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2021-05-27

3 steps to an engaging new user experience for developers

First impressions matter a lot when you're launching a new product. Optimizing for time-until-Aha! is no easy feat. This is uniquely true for developer-facing software because your customer lives and breathes your medium.

Designing a new user experience looks like a maze at first.

  • What are the setup costs for your new user?
  • What will they have to do to really see what you're offering?
  • If you make it too simple, will you dilute your value proposition?
  • If you make it too complicated, will people finish enough to "get it"?
  • What do you lead with?

Let's demystify this into three core steps.

1. Lead with your core differentiator

What you're bringing to market has to offer something differentiated enough to serve a market segment profitably. This is Business 101.

Don't get distracted by traditional UX theories, gamification, what other products do, or if you need a product tour. Instead, show visitors what is special about your product as fast as you possibly can.

Surge.sh does a great job of this. Right at the top of their homepage, you see only two commands to deploy your website. They did the hard work of removing all of the complexity of traditional signup and baked it into one command. The sooner they get into your CLI, the sooner you see how easy they've made it to deploy code

Surge.sh onboarding

For Aha! Develop, we need you to see how extensions allow you to customize anything for your agile workflow tool.

2. Find your goldilocks onboarding task

Next, you have to figure out the right-sized task to give a visitor that will make your differentiator clear. It can't be too difficult and it can't be too trivial.

What's the best thing to ask a user to do? Come up with three or four bullets for ideas and think through the pros and cons.

You need to put your user at the edge of your iceberg, staring into the crystal blue depths at your product offering below.

Identify your iceberg's edge by choosing a task that does three things:

  • Accomplishes something real in as few steps as possible.
  • Leaves room to explore deeper if desired, with clear directions to branch out and play.
  • Makes us smile. Reach into the heart of the work we do as developers and bring us joy.

For Aha! Develop, wiring up some extension logic that fires confetti when you ship a feature was going to hit all three.

Playing with confetti when you ship

3. Let the user explore the rest at their own speed

With steps 1 and 2, you've optimized for time-until-Aha! Your user should understand that you will scratch their itch in general. Now your job is to make it easy for the user to solve their specific problem.

For developer-facing products, this is most often a healthy mix of UI and documentation. This is when traditional onboarding approaches start to take over, from product tours to customer demos.

With Aha! Develop, we were able to blend our workflow tool with your "dive deeper" tasks. We baked the tour straight into your kanban board. You may be able to find similar leverage in your own product.

Onboarding within workflow board

If you've made it this far successfully, your user should be eager to learn more. You should too!

An onboarding UX is never perfect at first, but these core principles will remain even as you discover improvements to this flow.

If you want to learn more from software product experts, register your team for Aha! Develop today.

Winfred Nadeau

Winfred is a product engineer generalist who enjoys jumping from business to UX to analytics to code. He is a Senior Software Engineer at Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software. Previously, he was a Staff Software Engineer at Hired.com where he helped developers find jobs they love.

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