Make friction your friend

7 principles for using friction to build delightful onboarding experiences for your users…it’s counterintuitive, we know :)

This article was co-authored by Samantha Stephens, Abid Ladhani, Mario Bozzo, Dael Stewart, and Emily Xu

What is the value of a good “user onboarding experience”?

Let’s first start by outlining what a good onboarding experience achieves. Good onboarding should do the following:

  1. Gets users to reach their first point of value (or ‘Aha moment’) as quickly as possible
  2. Gets users to use your product at the intended level of frequency
  3. Encourages healthy user behaviour by getting your product used as intended
  4. Ensures we have the “right” customers (some products aren’t for everyone)

What is included in the onboarding journey?

If you’re about to close this page, hold on! If there’s one thing to take away from this article, it’s the diagram below. We’ve identified the key stages in a user’s onboarding experience, and identified 7 principles of constructive friction that can apply along the journey.

Principle 1: If your offerings are highly targeted, add some friction to get users to the right solution faster

Onboarding stage: Discovery + Consideration

Principle 2: If a curated marketplace is your core offering, make users put a little effort into joining the club

Onboarding stage: Consideration + Sign-up

This is a lonnnggg onboarding flow for FAIRE merchants…but for good reason.

Principle 3: If personalization is a core way for your users to realize value, add some friction to ensure you deliver what they really want

Onboarding stage: Sign-up

Principle 4: If product fluency will save the user time in the future and foster retention, add some friction to ensure they’ve got the hang of it

Onboarding stage: Learn

Principle 5: If the stakes are high for your user, add some friction to remind them of the impact

Onboarding stage: First point of value

Principle 6: Use friction to discourage unhealthy user behaviour early on in the experience

Onboarding stage: First point of value

Ritual.co pushes it’s loyalty program instead of discounted offers for new users to place their first few orders

Principle 7: If the goal is to get users onto your premium offering, add some friction to highlight the benefits

Onboarding stage: First point of value

To sum it all up

Let’s be real, friction should definitely be minimized in most cases. However, friction itself is not an inherently bad thing. Onboarding your users as quickly as possible shouldn’t come at the expense of user health. Friction can be a useful tool to convert the right users into brand evangelists while setting guard rails so your product is being used as intended (and so your users get the most value). A little bit of friction may get your users to experience the kind of magical ‘Aha moment’ that gets them to fall in love with your product.

Product @ Loblaw Digital, ex-Ritual, Accenture | Professional chai taster

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