Unlock Your File Transfer Experience: User Onboarding Explained

Welcome to our new ExaVault product series. We’re kicking off a series of occasional blog posts reviewing how our team develops and enhances our products and user experience. This first post is by our head of UI/UX development, Karl.

Karl is a design expert who is passionate about creating visually appealing and functional elements that enhance everything you do while engaging with ExaVault.

Quote from our designer, Karl


Hey, I’m Karl, the design expert here at ExaVault.

When realizing we lacked a way to truly engage customers with our product, the brainstorming began. We knew we needed a more accessible way for people to access the available tools that would help them fully utilize our SaaS product. I was keen to adopt user onboarding and integrate it into the user experience.

As a designer, my job is to create something that is intuitive and easy to use for everyone. But there are challenges – users who have differing technical skill levels, learn in different ways, and use SaaS for different end goals. Modern, human-usable products need to cater to the broadest segment of people possible. A comprehensive user onboarding solution is just one piece of the pie when it comes to what can make or break a modern piece of a SaaS product.

In this blog post, you’ll see how the team and I worked through the process. You’ll get an overview of user onboarding, then find out how you can get from using our features for your file sharing tasks to learning how to make our features work for you. By the end, you’ll want to make sure user onboarding is enabled for all new users.

User Onboarding - welcome screen


User Onboarding Explained

User onboarding is the process of improving one’s success with a SaaS product. When referring to software products, an automated user onboarding process is often desired over other options. Online file sharing occurs 24/7, especially when dealing with clients all over the world. We don’t want user onboarding to put a damper on your business meeting its goals or hold up your workflow while someone hunts for how to set up a receive folder, or waits for a support response to a simple question on how best to send multiple files at once.

Here at ExaVault, we view user onboarding users as a long term process. While we want people to be up and running in the short term, we also understand that business needs may evolve over time. Learning goes beyond the first few minutes that a new user interacts with your interface.

Our goal with user onboarding is to offer new users a way to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge that will get them “up and running.” A way to make our customers effective users of the ExaVault platform without sacrificing their schedules.  

So how do we get users who are here to do different tasks to that “ah hah!” moment? That moment where they realize how ExaVault could improve their existing workflows. As I’ll talk about a little later, different people learn differently. When you have a lot of different use cases for your application… Well, we realized we’re going to need a comprehensive user onboarding experience. And we’re going to need to pry at the user just a little bit to understand what they are here to do.

How We Got Started

Initial contact with our software as a service is a key area where we as a company can take advantage of various tools. Then, thinking about which of those tools will have the most impact. Tools to help make sure each customer understands the SaaS product at the level needed to do their job and feel comfortable with our product.

User Onboarding options

We decided to put ourselves in the client’s shoes. When a new client signs up, we ask ourselves questions. What are they here to do? How can we help them get things done? How can we improve the process so they can accomplish their goals as quickly as possible? Without burdening users with terminology and information beyond what they are trying to do with the interface. These questions led to creating a user onboarding experience that provides context and understanding of features in the right place and at the right time.

Onboarding topics location in interface

Let’s say, for example, that Susan signs up for a new file sharing SaaS account. She’s trying to send some large, multi-gigabyte files to a coworker across the country. Susan needs to have the files in her co-worker’s hands in less than 3 hours. The sooner we can help her accomplish this task, the happier she is going to be with the product and service. Helping clients like Susan meet their deadline leads to less chance of turnover. Susan will likely stick around and continue using the SaaS product she has been successful with from the beginning. We consider this a bonus as well as part of the goal when thinking about implementing user onboarding tools.

ExaVault tutorials in help menu

In our specific SaaS niche, there are a lot of different use-cases when it comes to business file sharing. Some people use ExaVault strictly for FTP. Other people are using Receive Folders embedded on their company websites to collect files directly from their customers. Others will be using our service as a data repository for media proofs, design edits, and final media deliverables. All three of these examples include customers that are vital to our business. All of whom deserve a smooth transition when incorporating a file transfer and storage SaaS solution into their business workflow.

Working Through Ongoing Use Needs

Let’s look at a customer scenario. The customer has been using ExaVault for a while now. Chances are they are still unaware of some features that will significantly speed up their workflow. Traditionally, you’d rely on individual research and exploring every nook and cranny of the interface to find all those functions. But who has the time these days? Do you even know what features you’re missing out on, or what might save time in your workday?

We decided to approach these questions from a different perspective. We want our SaaS product to be smart enough to lightly monitor user behavior and suggest things that can speed up the task you are currently doing.

