Finding the right balance with product onboarding

There are some great product tips in Scott Belsky’s How to Shape Remarkable Products in the Messy Middle of Building Startups, but this part about onboarding particularly stood out for me:

You can’t expect new customers to endure explanation. You can’t even expect customers to patiently watch as you show them how to use your product. Your best chance at engaging them is to do it for them — at least at first. Only after your customers feel successful will they engage deeply enough to tap the full potential of your offering.

One of the hardest things to figure out with onboarding is the right balance of selecting defaults (“doing it for them”) and having users learn by doing things themselves.

For example, within Postmark’s onboarding a continuing debate is whether or not we should auto-create a user’s first “server” for them, or help them understand the concept better by making them do it themselves. Finding the appropriate amount of friction to introduce is an ongoing and important challenge for any product’s onboarding.