Time to say goodbye? Why offboarding UX matters

User onboarding flows are a hot topic in the UX design world.

Getting people quickly and painlessly engaged, finding their way through and loving a platform is something that we rightly give a lot of attention to.

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Go with the flow - designing onboarding that works

Good onboarding is barely noticeable but moves us from curious to hooked in seconds.

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But when was the last time you thought about the other end of the flow? Offboarding is an important but often overlooked part of the user journey.

What is offboarding UX?

Put simply, offboarding is the process by which users are guided to delete, deactivate or pause their account and stop using a product.

When you’ve put blood, sweat and tears into attracting users and showing how perfectly you can solve their problem, it can feel like a personal smack in the face that they want to leave.

You’re going to need to get over that.

Churn is real and it’s normal for people to genuinely not need whatever it is you offer anymore, be it a SaaS platform their company has outgrown or an audio editing tool for a podcast they no longer record.

Don’t leave me!

It can be tempting to deploy dark patterns in your offboarding flow, clinging on to users by making it too time-consuming, confusing or guilt-inducing for them to leave.

Tactics on our list of shame include:

  • Making pages about unsubscribing hard to find.
  • Forcing users to phone and speak to someone or have a drawn-out webchat.
  • Emphasising a ‘no, I’ve changed my mind, I want to stay’ button to draw attention away from a small, dull ‘unsubscribe’ one.
  • Facebook’s favourite, emotional blackmail, with a parade of contacts who’ll apparently be sad if you leave.
A screenshot of facebook's 'these people will miss you' guilt-inducing page

Oh, the guilt…

A screenshot of Amazon's 'about closing your account' page

Amazon wouldn’t dream of having such a vague and unhelpful CTA in such an unappealing wall of text on any other part of their site.

Hopefully you don’t need us to tell you that such tactics are a seriously bad idea.

Users who really want to leave will find a way to do so.

When they leave your product with a lasting impression of frustration or of being tricked and manipulated though, they are extremely unlikely to return if they encounter the problem you solve again in the future.

And if it’s a truly awful experience, they won’t keep quiet about it either.

What is good offboarding UX?

Enough of the negative stuff, let’s take a look at why good offboarding UX matters so much.

Firstly, if users who want to leave have a positive experience with a product at that point, they’re more likely to be won back in the future.

This is a big deal since re-engaging lapsed customers who already know what a platform is all about is generally recognised as far easier than generating fresh new users.

Users who want to leave also represent an immense learning opportunity. Any product team worth its salt should be constantly listening to users, hearing their pains and using feedback to inform the product’s roadmap.

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If people are leaving because your product isn’t meeting their needs but you’re just letting them go without finding out exactly what the problem is, and whether the same issue is cropping up repeatedly, you’re missing out on the chance to improve.

That’s just madness.

There is also massive scope to retain them and turn ‘goodbye forever’ into ‘hello again’ with the right offboarding flow.

Depending on which studies you read and what industry you’re in, acquiring a new user is somewhere between five to twenty five times more expensive than retaining an existing one.

Keeping any waverers onboard in a positive way is good business sense- we’ll dig into this a bit more below.

5 actionable offboarding tips

Offer options and flexibility 🤔
Rather than deleting everything forever, giving users the chance to pause, downgrade to a free/cheaper plan with less functionality or deactivate without losing their data can be softer options.

Many users will plump for these, given the chance. Win-win.

Netflix give a masterclass in options.

Show the value 😍
Humans are naturally loss averse. We’re disproportionately concerned by losing something we already have than we are cheered by gaining something new.

Tap into this loss aversion (without a guilt trip though!) by reminding users of the value your product has brought to them as part of your offboarding flow.

  • Can you highlight features they regularly use?
  • Processes they have running?
  • Data they’d lose access to?

Gather feedback 🗣
Most people want to feel listened to by the digital products they use. On the flip side, every product team needs insights from the people they’re putting all that hard work in for.

Including a quick survey, with both a free choice ‘tell us about it’ and specific ‘pick a reason’ fields, as part of your offboarding process kills two birds with one stone. It lets users air their grievances and product teams gather both qualitative and quantitative data.

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It’s important to place this after confirmation that their desired deactivation has taken place, however.

Making users feel like they’re being forced into answering won’t go down well.

Keep it light 👋
Leaving users with a smile on their faces is always a good idea, and a lasting impression of your product as fun and smart is something to cultivate.

If it’s appropriate to your brand, consider using a fun illustration, GIF, or something a bit jokey to show there’s no hard feelings and you still care about delighting them.

Spotify’s ‘Can we still be friends?’ playlist is a sweet touch.

Follow up 📧
If a former user never hears a thing from you again, they’re way less likely to come back of their own accord.

Remember that rekindling their interest, however, is statistically likely to be way easier than starting cold with someone new.

If a user left because of price, why not slip them a 10% off code? If they found the product hard to use, reaching out with a walk through could do the trick.

No matter their reason for offboarding, thoughtful and engaging outreach that keeps you well thought-of never hurts.

In conclusion

It’s natural to feel more excited about starting a relationship with a user than ending one.

However, your offboarding experience is a super valuable part of your product’s lifecycle and deserves to be treated as such.

Get offboarding right, and you’ll have a fighting chance of keeping your dream users onboard, as well as better insight into user pains and the improvements needed to stop problems cropping up over and over.

Your retention rates and brand reputation will thank you for it.