Maybe you are adding a batch of new employees as users on your account. Did you know you can bulk import new users to your ExaVault account? This tip lets you know about the import users feature.

Import Users Feature

Another example, let’s say Susan needs to delete eight files every Tuesday. Sure, she could delete those files one by one, but potentially this time-consuming task could prevent her from completing something else on her to-do list. We wanted to implement a system that offers a more efficient option for completing specific tasks. After Susan deletes three files, our application will suggest that she check out multi-select to delete those three files and more with fewer clicks.

We give meaningful context to our user onboarding experience – the user is doing a specific action such as delete, so the tip relating to that action is much more relevant at that time. Offering tips at the right time is superior to having a collection of helpful tips that the customer is responsible for wading through to find something relevant. In the amount of time someone else might spend searching for a shortcut, Susan could have all eight files deleted individually and completed her next task, not knowing there was a simpler way to delete multiple files.

Neither one of these felt like the best use of our customer’s time.

Let’s look at how we solved that…

Understanding our clients, creating specific goals for user onboarding, and welcoming the challenge was the first step. We decided to ask our clients what they are interested in when they first log in. After all, users usually know what they are here to do. Then, we came up with the idea of tailoring each user’s onboarding experience to show things that will help them get the job done efficiently. Introducing onboarding topics in a personalized fashion is one way to help people feel comfortable with a product. From users who are here to share files, all the way to people who want to quickly get ahold of our API and extend the capabilities of their account.

When the new user selects their interests, we generate a few tasks for them to complete and walk them through how to accomplish their goals. This is done by leading users through the SaaS application with markers and tooltips to explain what the feature they are exploring is and what it does. Having someone actually do the task themselves subtly helps the user retain what they are learning.

User Onboarding tutorial menu

Accounting For Modes Of Learning

An interesting aspect of thinking through how to set up an user onboarding experience for new users was realizing the variety of different ways in which people learn best. Chances are you gravitate towards one mode; visually, auditory, reading, or by doing aka kinesthetic. What works best for one individual may not help someone else understand the same information.

Modes of learning to use ExaVault

We like to provide our customers with more than one way to do something. We want our product to be intuitive, and that shows in the design of our web interface. In line with that thought regarding simple, easy to navigate functionality, we applied the same ideas to user onboarding within our product.

One person may want to crack open our support docs and glean what they need in a simple written format. If you’re reading this blog post, you may be that kind of person. Another person learns best when they see something in context. Doing the action yourself can be the best way for many people to learn how to use a new product and feel comfortable in their skills going forward. Some people learn by poking around and trying things until it works to their satisfaction. And all ways of learning are OK! Our goal is to offer a product that is as inclusive as we possibly can make it – that’s just who we are.

Tips & Tricks For Current Users

Since we have many clients who have been using our services for years, we didn’t want our user onboarding to be a new feature that excludes existing customers.

The next issue we had to tackle was folks who have been using the application for a while. Many of these customers are already comfortable with ExaVault and know what they are doing — but they may not know all of the tips and tricks that could speed up how they get stuff done. To add value for current users, we created tips that appear when an action, or actions, could be done a little more swiftly. For example, let’s say you need to download ten files. Currently, you do it one at a time. We built a system to take a look at what you are doing and say “Hey, did you know that you can download as many files at a time as you want? Here’s how!”

How to download multiple files

By further educating our clients as they use the product, we’re thinking about the overall variety of possible users. From current users to new users, and those that will join us in the future. User onboarding tips are all about delivering more value to our customers by offering ways to save you time potentially. Using onboarding tips is also how we plan to alert folks inside of the SaaS application when we come out with new features and improvements. It’s nice to let people know what’s going on where they are spending their time.

And of course, we allow ExaVault admins to be in control: If you don’t want to have a user go through a user onboarding process, you can disable onboarding tips when you’re creating that user.

User onboarding enabled

How You Access User Onboarding

Finally, as part of our research and thinking regarding how people get information from us, we’ve redesigned a few other areas. To create the best experience while using our SaaS application, we’ve combined our help interface, support links, live chat, and user onboarding options. You get one easy to use interface with all that knowledge and support access located in the same place. Think of it as the easy button for your account – conveniently located in the bottom left of the application.

Help menu location

In summary, with modern times come modern tools. We took the time to find out what gets a customer to stick with a product. Sure, free trials are a great offer to get customers in the door. But offering up that sample with user onboarding tips ensures each user is getting the most out of their experience and what ExaVault has to offer. That is how we deliver on our promise of being a leading branded business file sharing service.

Sample onboarding pro-tip