Improving the Onboarding Experience

I know this is stating the obvious but product onboarding is crucial to set the stage for high user engagement and ultimately retention. The following is a feature I worked on at Gust to improve the Gust Launch customer onboarding experience.

Background

The initial workflows in Gust Launch incorporate and form the corporation. These consist of three primary workflows which are filing the certificate of incorporation with the Delaware Secretary of State; appointing the board and adopting the bylaws; and establishing ownership by issuing shares to the company’s founding team. Gust Launch uses startup standard best practices to help streamline this process. It is able to guide founders through this process over the course of a few days to have them quickly up and running a Delaware Corporation.

Over time we noticed that many founders were having trouble with issuing shares to their founding team. After working with customer support and analyzing their conversations, we discovered that customers were getting confused with the complexity of the various concepts and considerations with issuing shares. Additionally, we made an assumption that many founders had already determined their equity allocations for their founding team before incorporating their company. In reality, many founders were incorporating their companies without having already determined the equity allocation for the founding team. 

We had previously developed content to help educate our founders. Also, we had developed a tool outside of Gust Launch to help founders navigate the equity split considerations and conversations with their co-founders. However, the education and additional tools were not brought together into one unified experience for our Gust Launch founders. 

Finally, an internal product metric we were starting to focus on was customer engagement after the initial incorporation. Several of our customers were not returning to their Gust Launch dashboard after completing these first steps. There were still many post-incorporation activities that would help ensure they were following best practices for running their new startup and ultimately making them more investable in the long run. As a company, we decided to focus on increasing engagement and completion with these post-incorporation activities. To start though, we needed to increase the amount of customers that completed their first stock grant within two weeks of incorporation.  

Process

We formed a small team to tackle this problem. It consisted of a product and subject matter expert (myself), a front-end and visual designer (Laura), and a full-stack developer (Noah). From what we could gather from past customer support conversations and what we knew about our product performance data, we decided that we needed to conduct more user research to better understand the ways that our customers preferred to learn new information. Until this point, most of our information within Gust Launch was copy to communicate these foundational corporate processes. We wanted to see if there were other ways that founders preferred to learn. 

User Research

We started by conducting user interviews on our current Gust Launch founders to better understand how they educate themselves on startup best practices. We collaborated as a team to create a user research guide. This guide helped us determine what were the key questions we wanted the interviews to answer; what our assumptions were going into the interviews; and creating the high-level interview outline. 

After we had completed the guide we started to recruit customers to see if they were interested in speaking with us. We segmented our customers based upon if they had already completed all three of the initial Gust Launch onboarding workflows and what version of Gust Launch they were using. To help with recruitment, we offered customers a $50 Amazon gift card in exchange for speaking with us for an hour. 

We were able to recruit 10 customers over a three-week period. To conduct the interviews, we used Join.me and recorded the conversations in case we needed to reference them later. We conducted interviews with two people. One person would conduct the interview while the other would take notes and send the interviewer helpful follow-up questions. After each interview we would reflect on the conversation as a team and write down our takeaways.

Once we concluded all the interviews we began to take those insights to begin designing the initial experience. What we had learned from the user interviews was that customers trusted the information we gave them. Additionally, most founders preferred to educate themselves by reading blog posts by other industry experts and successful founders. Most did not prefer to watch videos or consume audio content to educate themselves. 

Design

We decided to create a new experience that unified all our content to better educate founders on equity allocation to the founding team. Instead of just providing the workflow that would start the process to issue shares to the founding team, we created an equity planning experience that would communicate startup best practices and include our additional tools within the same experience. 

While Laura and I worked on the visual design, UX, and workflow copy, Noah began to develop the backend processes for the workflow. This allowed us to speed up the feature’s delivery by not having to rigidly stage the feature development between its design/UX and backend implementation. As a team, we went through several design iterations to ultimately come up with our initial experience. 

Challenges

Writing the copy turned out to be the most challenging aspect for this feature. We struggled with several different iterations trying to balance providing enough information without overwhelming our founders with too many details. It was hard to determine what information that we wanted all our customers to experience in the workflow and what would be accessible through FAQs and other link-out information. After several back and forth versions and meetings, we were ultimately able to come with an experience we believed would best present the right amount of information.

Result 

The ultimate feature we released is the current Establish Ownership experience in Gust Launch. This feature is the final step in onboarding a new founder into the Gust Launch platform. It leverages both copy and a visual experience to reinforce the concepts and best practices for issuing equity to the founding team. We also included several warning states to help founders avoid issuing too few shares which can cause Delaware franchise tax issues and issuing too many shares initially which wouldn’t leave room for future issuances.

Below is a demo of what we released. 

Gust Launch Establish Ownership Experience

This feature ultimately cut the average successful onboarding time in half. It introduced key concepts that founders need to understand in order to successfully operate their startup and ultimately avoid mistakes that could cause issues when fundraising.  

Conclusion

Working on this feature helped me better understand the key role user research plays in making sure you release features that correctly address your user’s pain points. We learned things through user interviews that we would not have been able to identify through just our customer support conversations and performance data. 

As I mentioned before, writing the copy was the most challenging aspect for this experience. It is hard to write copy that can both communicate dense information accurately and in a way your users will understand. Especially in legal tech, people that can effectively write to your audience are worth their weight in gold. If you ever find a great copywriter, do everything you can to work with them. 

Finally, this project would not have been a success without the team I worked with. While I had a comfortable grasp on the subject matter and what we wanted to accomplish, I could never have been able to come up with experience that Laura and Noah built. I was constantly spoiled during my time working on Gust Launch with exceptionally talented designers and engineers. Building this feature reminded me of the necessity to give talented people the space to develop and execute on their ideas.