4 minute read · Published April 20, 2023

How to improve feature adoption for new users

Latest Update March 27, 2024

Once a new user lands in your app, you must convince them to stay. A good place to start is by understanding the user intent - what someone is trying to do in your app. For new users in a typical SaaS app, this is usually one of two things:

  • Feature discovery: “I’m looking for feature X or something to solve pain point Y.” The user may have a particular job-to-be-done in mind, and they want to know whether your solution can help them do it.
  • Or product exploration: “I want to see what this can do.” In product adoption curve terms, this is most common among early adopters and innovators.

Either way, by this stage, they aren’t starting from a blank slate. They’ll have some context around your product from whatever source drove them to it in the first place (an ad, an email, a recommendation from a friend, etc.) as well as your marketing site - so they’ll have some ideas about what the product can do, maybe some features they’re particularly interested in, and likely some concerns too - how will it work alongside existing processes? will it integrate into their current software stack? That’s a lot of information that your product needs to convey in a short amount of time. To do so, you need to map user intent to product value in the most efficient way possible: getting them to an aha moment while minimizing time-to-value.

This is a cool case study you can check out after the article!

A great way to do this is with a user onboarding process that uses in-app guidance. You can use a pin, or beacon, to highlight a specific feature in your product's UI that satisfies a common use case, encouraging new users to try it out. Let’s take a look at how you can create a nudge in CommandBar that highlights a key feature to new users when they're exploring the app for the first time.

Nudging a feature for new users in CommandBar

We will create a ‘pin’ type Nudge to highlight a key feature.

Step 1: Create a nudge

Use the CommandBar Chrome extension, and select Open Editor. Select 'Nudges' and create a nudge, selecting the ‘start from scratch’ option rather than opting for a template.

Step 2: Create a pin

A pin, also known as a beacon is a highlight that’s attached to the feature UI, making it clear where it is. You do this by picking a target - using a particular XPath or by clicking on the UI element in your app.

You then want to give the nudge a name and then set the pin copy. You can also add a button, image, video, relevant help doc, or survey here, too.

Optionally, you can set an action here - what happens when the button is clicked. This could be to visit a page, click a page element, or trigger an action.

Step 3: Set the targeting

Setting a target specifies who will see it and when. So we want to set the Audience as 'New Users' only, and you’ll probably want to limit it to a specific page in your app where you know that feature is first shown.

Then save your changes and take a look at the preview to see the result.

Other ways to boost feature adoption

Of course, a nudge is just one form of in-app guidance, but there are other ways to improve feature adoption. Depending on your needs, a product tour, checklist, tooltips, or interactive walkthrough might be a better option. And your thinking shouldn't end there - a product tour or checklist alone won’t deliver a great onboarding experience. Here are some tips for creating effective onboarding that moves the needle on your product adoption metrics.

Keep things snappy and indicate progress

To satisfy users' intent, try splitting their needs into key tasks (no more than 5-7 steps is ideal). Adding a progress bar helps signal what remains to be done.

Get personal

Providing a personalized experience can significantly impact user engagement. Addressing users by name, among other techniques such as tailoring experiences based on metadata like subscription plans, website browsing behavior, and time of day, can make your app seem more relevant to the user.

Learning by doing

Making the onboarding interactive is a good way to ensure a user actively engages with your product rather than mindlessly clicks through UI elements.

Track and iterate

Effective onboarding is an ongoing process. You can always find new ways to reduce user friction, understand user intent, and optimize a UX flow. One of the keys to success is leveraging data. By including tracking in your in-app guidance, you can review the results and continuously enhance the user onboarding experience.

Go beyond the app

In-app guidance is useful, but it's one of many customer touchpoints - make sure you act beyond the app too, like with video tutorials, webinars, or useful, actionable emails.

For more inspiration, check out these examples of great user onboarding experiences.

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