Get more trial users to convert by making these simple improvements to your web app.

So you’ve just released a new web app, but people are signing up and then not using the product, or signing up and then deleting their account shortly after. You can’t figure out why this is. You know that you’ve built something that’s useful to your target market, so why aren’t people sticking around? We hear a lot these days about the importance of A/B testing, using content marketing to get more users to our sites/apps, optimizing conversion rates, improving our funnels, and more. That’s all great, and it really starts to pay off later on, but what if you could improve your chances of converting a user who has already signed up for a trial of your service by making simple improvements? You can.

For a long time, I incorrectly assumed that customers who were having trouble or who hit an error with a product that I’ve created would contact me via one of the support channels that I have set up (live chat, Intercom, etc) if they ever needed help. Links to support are readily available on just about any page of my web apps, and I try to respond pretty quickly to all support requests.

Over time, as I’ve monitored my web apps with exception tracking software, I’ve realized that after hitting just one error or glitch during their trial, some users will completely abandon my apps and leave, never to be seen again. They’d much rather take the path of least resistance and just abandon the app altogether than spend a minute typing their support request into a box. I’ve seen this play out multiple times: Someone hits an error or has an issue, and 2 minutes later, they delete their account.

Here’s how you can fix this:

  • Install some error tracking software. I recommend (and use) Sentry, but there are several alternatives to be found. Generally, this requires installing a tiny bit of code into your app (if you’re using Ruby on Rails, you just add their gem to your Gemfile and then bundle), and adding your app’s key into your app.
  • As soon as you get an email notification that a user has an issue, fix the issue ASAP (I’ve found that issues which users hit during their trial are usually relatively simple errors).
  • Then, be proactive and reach out to them that same day, ideally within an hour of their error.
  • I generally say something like this (I’ve made it generic so that you can modify and use it if you’d like):

    Subject: [APP NAME] Error that you experienced this morning


    From our logs, it looks like you hit an error this morning when you were trying to do THING THAT THEY WERE TRYING TO DO. I’m very sorry about this, and I just wanted to let you know that the issue has been fixed. I know that it’s frustrating to have problems getting started with a new app. I’d like to invite you to give it another shot, if you’d like.



    I’ve never seen this fail. I’ve gotten exactly 0 replies to this email but a 100% success rate in people signing up again and giving the app another shot. You’ve gotten a user all the way through coming to your site, reading about your app, signing up, and even being convinced to give you their credit card in some cases! That’s the very definition of a qualified lead. Don’t leave these users out in the cold.

  • Bonus points: Don’t forget to style your error pages to match your app, put easy ways for a user to contact you right on your error pages, and give them an easy way back into the app. Don’t leave generic framework error pages up. They usually just leave a user stranded and out of your interface, with only the Back (or Close Window) button as their escape.

Here’s a visual comparison of the difference. Ask yourself, as a user, which would you rather see if the app that you’re using encounters an error?

Screen Shot 2013-02-16 at 6.09.19 PM
Or this?
Screen Shot 2013-02-16 at 6.05.48 PM