Removing Friction

Making the initial setup experience faster and easier.

Removing Friction

As Terraform Enterprise moved from an enterprise sales model to a SaaS one, new pressures were placed on the product.

No longer could we relay on high-touch interactions with Sales and Support to get customers using the platform. The app would need to shoulder the responsibility of onboarding users and moving them toward an Aha! moment.

I conducted research to understand potential points of abandonment, which culminated in a redesign of our workspace creation process.

Understanding the journey

Going into this, I had a few hypotheses about trouble spots. To make sure those instincts were well-founded, I conducted moderated, task-based testing on the current UI.

It turned out that one phase of onboarding — connecting to a version control system — was a core point for abandonment. It was a tedious, manual setup process that people were forced to do before they understood the value of the product.

Motivated power users might endure this, but what about the masses of less-invested, "window shopper" users? Well, research suggested they're at risk of bailing, which would throw them off the critical path toward the Aha! moment.

Do the work for them

With these findings in mind, we focused our attention on redesigning the experience.

I chunked a formerly long form into three meaningful steps. This helped reduce cognitive load by making users focus on smaller tasks in isolation. In addition, we redesigned the manual setup process so that a tedious, error-prone task could be automated.

Connect to a VCS

An OAuth flow lets people connect to a version control provider in just a few clicks.

Choose a Repository

After they connect, we retrieve the repositories associated with their account or organization.

Configure Settings

All that's left at this point is to give it a name, which we pre-fill with the repository name. Less commonly accessed options are progressively disclosed.

A number of states had to be accommodated. I detailed these so that engineers were well-prepared.


The overall time to complete for this phase shrank from over five minutes to just a few seconds, with a commensurate reduction in errors. With this pinch-point relieved, we're now looking down-funnel for new areas to optimize.