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by Jacob O'Bryant

The world's finest onboarding flow

The stuff in today's newsletter was all (well, mostly; you'll understand if you read to the end) prompted by a bunch of discussion + help I received from Vikram and Gabriel, who are developing a new product analytics tool. I met them after I read Vikram's post I don't like any of the funnel or cohort analysis tools available to me which is an opinion I share! (I write all my analytics dashboards from scratch currently.)

As part of doing things that don't scale, they did me a massive favor and spent a bunch of time analyzing Yakread's usage data and talking with me and giving me advice and stuff. They helped me go from vague-sense-of-malaise-about-how-I'm-going-to-grow-Yakread to wow-this-might-actually-be-doable-by-me.

If understanding your users better would be helpful, send them an email. They're still in the early stages and are looking for people to chat with. You can also join their waitlist.

I actually did some user-facing work on Yakread last week. There's a three-step onboarding flow now:

("Install the Yakread app," lol. Also take that Apple, I'm putting the iPhone after the Android phone! Vengeance! Also pay no attention to the corners of the iPhone screenshot which I carefully sanded off with MS Paint. I don't know why there isn't a simple iOS equivalent to Android's device art generator.)

Then I updated the daily emails a bit. They prompt you to create a username/sign up for more newsletters (i.e. steps 1 and 2 in the onboarding flow) if you haven't already. The "sign up for more newsletters" check in the emails looks at how many posts are in the "Recent" section, i.e. how many newsletter posts you received in the past day. If you have less than five, you get prompted to subscribe to more stuff. Later I'll add another prompt for installing the "app," which will be shown if you haven't done so and if you've already added a sufficient number of subscriptions.

(Just realized the emails include the phrase "personalized daily digest daily"... fixing that now.)

Theoretically I could add daily notifications to the "app," as a complement to the daily emails, but that would be more work, and I mainly care about the app simply because it's an important part of my own workflow—I use Yakread exclusively on my phone, except for when I'm developing it—so it seems like something worth emphasizing to everyone else. And besides, email is fine for push notifications since Yakread is targeted towards email people anyway. The app is for user-initiated reading sessions.

The last related user-facing bit I need to add are dedicated activation emails. These will be kind of like the "hey you need to subscribe to more newsletters"/etc prompts, but instead of being inserted at the top of your daily digest, they'll replace your daily digest for one day. I'm thinking of making a sequence of four emails:

  1. "Pick your Yakread username to get started"
  2. "How to import your newsletter subscriptions from Gmail"
  3. "Here are some A+ newsletters to subscribe to"
  4. "How to install the Yakread app on your cell phone"

The test will be something like "if it's Monday AND you signed up to Yakread at least three days ago AND you didn't finish all the steps in the onboarding flow AND you haven't already received the dedicated email(s) for the step you're on THEN send the dedicated activation email instead of the daily digest."

After that, I'll need to redo my internal reporting dashboard so I can see how many people are making it through the onboarding funnel and stuff like that. Then I'm gonna schedule another batch of ads so I can get an idea of how effective the onboarding flow is. Fingers crossed that this will finally be the update that makes Yakread Just Work and I can sit back and relax while all my business metrics go up forever without further intervention. I'm pretty sure that's how it works for successful businesses, right?

Then after that, maybe I can actually start working on adding more features and polishing the reader experience and stuff like that 🙂.

If you're curious about the import-from-gmail and newsletter-suggestions bits in step 2 of the onboarding flow: the gmail thing basically tells you to create a filter that takes all future emails that include the word "unsubscribe" and forwards them to your Yakread address. I have other bits of subscription-management wisdom to share, but that's probably the most bang-for-your-buck/effective thing for trying out Yakread quickly.

OK, there's basically just one other piece of wisdom: make a dedicated address for newsletters. e.g. if your address is, then you can use Use that for subscribing to all your newsletters going forward. Create a filter that forwards emails sent to that address to Yakread. Then you can easily try out other reading apps by updating the filter—not that I endorse trying out non-Yakread reading apps! In fact, I don't: purge that idea from your head. Except for Meco; I've chatted with the founders and they're cool.

The dedicated address thing is also useful for sending emails to a separate folder in your email client. I use Fastmail, and I have a few filter rules set up that mimic Hey's workflow: emails from senders not in my contacts all go to a "screening" folder. If I add the sender to contacts, then they either go to a "newsletters" folder + marked as read + forwarded to Yakread, or they go to an "automated" folder (for transactional emails etc) or the inbox, which I try to keep limited to email from other humans. Fastmail also makes it fairly convenient to add contacts to custom groups, which is handy for newsletters that I subscribed to before I started using the dedicated address.

♫ These are a few of my favorite email filters ♪

♫ Also screw you Experian for not putting unsubscribe links in your marketing emails and saying "this is not a marketing email" in the footers ♪

♫ At least I have a good credit score ♪

Moving on: for the newsletter suggestions, I picked some by hand that I enjoy reading myself (or that I'm the creator of) and that I thought would work well as recommendations for a general/Yakread audience. Presented in random order, except for the first two:

  • The Sample: Get one issue from a random newsletter forwarded to you daily.
  • Tools for Online Speech: Weekly newsletter from the maker of Yakread.
  • Benedict Evans: Weekly summary and analysis of tech news.
  • The Browser: Interesting articles hand-curated daily.
  • Tangle: Neutral coverage of US national politics.
  • Tedium: Deep dives on esoteric topics.
  • Dense Discovery: Curated links in design, technology, sustainability and culture.
  • Today in Tabs: Humorous summary of stuff being discussed on social media.

At some point I might do something more algorithmic, but not a huge priority yet. Actually what I might do fairly soonish is look at data from The Sample and include some of the newsletters with the highest conversion rates.

Finally, on a more somber note, I said goodbye to a dear friend of seven years today. I went to the hospital and... they removed the cyst (recently inflamed) on the back of my neck. I was prescribed some narcotics, so if you want to bid on the leftovers let me know.*

*This is a joke.

Doctor: So how long have you had this neck lump?

Me: About two years, I'm pretty sure.

Doctor: I just found the notes from the first appointment where you had it checked out. Looks like that was in 2016.

Me: ...oh.

I got this handy little neck wrap that makes me feel like I'm wearing a turtleneck. I ought to be in a Starbucks somewhere writing poetry on a Macbook, or maybe reading some Hegel.

On the bright side, being temporarily relieved of my childcare responsibilities, I may actually get more work done than usual this week.

If you actually read to the end of this whole thing, you should join the Discord server. We had a swell discussion/therapy session today about why I retroactively hate college. I should write a blog post about that. (Oh yeah, I guess I did—LOL @ "I feel like I found the right idea to follow in the nick of time").

Published 21 Mar 2023

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