Recently, I was going through onboarding flow for some of the websites that I frequently use. One of them was Quora. I had joined Quora long time back, and I wanted to see how the onboarding flow had changed since the time I signed up.
I will use the following framework to explain the onboarding flow for Quora and how it can be improved:
- Goals of a user on Quora
- Success metrics for Quora
- Current onboarding flow and improvements
1. Goals of a user on Quora
Quora is a marketplace that connects users in need of answers with experts who can provide those answers. In my own experience, I have found answers to questions on varied topics such as product management, Elon Musk, relativity theory, and even sports (cricket, football).
The users who are in search of questions are motivated by their curiosity to not only find answers to their specific questions but also browse answers to interesting questions in topics that they are interested in. The users who are experts in certain topics and provide answers are motivated to answer questions for the social recognition by establishing themselves as the thought leaders on a particular topic.
Both these points about motivations of users seeking answers and users providing answers are important to understanding the effectiveness of Quora’s onboarding flow for new users.
2. Success metrics for Quora
Keeping the user goals in mind, let’s focus on some of the metrics for new users. I assume most of the new users come to Quora through SEO (Google, Bing, Yahoo etc.) when they are asking questions on search engines.
- Acquisition: Understanding the channels of their user acquisition will provide Quora an idea of the mindset of their users. Users coming from an organic channel might have a different expectation than users coming from an SEO channel, and Quora’s onboarding flow should reflect these expectations. For example, users coming from SEO might want to see the answer to their question before they are asked to do anything else.
- First-time success: The success of the first time experience can be determined by understanding whether the first-time users coming from SEO get a satisfactory answer to their question and whether they derive enough value from the product to keep browsing.
- Activation & Retention: Quora would want their new users to keep browsing other questions and thus adding more value to their experience as a new user. Once the new users sign up, the success of the onboarding flow can be determined by the repeat visits from these new users through email since Quora sends emails to their users based on the topics that they follow.
3. Current onboarding flow and improvements
Considering the user goals on Quora and Quora’s success metrics listed above, let’s take a look at the current onboarding flow and propose some changes that will help Quora to better satisfy their users as well as meet their business metrics.
The onboarding flow for Quora consists of the following 4 parts:
- Onboarding questions on interests and expertise
- Facebook connect feature
- Feature tutorial
Let’s look at each of these parts separately.
1. Onboarding questions on interests and expertise:
Quora would like to surface the most interesting and relevant questions and answers for new users. In that respect, Quora does a good job of asking users the right questions during their onboarding so that they can populate the news feed with questions that are relevant and interesting.
To maintain the liquidity of the marketplace, Quora makes sure to not only ask the new users of the topics that they might be interested in learning but also ask about the topics that they are an expert in and can contribute to the answers on Quora. Asking new users for their interests and expertise helps Quora surface interesting questions for their users to read as well as to answer. This also helps Quora to send emails with relevant questions at a later time based on the topics selected by the user. This improves retention metrics for Quora.
2. Facebook connect feature:
Quora has figured out that people usually trust the answers that are submitted or recommended by friends or family. So Quora asks a new user to connect their Facebook account with Quora. However, the copy is not enticing and does not provide a benefit for connecting Facebook with Quora. It just says “The average person has 34 friends with 17 answers on Quora.” Also, asking new users to connect at this point might be too much commitment too soon.
Suggestion: I will suggest Quora to move Facebook connect feature to an appropriate part of the product. For example, when the user is reading answers, Quora can ask them to connect with Facebook with a value proposition “See if any of your friends have upvoted these answers”. Alternatively, providing a value proposition during onboarding around following/discovering topics that users’ friends follow, for example, “Find interesting topics that your friends are interested in.” will be interesting to test out. This will provide more relevant topics to follow in the onboarding flow, which will improve engagement and retention.
3. Feature tutorial:
The feature tutorial on Quora is pretty weak. Considering that today’s users know the paradigm of a social platform from their experience with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, I will recommend Quora to remove this feature tutorial that shows different parts of the website such as newsfeed, upvoting, pinned topics etc. It would make sense for Quora to showcase features when the user is mostly likely to use it. For example, the feature to upvote an answer should be highlighted when the user has spent some time reading an answer. Such kind of feature introduction seems more contextual, and relevant.
Suggestion: Introduce important features at the right time in the right context.
Finally, Quora uses gamification to get users to take actions that will add value to Quora and increase the liquidity of the marketplace such as following more topics, upvoting good answers, asking the first question etc. Quora strikes out the tasks that the user has completed, and gives the user a feeling of accomplishment.
I believe the implementation of this gamification feature could be better. It feels weird to upvote 5 more answers as a part of the account setup. It might make sense to ask the new user to upvote 4 more answers when she upvotes her first answer. Also, following topics and connecting with Facebook can be introduced in a better way. “Topics to follow” recommendations can be introduced in the news feed or on questions that the user is browsing.
Suggestion: Quora should bring the gamification aspect in the right context at the right time.
After looking at the Quora’s onboarding flow, I believe the most effective part of their onboarding flow is their feature to let users follow topics that they are interested in. This essentially is the crux of their platform where users can find answers on topics that interest them. Quora has a lot of interesting information on a variety of topics, and surfacing the right information to the right person is key to showing value to new users.
What could be the next big bet for Quora?
As discussed before, Quora is in the business of providing interesting and relevant answers to questions written by an expert who the user can trust. Liquidity of answers is very important for Quora to function effectively as a marketplace. In addition to the liquidity, the quality of answers is very important, since the quality of answers provides the stickiness for a user to keep coming back for answers.
Quora has done a wonderful job so far by investing in recommendations for surfacing the right questions to the right user and features like upvoting, top writers program and collapsed answers to make sure that a high-quality answer given by the right expert is surfaced to the top. All these features and more provide Quora the liquidity that a marketplace would need. One of the biggest risks for Quora, though, is to maintain the quality of this liquidity.
If cost or time wasn’t an issue, I will take a big bet on making the quality of answers better beyond just top writers program, and collapsed answers. I will take a big bet on providing some kind of incentive for experts to answers questions that don’t have any quality answers or no answers. There is a risk in replacing an expert’s intrinsic motivation with monetary value, and this possesses a risk of losing the experts who answer questions out of their goodness to help people or to build social recognition. You can get around this issue with building an army of in-house experts to answer questions on topics that have a lot of demand, but not enough supply. Quora can form a team of publishers who can answer these questions. Since cost is not an issue, this will provide a supply of quality answers that Quora might be at risk of not having enough.