On the importance of user onboarding for side projects

Today’s post is again about my little side project called Kanji Book. If you read my last post on Promoting a side project without an audience, you will know that I have figured out a way to find initial user for my project even without being an internet celebrity. The site should be doing great by now, right? Well, it turns out that people who visited my site and felt compelled enough by my value proposition of an easy Japanese learning tool didn’t quite get the simplicity of the app and mostly bailed out after signing up. 50% of those sign-ups even went as far as verifying their email address and enrolling for my newsletter. Therefore something has to be wrong with the website.

There were occasional responders on my custom welcome emails but keeping the user engaged really boils down to the fact of displaying a product’s values to the customer in the first few minutes. Otherwise they won’t come back and they will forget you. This problem is especially troublesome for services which have a trial period attached to them like mine. Even though, you may have your customer’s email address, it’s still very hard to get them re-engaged if the first experience with your product was below average. That’s what I’ve seen at least for Kanji Book. What I think every SaaS product should aim for, is a “Wow-effect” within the first 5-10 minutes of your product. People are very busy and they will only give you a short period of their time. Therefore you’ve to make the most out of it.

So why did I become aware of this problem. Google Analytics told me that 32.9% of my visitors returned to my site within the last 6 days. There shouldn’t be a problem, right? Not a bit of it.

Kanji Book’s returning visitors

I got a little bit suspicious after monitoring my database whether or not people are generating data upon using my site. I should have gotten aware of this problem much sooner, because I’ve a separate path for my dashboard which is different from the root path. Anyways, one week ago I implemented a simple user engagement tracker which logs the occurrence of api calls on an hourly basis. To my surprise, people weren’t using the product at all and never came back. This is very troublesome because they didn’t experience the value of my product which I advertised on the landing page and for which they initially signed up for.

Hence, I’ve been hard at work the last couple of days getting this right. I’ve been working on creating the most simplistic onboarding process for Kanji Book. It consists of 3 steps which are essential to the software:

  • Setting a goal
  • Learning a kanji
  • Reviewing a previously learned kanji

Every customers should actively experience them in the first 5-10 minutes. I hope that people will soon perceive Kanji Book’s value more easily and stick around a tad longer. In one of my future posts I will report on my results and whether or not I have seen any improvements. If you know of any resources which could help me get this right, feel free to send them to me at martin@schleiss.io. I’d be very grateful.


The mind agrees.