Getting the Bookends of Product Right 📚

Sep 16, 2022 1:49 pm

Happy Friday!

I'd like to write a bit about something that comes up a lot for me and my clients as they conceive of and launch software products.

Imagine you bought a phone, and that phone came with a book. The book contained information like how to install the operating system, how to configure it, and how to set it up for your specific carrier in mind. Further, that book has spelling and grammar issues and reads as though it only makes sense to someone who already knows everything. It takes a few days to get set up and requires a second phone to call customer support as you work through it.

Imagine you bought a phone, and it turns on and is ready to use out of the box. You make a phone call or send a text within a minute of opening the box.

That first contact and first impression is a precious moment, and most groups completely ignore it.

We would typically call this onboarding, but it almost always comes as an afterthought to most product groups. The same is even more true for offboarding.

While I'm all for doing minimal product launches, that first impression or onboarding experience still matters. Not only does your onboarding experience set the tone for the product's usability, but it also says a lot about the cost of ownership or customer cost.

There is a huge cost difference to the company when they ship a product that builds an onboarding experience compared to having to fly people to each customer or grow a support center just to help their users start to use the product. The break even on this is hilariously fast most of the time.

But all of this is about onboarding, but let's talk about offboarding or losing a customer briefly. There are really fascinating problems that exist when you try to remove a customer from your product. For example, most of the data models that the engineering groups create will be deeply entangled, and if they don't prepare, they will not be able to remove a customer without destroying the integrity of the product. There are alternatives to this, but there are also security and privacy issues that will become issues as well.

My advice here is to pay attention to how a user first makes contact with your product and how they leave it. These two pieces are critical for the growth and support of your product.

Most techniques that help product people map feature sets easily accommodate adding onboarding and offboarding, but nine times out of ten, they'll build their product around a regular user returning to the product and completely forget about the first-time user or the last time user. So the easy way to help with this is explicitly mapping those flows when you next start a product.

So what I'd love to hear from you is if you have a story where you did this really well, or even more fun, your war stories where you realized how important this is too late.


Ryan Latta