User onboarding

User onboarding is part of a great user experience, and it’s a relatively new element of digital product design. In “All Aboard! Innovative New Onboarding for SAP Apps”, Janis Shuttleworth describes the new guided tour approach to onboarding being adopted by Fiori. In this post I’m going to talk about another aspect of user onboarding, the “first-run experience” that we’re also exploring at SAP. The goal of a first-run experience is to take a new user through the product itself, and interact with key features that result in a quick win. It helps new users see how the product may benefit their work in a tangible way, and learn the tool by using the tool.

Our user onboarding pilot: ReviewNinja

ReviewNinja is one of the products designed and developed by the SAP Tools team in Palo Alto. It’s an open source code review tool designed for development teams. We have many active users, we conduct user research regularly, and we track usage with analytics. As a result, we know that many teams have made ReviewNinja an integral part of their development process, but some have tried and not adopted the tool. We’d like to see what kind of positive impact user onboarding can have.

Adding a first-run experience

How can we increase the likelihood that new users will adopt ReviewNinja? Our inspiration comes from Samuel Hulick’s work at User Onboarding. He writes extensively on the topic, and critiques many great products like Slack, Basecamp, and Trello that invest considerable design and development effort into first-run experiences and user onboarding. Through our research and analytics, we identified the actions that more frequently translate to adoption and regular use. We then wove these actions into a first-run experience to guide new users through a flow that results in quick wins. 

The content is the tutorial

Step one in the first-run experience for ReviewNinja is to guide new users to add a GitHub repository (very typical step in new web-based developer tools). One of the key principles we’ve followed is the content is the tutorial, meaning the tool introduces itself using key features and actions. It’s important to welcome new users in a helpful and relevant way, so ReviewNinja presents an option for guidance using the core content of the tool itself: a welcome repository.


Make it meaningful

Once a new user clicks to add the welcome repository it’s added to the user’s list in exactly the same way as any other repository. By making “content the tutorial” users are interacting with the tool itself while completing meaningful activities that help them be successful.


Provide quick wins

Clicking on the repository name brings the user to the repository detail screen. The first item’s title, “Review this to get started” prompts a suggested next step (using the tool to teach the tool). At this stage we introduce a dismissible “to-do” list showing which key actions a user has completed.


Reward success

The welcome repository has an open pull request with a file (standard file in any GitHub repository) with suggestions on what to do next.  As a new user completes tasks, the to-do list is checked off.


Be helpful!

If at any time a user is unclear how to perform an action in the first-run experience, he or she can hover over it and an animation will guide them.


No floating in limbo!

Once all key actions have been completed, it’s really important to communicate success. It’s also critical not to leave users in limbo, so we’ve provided a prompt to let a new user know what would be the most useful next step to take after completing the first-run experience.


That’s it! Our pilot first-run experience for ReviewNinja. We’ll be continuing to test and learn. It’s early days, but we’re definitely seeing higher levels of adoption, so it appears to be having a positive impact. 

Let us know if you have any feedback or questions.

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