A simple framework for designing user onboarding

How to Prioritize Your Product Development Using a Depth and Breadth Framework

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Jonathan Anderson
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There’s an inherent challenge in scaling and maturing any SaaS product: As you add more types of users and the features to serve them, it becomes more difficult for users to find what they need. 

The fact is that you can’t build everything for everyone, and one UI can’t serve every user. The field of product development, therefore, forces you to make some tough choices when it comes to onboarding. 

Will you focus on acquiring as many users as possible, or is depth of usage more important to your business model? Will you judge your success on activating new users or on engaging loyal ones?

The Depth/Breadth Framework for User Onboarding is here to help! Candu has designed this framework to help you think through your onboarding journey and, ultimately, decide which use cases to focus on when.

The software adoption Depth vs. Breadth Framework

How to Read The Depth/Breadth Framework for User Onboarding

Here, you’ll see that the horizontal axis is the breadth of usage (how many users on an account are engaging with your product). The vertical axis represents depth of usage (the rate of repeat logins and how well these core users access your product features). Breadth is a question of numbers, while depth is a proxy for how much value an individual user extracts from your product. 

We’ve further split each axis into three categories of users. 

First up, the horizontal “Depth” axis: 

  • New users: These are simply users that activate, representing the moment when they first derive value from your product. 
  • Engaged users: Engaged users return to the product regularly, perhaps performing common functions each time.
  • Power users: Power users are your product’s promoters and (hopefully) customer advocates. They are utilizing your product far beyond the returning user use case, often by 10x. They are very likely to be product admins, utilizing the most advanced features, and know the intricacies of how their organization uses your app. Their colleagues will look to them for help with your tool. 

The vertical, or “Breadth,” axis, breaks down as follows:

  • First user: Often a trialist or an admin, this is the first user to log in to your product. Their experience is critical, as they will become the voice of your product. They are likely to experience initial screens, such as splash screens, and experience your app before it’s populated with data.
  • Invited users: These users are often invited by the first user. Generally, they resemble your initial user. If your first user is a developer, for example, they are very likely to invite other developers. By the time invited users join the account, the product’s configuration is probably set. 
  • Added personas: Added personas are new types of users (teams) who begin to use your software. Often, they are brought in by an account executive after a deliberate push or by a marketing engagement drive to bring in new types of users. These users are likely to have substantively different needs from either of the first two use cases. 

So, where along this framework should you be focusing?

1. Initial Installs & Trialists

It’s extremely expensive to acquire new customers and can be just as difficult to keep them happy. Not only is a user’s first impression a lasting one; getting the configuration right will determine the long-term success for the whole account. 

If your users aren’t activating on their first sessions, you already know where to start. A poorly configured account can be difficult to recognize, but your support team will be able to tell you if you need to invest effort here. 

You should be asking yourself whether users can get value from your product in the very first session. Do they understand the how and the why of your product, as well as the problem they’re trying to solve by using it? You won’t always be there to help them along the way, so make sure new users are able to self-serve, even for enterprise applications.

Example project: Account Setup Checklist

2. Engagement (Feature Discovery)

User expectations are constantly changing, and you need to meet them as they grow over time. Delivering ever-more value to users will allow you to raise prices while failing to do so will result in customer churn. 
Focus on engagement if you find that your usage tends to plateau. A limited uptake in the new features you launch (say, less than 20%) could be a sign that you’re failing to meet your users’ growing needs.

If you choose to focus on engagement, you’ll need to figure out how to transform new users into power users. How does your product experience enable feature discovery and adoption, and where are you losing users along the way? Building nurture campaigns into your product experience can be a great way to engage reactive users.

Example project: New Feature Splash Page

3. Broadening Usage

The more types of users getting value from your product, the more you’ll be able to charge in enterprise sale. A varied set of users also protects you in the case that your power user(s) eventually move on, which is sadly inevitable.

If you’re providing a single landing page with a single experience to all users, it’s time to focus on broadening your scope. A one-dimensional experience draws in one-dimensional uses, and you’re susceptible to losing an account if you can’t get a broader base of support.

In order to broaden your reach, identify the distinct needs of new users as they log in to your product. Then, ask yourself how to adapt your product experience to welcome these new users and deliver value to them. 

Example projects: Persona-based Welcome Message

The Conundrum Every B2B SaaS Company Must Face

Unfortunately, prioritizing one use case inherently means neglecting others, with each of them seemingly in direct conflict. It not only comes down to prioritizing your dev resources but your front end, as well, as you’re limited by the real estate of your UI.
On the bright side, Candu makes it cheap and easy to work on improving your breadth and your depth. And, we enable you to create multiple variants so that you can work on all of your use cases within the same space. You’ll still have to make some tough choices for where to focus your time, but whatever you decide on won’t crowd out all the good work you’ve done.


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