Figuring out on-boarding for your product is hard. It’s the first time someone experiences it and first impressions matter. It’s one of the things we keep coming back to — I believe that it’s one of the most important parts of an app. It’s in those first 30 seconds or so that you need to convince someone that there’s a reason to come back.

Building a social network, some of the factors that my team and I have talked about are —

  1. How long should the on-boarding process be?
  2. Where are they at that moment they download?
  3. What kind of investment do we ask of our users to give them a reason to come back?
  4. How are they feeling? Are they sober, drunk, sad, excited?
  5. How much do we teach them about what we think makes TimeSet special?
  6. Should we encourage them to create content for us right at the start?
  7. Do we emphasize our network, and the people using it?
  8. Should we encourage them to subscribe to BucketLists and/or follow users?
  9. How much does the user know about our product when they download it?

So far we’ve tried several things with our on-boarding. At first it was a simple sign-up. No real on-boarding process, but when you reached the first screen we had some quick tutorials pointing to various parts of the app that you could read or tap through.

We realized we weren’t asking anything of our users when they first logged in — so we decided to go to the opposite end of the spectrum.

Our core functionality is taking a photo to complete a goal in a BucketList. We created an elaborate explanation of what a BucketList is, and heavily encouraged our new users to post to our “On-boarding BucketList”. It had 3 goals:

  1. Take a photo of what’s in front of you
  2. Take a screenshot of your home screen
  3. Take a screenshot of what you’re listening to

We assumed that because these were such simple, easy goals that it wouldn’t be too much of a hurdle to complete when someone is using the app for the first time.

We were wrong.

We noticed immediately that encouraging someone to post to a social network that they know nothing about, with no understanding of the context or consequences of that post was a bad idea. It was too much of an ask. It made people uncomfortable, and many times said, “Wtf why am I being asked to post something?”. So we axed it and went back to the drawing board.

Our next iteration will be much more simple and much less of an investment for new users. We don’t have many users, and our strength is the small network that we’ve created. Most of us post every day, and check the feed constantly.

We asked ourselves,

We ARE a social network, so why don’t we bring users into ours? They can see the awesome, funny stuff we post and feel like they are a part of a community right when they log in.

It made sense after 2 other tries of messing it up. In our next update, when a new user signs up we will show them two screens:

  1. One of our most popular, active and interesting BucketLists where they tap subscribe to the ones they are most interested in
  2. Our most active users, where they can tap follow so their posts populate the feed as well

On top of this, when a user visits or creates a BucketList for the first time, we will play a quick tutorial that is easily digestible and highlights the core functionality of a BucketList. We believe this approach provides several benefits to a new user:

  1. Most importantly, it highlights our community of people posting who have created interesting BucketLists.
  2. It allows their feed to be populated with goal completions and posts right from the start.
  3. Subscribing and following are familiar, comfortable actions.
  4. It gives a new user a reason to come back a few days later when someone has completed a BucketList (We send a notification when someone has completed one for the first time).

We hope that this new on-boarding will increase the odds that a new user “gets” TimeSet, regardless of where they are experiencing it.