Secondly, invitational recommendations is placed before interest selection. Again, in of itself it’s not groundbreaking but their choice in prioritizing the network vs user data is. Thirdly, on the finale, immediately and prominently showcasing next steps is most likely ordered in some importance from left to right (i.e. completing your profile, adding to your network, and the interests you follow).
With Facebook being the mother of all social networks, renowned for their invitational mechanics, it rightly deserves to be studied here.
- Registration form begins on the homepage.
- Email confirmation is presented.
- Invitation flow is presented.
- User is then landed on Newsfeed with callouts to get started. Including invitations, privacy settings, and picture upload.
Facebook’s registration flow is short and sweet with a very clear emphasis on growth. Of course, this is no surprise given what we already know from their history but it’s still important to note for this study. Specifically, you’ll see that after the standard email confirmation, the very first step is to “Find your friends”, which utilizes a series of different contact uploaders. If you choose to skip this, you are then presented with a notification stressing the importance of making these connections. You are then landed on your Newsfeed with a series of prominent callouts for next steps. The very first, is yet another call to “find your friends”. If this isn’t already enough, you’ll also notice that the fourth step in this exact same flow to find your friends again. Facebook really wants you to find friends! Again, it’s of no surprise to see this type of growth aggressiveness from Facebook. They are after all known for their rapid user growth and massive scale.
GitHub’s user base is the closet comp we have from all the others. All GitHub users are Sourcerer users.
- Registration form begins on homepage.
- User is presented with a choice of their free or paid product.
- User information is asked for.
- User is landed on Newsfeed to learn about or create their project.
Engineers are a direct, practical, and efficient bunch. Github’s registration flow matches these qualities precisely. This leaves me little to analyze but if I had to call out two notable things: one, would be their use of UX callouts (checkboxes) to indicate completed form entry on registration and two, at the flow’s end, where, when a user arrives on their Newsfeed, they are presented with two equal choices prominently on the center of the screen. It’s clear that their intention is for you to choose one, either learn more or create your project, their product and focus. You can’t get any simpler than this. Complexity is the antithesis to software engineers.
StackOverflow is another site with a highly matched user base for us but instead of a tool as GitHub was they are a community of developers. Our foray into community discussions made me want to see how one of the largest developer community establishes itself.
- Oauth registration begins on homepage and manual signup links from there.
- Email confirmation is presented.
- Profile creations begins.
- Developer story begins.
- Developer story continues.
- User is landed on their dashboard under the “Developer story” section.
While I just lauded the directness and efficiency of the GitHub flow because of their audience (engineers), I was taken back at the complexity of StackOverflow’s. Perhaps, StackOverflow’s community product dictates the difference but it’s a quite apparent and striking difference between the two. First off, you can use Google or Facebook oauth to begin your registration, but there seems to be no real time savings for it; which baffles me. I ended up using manual registration. Immediately I was directed toward profile creation where everything from a profile pic to username and detail information is asked for all at once. This seems and feels like a lot, but perhaps there is some simplicity here for their users. Even stranger, is that following this profile creation, they then go into what seems like an additional flow to build out what they are calling a “Developer Story”. It immediately felt like another profile creation process. It’s also a page longer and asks for more detailed information than before and if you manage to get through this, you are then landed on your dashboard under the “Developer Story” section where there seems to be no focus. As a product guy it’s hard for me to rationalize what they are doing here. I personally don’t remember StackOverflow being this confusing when I first registered years ago. Perhaps I just caught them at the cusp of a new feature or perhaps testing. Anyhow, I’d be very curious to learn more on the company’s design decisions on this.
As we also aspire to use our technology to better match and recruit engineers for jobs, I thought it also made sense to analyze one the largest freelancer sites out there; Upwork. Note, Upwork has both a freelancer and hiring sides. I chose specifically to follow their hiring side as it pertains more to what we’re hoping to do at Sourcerer.
- Links to registration are found on homepage.
- User creates account with name and email.
- User is asked for additional details.
- User is asked for additional details.
- User is funneled into job posting creation.
- User is asked to confirm email.
- User logs in to confirm and directed to his job posting dashboard.
Given the nature of Upwork it’s registration flow was of no real surprise. They seem to prioritize information capture to find potential matches first and then immediately funnel the user into the job posting creation flow. Job opportunities are the focus so it makes perfect sense to have them created immediately. I did find asking for email confirmation so far down the path to be a tad questionable but again, it fits their prioritization.
Reddit’s hyper-engaged community is arguably the quintessential aspiration for any burgeoning community.
- Registration form found on homepage.
- User selects 5 interests.
- User creates username.
- User is landed on Reddit with full access.
The most notable thing in the Reddit flow to me was the tightness of it all. Not only was it short but Reddit deactivates site interaction upon entrance. Reducing the bleed is smart IMO and at the same time can act as a teaser to the rich content they have without it being a distraction. I feel the lesson here is to potentially leverage your content to entice the registration. Once in, all is pretty much as expected. I did find their choice to prioritize interests before username notable. It tells me the customized content they provide is much more important to their user’s than their user’s persona.
Given Twitter’s size and seemingly wide use by the engineering community, it was also a no brainer to include it in my study.
- Registration form linked from homepage.
- Account creation begins.
- User is presented with interest selection.
- User is presented with follower recommendations.
- User is presented with privacy warning.
- User is landed on their twitter page.
Much like Reddit, Twitter’s prohibited use of the service until registration is complete was the first thing I noticed. They don’t leverage content like Reddit did but I feel it still makes for an “almost finished” feeling that at least for me, wants to complete the process quickly so i can start using it. Besides that, much everything else was as expected. Interest selection is prioritized firstly and then immediately followed by follower recommendations. I did find that when you have completed the flow and are on your twitter page, call outs to improve your profile, including follow others was prominent.
In conclusion, as I think about this study in terms of improving our future registration flow at Sourcerer a couple things stand out to me.
- Reducing a click and registering from the homepage makes a lot of sense.
- Consider tightening the flow to diminish any excess bleed by deactivating parts if not the entire site until registration is complete.
- Leverage an inactive state to tease users with potential viewable content.
- Take only the bare minimum amount of information we need to get a user through the flow. Simplicity is the key.
- Given our aspirations to build a network, perhaps it makes sense to push for followers or invites during onboarding.
- On completion, situate the user with next steps to further improve their experience (i.e. additional interests, followers, and/or invitations)
Have any thoughts or know something I might have missed? I’d love to hear from you. Leave your comments and I’ll respond quickly! Hope this exercise was as beneficial to you as it was for me.