Migrating to the New FreshBooks



Concept / Professional


Jeff Kraemer, Melina Stathopoulos, Aaron Wright, Justin Wasser, Emily Liu, Keith Dell, Alex Ivanovic


How do you persuade your customers to try your new product when they’re already pretty happy with what they’ve got? How do you get them to migrate to a new product that, technically, has fewer features? How do you overcome the dreaded “switching cost,” the pain of learning something completely new?

Those are the problems we tackled when, in late 2015, we began designing the experience of moving customers to the new FreshBooks platform.

In 2014, FreshBooks launched an ambitious, secret project to reinvent itself—a complete redesign and rebuilding of its flagship product, a cloud accounting application used by over ten million people. The old product was saddled with both technical and UX debt, and we just weren’t able to deliver what our customers needed quickly enough.

So FreshBooks disrupted itself. We shipped our stealth project under a fake brand, packaged it as a free competitor, and learned how customers used the new product. We figured that if we didn’t disrupt ourselves, someone else would do it for us.

After two years of testing and iterating in weekly sprints, we were confident that the new product—the New FreshBooks—was a much better experience for users. But: it had fewer features. And the first thing we learned when we asked customers what they expected from a new FreshBooks was “more features!”

We had a challenge: we needed to persuade our customers to leave a product they generally loved, move to a new one with fewer features, and avoid making it another awful migration experience.

We knew that most migration experiences are awful because our customers told us. We started our design process by asking customers questions: Had they ever had software that their business rely on suddenly change? How did they feel about it? How did they feel knowing that a new, top-secret FreshBooks was coming? We also conducted a “concierge MVP,” giving a handful of customers a white glove introduction to the new app, and studying their experiences for clues about how others would react to this radical change.

Once we’d settled on some key insights—and personas, design principles, and a journey map—we started our Lean UX design process. How do you design onboarding for customers who expect to already know what your app does? How best to answer “What’s in it for me?” How to introduce them, even, to the notion of a completely new product—to disrupt ourselves without disrupting our customers’ businesses?

Gradually, we built a journey from the Classic FreshBooks to the new one, and endeavoured to make our customers feel consulted, supported, respected, and in control.

We began migrating customers in the late summer of 2016. Not all customers have migrated yet, and many were frustrated. But many more are delighted, and haven’t looked back. We believe we reimagined how customers could be introduced to a migration experience that, usually, sucks—and designed one that lives up to the FreshBooks motto: Executing Extraordinary Experiences Every Day.



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