Every Onboarding Mistake I Made (So You Don't Have To)

A lot has changed since I joined FullStory more than 3 years ago, but one of my first responsibilities was ensuring new users who signed up for FullStory had a positive experience with our product.

At the time, FullStory had recently launched Freemium, and we were onboarding more new users than ever before. 

While customers told us they loved FullStory (they still do!), there were certainly many areas of the self-service signup experience that had room for improvement. As we redesigned our onboarding process, we scored some wins and we also made plenty of mistakes along the way. 

I want to share with you some of the mistakes we made in our onboarding design, so that you don’t have to make them yourself!

Let's get into things, take a look at what FullStory’s original onboarding sequence looked like and the problems that we found with it.

To watch the video on this topic, click play below, or read on for more...

FullStory’s original onboarding sequence

In 2017, when we first launched FullStory Free, this is what it looked like to sign up to FullStory.

We started with a super low friction signup form. All we required was an email address.

FullStory’s original onboarding sequence step 1

After signing up, users were shown the pricing page and told to check their email for the activation link.

FullStory’s original onboarding sequence step 2
FullStory’s original onboarding sequence step 3

It was a ‘minimalist’ approach to email communication, let’s say…

After clicking their activation link, we asked users to log in.

FullStory’s original onboarding sequence step 4

Then, their first look at the app was kindly interrupted by a modal selling our Pro product! Don’t worry, I’ll be dissecting all of this very soon – you don’t need to tell me this has problems!

FullStory’s original onboarding sequence step 5

After that, it was straight into profile setup.

FullStory’s original onboarding sequence step 6

And hey, why not throw another modal at them before they get into exploring the product?

FullStory’s original onboarding sequence step 7

This is where they first hit their real value proposition. FullStory is a digital experience analytics tool, and installing the FullStory recording snippet is the first step to getting started. It's pretty similar to installing code for Google Analytics.

FullStory’s original onboarding sequence step 8

Once they completed that process, they were brought back to their dashboard—which was a kind of zero state screen—to wait for their first session to pipe into the system.

FullStory’s original onboarding sequence step 9

The Results?

Results from FullStory’s original onboarding sequence

This is what it meant: 22% of new users got to that first ‘a-ha moment’.

22% is not an especially great outcome. We knew we could get that number a lot higher.

Our qualitative feedback was also painting a clear picture for us that things weren’t going right for our newest users.

Feedback on FullStory’s original onboarding sequence

All in, this wasn't working for us. New users weren't able to see the value of FullStory because they were never making it past a critical first step. From a product-led growth perspective, this product definitely wasn't selling itself. 

We set out a new plan to ace our onboarding, with three main goals. We wanted to:

1) Streamline fragmented, frustrating modals

2) Make it more clear why we were asking for personal data

3) Optimize for our ‘a-ha’ moment

FullStory’s redesigned onboarding sequence

Together with the FullStory product team, we put together a plan to make a round of improvements. Our amazing designers and developers helped us turn our vision into a reality, with the second iteration of our onboarding sequence looking like this…

FullStory’s redesigned onboarding sequence step 1
FullStory’s redesigned onboarding sequence step 2
FullStory’s redesigned onboarding sequence step 3

We made some easy switches that totally transformed the process at the top of the funnel. As soon as we had a signup, we cleared all distractions and directed them to finish the job and click the link in their (beautifully redesigned) email.

Some elements had to remain the same – setting a password is one of them – but others could be tweaked.

FullStory’s redesigned onboarding sequence step 4

We built the different elements of the user account and profile setup into one single state, step-by-step modal that makes everything clearer and more contained.

This is the vital part of the sequence: getting the recording snippet added to their site. We built in multiple options here, so that new users could install via tag manager or email their recording snippet to a friend if they didn't have access to install the code on their own.

FullStory’s redesigned onboarding sequence step 5
FullStory’s redesigned onboarding sequence step 6

The Results?

Results from FullStory’s redesigned onboarding sequence

It seems counterintuitive – we actually added more steps to the sequence to achieve a higher rate of users reaching that magical 'a-ha' moment (usually, the opposite is true) – but that 22% jumped up to 31%!

Now, truthfully, 31% was still pretty far away from our goal, but it was a meaningful step in the right direction.

Analysis of results from FullStory’s redesigned onboarding sequence

When thinking about your onboarding experience, you need to consider the user's holistic experience and factors outside of your control. For example, if a new user has to ask their development team to install code to their site but they have a slow internal process for making code changes, they may not be able to get it done in the time frame you expect. What can you do to help them overcome these external challenges?


You may not be able to resolve outside issues completely, but if you get creative, you can find solutions to close the gaps.

What made a positive difference to user onboarding?

Overall, our onboarding redesign didn't have the full impact we intended. But, that doesn't mean it was a totally pointless exercise. We were surprised to learn that the top-of-funnel changes had the largest impact on our overall results. Those changers were:

- Sending people straight to their inbox

- Giving the activation email a facelift

There were other smaller wins and minor boosts, but ultimately, removing distractions at the start of the process had the greatest return for our conversion rates.

What made a negative difference to user onboarding?

Solving problems usually leads to more, new and exciting problems! We ran into some issues with the redesign which gave us new targets to aim at in the next few iterations of refining our onboarding sequence. Some of the major problems included:

- 62% of users hit an error when clicking the Google Tag Manager sign in, due to a permissions fault

- 10% of users ran their onboarding from mobile, which we had not optimized for, and so ran into a UX error

- Further onboarding emails were feature-driven, not user need-driven

- Onboarding got bloated with requirements from different stakeholders (adding a marketing attribution survey, requiring phone numbers for sales teams, etc.)

- Not using the personal data that users shared for any useful or meaningful purpose

- Not enough thought-through zero states, which meant we needed to build post-onboarding, onboarding sequences!

Onboarding mistakes to avoid in your Product-Led Business

When it comes to product-led onboarding, my advice is: do as I say, not as I do. Onboarding flows like this require constant attention and iteration. It's an ongoing work in progress, and you need to be prepared to continuously make changes over time. 

If I had it all to do over again, here are the mistakes I'd avoid (and I hope you will too!):

- Data hoarding with no meaningful plan or purpose

- Forcing full account/profile setup before users achieve value

- Ignoring errors and frustration points

- Ignoring mobile onboarding

- Selling features over success

- Shoehorning in unrelated fields and requirements

- Stopping onboarding at the ‘a-ha’ moment

Every company is different, but I hope you'll find these guidelines applicable to your own projects. 

Onboarding best practices to aim for in your Product-Led Business

How can we reverse these mistakes and reframe them as opportunities? Easy. We flip them, and suddenly we have a solid list of best practices. 

If you want to really nail your onboarding sequence, make sure you:

- Collect only the data you need

- Show value before installation

- Squash errors and frustration

- Check the lowest common device users will access your sequence through and build for it

- Focus your messaging on user success, not product features

- Stay streamlined

- Continue tailored onboarding

Want to dive into your onboarding sequence further?

FullStory is a digital experience platform that helps businesses understand, measure, and improve their digital experience across sites and apps. You can use FullStory to measure quantitative results and also see the real user experiences behind the numbers, so you can understand exactly how to improve your digital customer experience.

If you want to dive into the details of user behaviour and maximize the effectiveness of your onboarding (or any other user sequence), we’d love you to see how we could help.

We're currently offering Product-Led Institute readers a 30-day trial (instead of our standard 14-day trial), so you can get started today! 

Melanie Crissey
Melanie Crissey
Product Marketer, Growth & Adoption, FullStory
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