5 Common UX Mistakes Startups Make with Onboarding Users

Ildikó Tuck
January 4, 2014

5 Common UX Mistakes Startups Make with Onboarding Users

I’ve noticed a lot of excellent startup ideas all over the internet lately. There are novelty home-share, social travel, flight search, delegating chores and many, many other ideas designed to revolutionise the way we do things. I’m also noticing a pattern of common mistakes startups make while trying to get users to sign up and try their new product or service.

1: Asking for Sign Up Before Offering a Demo, Tour or Trial

People are more and more wary of giving out their data and opening the door to unwanted communication. Offering a quick, obligation-free demo of the product or service that you’re selling is an excellent way to gain your visitors confidence and turn them into a (happy!) customer. If your business model doesn’t allow you to offer free trials or a demo playground for all the features, you should at least offer a detailed video explaining what they get and what it looks like.

2: Asking for Unnecessary Details During Signup

I understand that your marketing team needs to know as much as possible about the people signing up to try your product or service. This, however, can often backfire. Do you really need that address and postcode if you aren’t going to send them anything? Do you really need to know their household income? Do you really need them to connect with facebook, or twitter or linkedin to use your service? Depending on your product, you might. But it’s worth taking a good, long, critical look at those signup form fields and cutting out anything not absolutely essential and then doing the same with the social permission settings you’re asking for. The less you ask, the more likely it is that you’ll get it.


Easy, simple sign-up form: Airtasker

3: Making all Fields Mandatory

Okay, so let’s say there are 10 fields you really, really want to have and there’s no way your marketing department will let you remove them. Do they need to be mandatory as well? Having “mandatory” and “optional” fields in your form can be a neat UX trick to keep everyone happy. Have the mandatory fields first, group them under a friendly heading that briefly explains why you really need that data and then have the “Nice to have”s under a separate heading, also explaining that you’d appreciate all of these but they aren’t critical for the sign up process. This is a lot clearer and friendlier than having the little asterisk next to every second or third field, making your form look more cluttered and complex than it really is.

4: Asking for Credit Card Details

This tip may not apply to everyone, as in some cases there is nothing you can give for free - however, if possible, avoid asking for financial details on signup. Better yet, mention this right next to the sign-up button if you can. People are very careful with their financial data and aren’t likely to give it out unless they are 100% decided that they want to buy the product you’re selling. Or maybe they don’t have their credit card handy at that moment. A better user experience would be to let them sign up for the demo and block off any feature that requires payment, assuming that you are offering something valuable for free as well.


No Credit Card Needed - simple and clear. Sanebox

#5: Bombarding People with Emails

Let’s say you’ve done all the above, and you’ve successfully gotten someone’s name and email address. They’ve tried your product, but then haven’t gotten around to purchasing it. You send a friendly email reminding them about it, and asking them to contact you if they had any difficulties with the purchase process. Do this once, good. Do it every day and it gets very annoying, even if this person technically agreed to receive communication from you. There aren’t any hard and fast rules about this, but please use your common sense. A friendly reminder once and another one just before their time-limited trial expires should suffice.

So, what else can you do to ensure your onboarding goes as smoothly as possible? Keeping in mind the above, I encourage you to test your signup process idea with real, actual users as often as possible. Try different layout ideas and UX tweaks to make it friendlier, try different language and even colours. Onboarding users is one of the key components of the success of your business, and it’s well worth paying special attention to.