Onboarding like Michael Jackson

When building a product, onboarding is the act of helping a user getting started using the product. It involves such things as clearly explaining the Product Promise, introducing the user interface and helping the user set up the basics. (An awesome place to learn more about onboarding is UserOnboard.)

It is an often underused way of building a relationship with the user. Often products just wham bam you in to their interface and leave you hanging. This is because we as product builders fail to see our own product from our customers point of view. We tend to focus on building the next feature instead of properly introducing the product and the features that already exist to the user.

I think this is because we see the product as sort of a construct that needs to be completed. An artefact to be built. That means it becomes more important for us to focus on the next feature to build rather than understand how the product fits in to the life of our users.

In other words, we miss the whole for the details.

What if we instead saw it as a story or a performance that we do together with the user (to help them achieve a goal)? Elizabeth Churchill touched on this subject at Mind the Product London and I can’t help to think about it when I see this performance from the King of Pop, Michael Jackson:

Michael Jackson was as an artist a master performer. After a life on stage he must have developed an intuitive sense for what an audience wants. Now, look at the first one and a half minute or so of the video above. How he enters the stage and gradually builds up the anticipation of the audience.

His Product Promise is crystal clear, since the audience knows exactly what he is about the play and what he will deliver. They know what they will get it, and they want it – badly. Now he is fully focused on onboarding the audience and raise their attention, step by step, until the crescendo when the tight drumbeats from Billie Jean starts pumping in the loudspeakers. The audience goes wild!

Just imagine your product giving the same reaction as you use it for the first time, where the user for every step they take through the onboarding process feels an ever growing feeling of I WANT MORE and GIVE IT TO ME, NOW.

You might not have the same tight drumbeats as Billie Jean and it will probably be hard to make your users dance and scream but there is a lot to learn from how master performers entertain their audiences. Maybe it’s time to start thinking of your product in a new way?

What is your crescendo?

Erik Starck

Erik is a Lean Forward partner and the CEO of the company.