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9 Things I Wish I Knew Before Designing our Onboarding Email Flow

Hours of designing condensed into a four-minute read that will save you a great deal of pain

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Design is frustrating. It’s hair pulling, stay up til 1am thinking about it, frustrating.

It’s also slightly (extremely) terrifying knowing that once you put it out there, hundreds of people will end up seeing it.

I’ve recently had the pleasure of re-designing our onboarding email flow(no, seriously, I discovered I have a bizarre excitement for it), which was something I’d never done before. I’m going to share what I learned to the people out there who are in the same position as I was.

Make it easy for yourself and visualise

This is something that seems obvious, but having no experience in creating an onboarding journey, I had to so some research until I realised I needed to create and draw out an ‘email flow’.

Map it out, use the beginning and end of the flow as anchor points. You know where your customers begin and where you want them to be, so use that and fill in the parts in-between. This will let you see how parts will interact with one another, and visualise the journey as whole.

There are simple softwares out there, I used draw.io, which integrates with Google Docs and gives you basic shapes that allowed me the creative freedom I love.

To know the customer, you must become them

Where can they lose interest? What kind of indirect approaches can you use to put them back on track? Is the way I’m addressing them fitting to the company image?

Everyone is a customer of somewhere, you most likely are part of an emailing campaign of some site you signed up to half-mindedly whilst trialing other similar products.

Now take the attitude you have towards their marketing emails, and remind yourself that this is the same mindset that some of your customers will have.

This presents you the frame of mind you have to consider when designing the flow and writing the emails, giving you the chance to counteract the indifference some will have towards your product.

Plug that funnel and rescue those slipping away

There will be multiple points where your users can disappear in the abyss of lost leads — such as installation of your app, taking the first steps, filling in personal information, and just before purchasing.

Have someone who knows your customers best point them out so you can set up reminder emails and feedback requests —* they may have just simply forgotten about you*, so don’t be scared to follow up and get them back on track.

One tiny trip now, one massive face plant later

Make sure you don’t have places where the customer can get stuck in a loop or their campaign abruptly ends because of a paradox.

There have been times where I’ve realised I’ve looped it, so they would just never receive an email again after re-engagement campaigns — so, go through each path and check that it makes sense!

Make it easier for yourself, map it out

Have a key on your diagram, put as much detail as you can, I included the delays between emails, what template they’ll take on, and any thoughts were recorded as a note.

Break things down — this makes it so much easier to organise what can become quite a complex system.

Consider what platform you’re transferring to

Every email campaigning platform has their own capabilities, be sure you can match up the conditions on both the chart and software, otherwise you won’t be able to carry out the flow.

You’ll end up having to re-do parts and the process just becomes a pain.

Select templates carefully

Don’t use templates where they’re not needed, if you want a response, follow ups and check-ups are personalised messages and so should be kept to a minimum.

Using a template screams ‘this is definitely a generic email that everyone gets’. And sometimes that’s okay, but not when the whole point of an email is to get a reply.

For notifications, blog posts, and surveys, they are formatted, however, with trial check-ups and reminders, keep the format simple

Play out scenarios

Play out every path that your leads could take, and send yourself test emails. Here, you’ll realise if you’re sending out emails too often, whether the tone is off, and if everything is working properly.

We’ve had our share of tone screw-ups (we’re pretty sure our old welcome email may have offended a few), as well as broken links being sent out.

Quadruple check EVERYTHING

One mistake can lead to someone getting an email when they weren’t meant to, this isn’t so bad but isn’t the best impression you can give when presenting the company for the first time.

Check each step on the chart before writing out the emails, sending out broken links is useless (trust me, we’ve done it before and spent more time fixing it and writing an apology email). It’s better to spend the time testing than apologising.

NOTE: I’ve still yet to finish transferring and writing the emails, but this is what I have so far in terms of lessons I’ve learned during the designing process.

You can find our current onboarding here: Intercom email templates

9 Things I Wish I Knew Before Designing our Onboarding Email Flow
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