“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
― Pablo Picasso
The status quo for SaaS products is onboarding. But most onboarding funnels add more friction than they seek to remove. And if activation is your goal, there's only so many steps or friction that you can remove.
At Streamline, we provide icons and illustrations. People can browse, customize, and export as many assets as they want. And it's not just the web app that is ungated. Our Figma and Lucid plugins as well as our desktop app is ungated or has open funnels. There's literally no barrier to using the product.
A indie-maker created a zip file with some icons. It went viral. People asked for more. And the indie maker turned into a full-blown company. After I joined, Streamline moved from a transactional based business model to a subscription based model. People had to sign up to use the free product back then.
Streamline's current onboarding..
Check out our onboarding:
1. You land on the icons homepage with all free sets at the top
2. You click into a set
3. You customize colors and size before exporting in the format you want.
4. And that's it. No watermarks. No low-resolution images. No signup needed. No account. No credit card. No questionnaire.
Note: We do ask users to attribute to us if they use for free. The free tier is generous enough for most users and acts us our growth loop to generate high quality backlinks.
The good stuff of open funnels..
People experience the product without friction and are delighted because it delivers on what they were hoping to get.
One big benefit for us is via programmatic SEO. The more time people spend on the page, Google rewards us and ranks us higher.
Activation explodes because there are no onboarding steps that lead to drop offs. Everyone skipped the line.
More product data, perhaps 10x more than what'd you'd see with a traditional gated experience. This helps us understand which searches have no relevant results and if some icon sets convert better than the others.
More users to run experiments. Instead of relying simply on homepage A/B testing, we now have more users in the product.
The not-so-good stuff of frictionless onboarding..
Tracking is extremely hard. You have to stitch pre-login and post-login data together. If your audience is tech-savvy, you have to invest in server-side tracking to bypass adblockers that block client-side. Around 40-60% of devs, designers and tech-savvy people have ad blockers turned on.
Users once lost are lost forever. If you fail to activate a user, you can't hope to win them back via onboarding emails. Lifecycle campaigns won't cover up for an average product experience.
You're setting up users to fail. Some users require more hand-holding or your product has complex features that you can't just let people explore on their own.
No sunk costs to keep users invested. It's easy to quit and make another search on google.
Conversion rates will be lower because more people explore the product. In a traditional setup, these people would've dropped off already in an onboarding.
No segmentation data. Onboarding usually helps to get information around industry, company size, role, traffic source, etc. And without one, your cohort analysis capabilities are limited.
No user data means harder to qualify users or pipe them into sales funnels. You can't even customize the emails based on what their role / jbtd is about. You can customize only based on what you've seen them use.
To get people to sign up, you'd have give away even more value. We layered on a free trial to get people to sign up.
At the end of the day, you have good friction and bad friction. You have to choose whether to keep both or remove both.
Thanks for reading :)
Btw, I'm trying to better understand who my audience is. If you've got ten minutes, I would love to do a user research call: toption.org/10-minute