Getting users to the 'aha' moment—fast - Mixpanel
Product Foundations

Ask an expert: Getting users to an ‘aha’ moment—fast

Daniel Bean Managing Editor @ Mixpanel

When you’re poking around inside of a new app, there’s no better feeling than finally getting it up and running and seeing firsthand how it can be useful to you. This is called an “aha” moment, and it’s something that all product leaders should be working toward getting their users to as fast as possible.

Pulkit Agrawal is the CEO and co-founder of Chameleon, a user onboarding platform and a Mixpanel partner. Helping companies help their users get to these “aha” moments is kind of his expertise. We spoke to Pulkit about some of the best examples of product “aha” moments he’s seen in his career, what product leaders can do to shrink their users’ time to “aha,” and how continuing to serve up new “aha” moments in your product can create more power users.

You’ve worked on and written about all kinds of “aha” moments across different products. What are some of the most interesting you’ve come across?

I think it’s interesting to think about “aha” moments outside of the software realm to begin with. 

One place that’s great is retail stores and the kind of “aha” moments they provide us even before we complete a purchase. One example is Apple. Apple has always had a really great retail strategy, and you start to get the “aha” moments very quickly when you walk into the door—whether it’s seeing and feeling the devices, the way that you’re being welcomed, or the way the purchasing process doesn’t involve lining up in a queue.

Within software, an “aha” moments that I think has really stood out to me over the years was with a tool called Krisp. That is a tool for suppressing background noise when on video calls.

We tried it at Chameleon, and I remember being on a call with my co-founder Brian when he asked, “Do you hear the blender running?” I was like, “Wait, what? No.” And then he points his camera to the the blender, which was running next to him, and I was absolutely amazed and shocked and could not believe that I didn’t hear this blender.

So that might sound simple, but it wound up being a pretty amazing “aha” moment. In that moment, you realize a lot about what is possible with a product or service. And it’s not always something you can get a good sense of beforehand. That’s what “aha” is about.

Do you think there are certain universal truths about what makes up an “aha” moment that anyone today developing a product—no matter the industry or category—should pay attention to?

I think “aha” moments are about building motivation. It’s almost like you invest time and effort to get to a point, like cycling uphill. And if you get to a crest before you run out of energy and before you’re too tired, you’ll get this moment of delight and you’ll be like, “This was worth it,” and you’ll continue cycling. You have all this extra momentum and speed to keep exploring and moving up the hill. But if you feel like the hill is too steep and you’re not going to make it, you might take an exit beforehand.

And so, if the biker is a user and the hill is a product or service, the job is to help get them to the top.

So giving motivations along the way, or “aha” moments, is key. But making the hill smaller, overall, can be an incredible help, too. Then you’ll also want to reduce friction, which can be an issue no matter the size of the hill.

If you think about “aha” moments and user or customer motivations in this framework, it can apply to almost any industry or product category,

Let’s get into the nitty gritty: What is the best way for a product team to uncover the “aha” moment in a new product, and why is the answer “with data”?

Yes, with data! And it’s not just numeric—it’s qualitative, too.

Quantitative data can help you with everything around the “aha” moments, including improving user flows to get them to these moments faster. But qualitative data helps you define what the “aha” moments are to begin with.

With Facebook, for example, it’s through understanding what gets people excited that then turns into user “aha” moments of seeing a picture from a friend or being able to connect with them through a comment.

A lot of times, this kind of data is gathered by learning how people talk about your product. For a B2B company, it could be gathering what the sales team continue to hear from prospects. But with a tool like Chameleon, you can also use in-product Microsurveys to ask users, in the moment, what they’re liking and not liking about their experience.

So, taking that, can you walk us through how data and tools like Mixpanel and Chameleon work together to help here?

So, again, your qualitative information should go into a hypothesis of what the “aha” moment is, then you want to try to prove it.

With Chameleon Microsurveys, you can target the right user and the right place, while they’re inside of your product, to ask them questions that can help build an “aha” moment hypothesis.

And so that could be something like, “Hey, what is it that you’re looking for?” or, “Did you find this exciting? or, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how much would you recommend this workflow?” Whatever it is, you can start to collect this very useful user information within the product.

Once you have an “aha” moment to work with, you can instrument it with an event or events in your product with Mixpanel. Once you instrument that, or capture every time a user hits that event, you can start to use that to see how many convert or retain. You can do the kind of testing that splits between the people who hit this event and the people who don’t in order to get a sense of this “aha” moment’s impact.

From there, you can launch/do/try an experiment that tries to drive some proportion of people to your “aha” more and see if that then leads to an increase in their retention. 

And what are your best pieces of advice for the parts that aren’t so data-led, like interviews or other qualitative input?

I would say always try to limit how open-ended the beginning of your search is. In other words, having even a fuzzy hypothesis or some key goals that come from a very basic understanding of how people use your product can help a lot. This will help you in things like interviews, where a better understanding of what specific information you want to get can make all the difference.

So with Microsurveys, sometimes it’s smart to skip the open text or freeform questions and offer

multiple-choice questions with A, B, and C answers that you have a good idea are going to be the responses for most users. These answers turn into structured data that you can then use to retarget them with the kind of follow-up questions, in-product experiences, or other engagements that you know will be most helpful and relevant.

You’ve written that when users reach the “aha” moment within five minutes of using a product, they are far more likely to come back again and again. So once a product team can identify what their “aha” moment is, what methods can they use to make sure users get to it as quickly as possible in the onboarding process?

If you know an “aha” moment and you want to get more people to it, what you need to understand is the journey to that “aha” moment—and you need to know that journey in extensive detail.

This could be: They have to read something, they have to type something in, they have to make a decision to select something, etc. With this information, you use a tool like Mixpanel to understand where in that journey folks are falling down.

Let’s say you can see that 50% of your users are not completing one of the steps in that journey to “aha,” At that point, you can put all your product development focus into that friction moment in order to resolve it and get that step completion higher.

But, if you remember our biking analogy, sometimes you might need to make the entire hill smaller. Maybe you don’t need that extra product step where people are dropping off. 


Armed with the most user journey knowledge, including its roughest points, is most of what you need to improve your time to “aha.”

How can product data tools and “aha” moments help with taking customers from steady users to power users?

So power users go deep into your product. They are sophisticated, they are typically using your product the most, and they can also be proponents, which is very valuable as you drive growth and word-of-mouth success.

I think the minimum for a user is maybe finding an “aha” moment and getting comfortable with returning to the product for that feature they like. But as a user finds more “aha” moments, they go deeper and deeper into the product. That makes someone more stable in their usage of the product.

And to go the other way: You have to remember, as new features are released, it’s important to onboard people to those features and help them find the “aha” attached to them. As the product evolves and grows, if a user is only using their known feature set, what could happen is that they become comfortable with less and less of the overall product, which makes them more at risk of not finding overall value in the product.

So we have to make sure that we keep helping at every stage of the user journey. People should find new “aha” moments with the product all the time, especially as the product evolves and grows.


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