Everybody needs onboarding.
The product owners, the users, the website visitors, everyone.
Whether it is for your product itself, or your website for the product, you can’t just rely on a user’s ability to figure it about themselves. They’ll just leave instead.
So yes, an onboarding tool to onboard users or an onboarding experience to get onboarded: everybody needs onboarding.
But not everyone can afford an onboarding tool or make do with no code.
You go for a free open-source option.
So today, let’s talk all about free open-source onboarding software that’ll help you skyrocket user engagement even on a budget!
Here are the free tools I recommend:
But before we jump into these super cool free open source user onboarding software, let’s remind ourselves what an open source onboarding software really means.
What is an open source tool?
An open source tool (a.k.a. open source software) is the type of software that anyone can use without the need for a commercial license. Any user of an open source software can use, change, or distribute the source code of the software, which can in fact benefit the open source tool itself in return. Making it possible for many to collaborate on one project, open source software can also be a great collaboration space.
Why use Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)?
Now that we know what an open-source tool is, let’s get the scope a little narrower and ask another important question: why use one?
And in our specific case, why use an open source onboarding tool?
Let me give you three.
1- Higher customizability
A FOSS (free and open source software) is very highly customizable since users have direct and unlimited access to the code of the software.
Moreover, because it is possible to access whatever version or update a user wants to use, a FOSS is also highly flexible.
2- Easy collaboration
Free and open source software are designed to have several (even thousands of) developers working collaboratively if and when needed.
This not only means that you can work with your fellow developers on a single platform but also that you will have high-quality code that was studied, revised, and written by many talented developers.
A sweet deal for sure.
3- Cheap, if not free
Most free and open software costs nothing. But don’t let it fool you, the free in FOSS doesn’t stand for cost-free.
A FOSS user is free to use and study the software, free to make changes in the software, free to distribute the software, and free to distribute their own work and changes they have made.
There are FOSS that might be paid, but essentially all are either cheap or cost-free.
No need to keep track of that 14-day free trial.
“me when the trial period ends”
So, back in our wide perspective of open source software, it is safe to say that a FOSS can be preferable to proprietary software in many ways.
The trick is to decide if it’s good for you and what exactly is good for you.
Let’s find out the latter.
7 Best Free Open Source Onboarding Software 2023
Whether it is a perfect user onboarding process or employee engagement you are aiming for, there is a free open source onboarding software out there for you.
Here are 7 of them.
Shepherd takes pride in being an accessible, customizable, and frame-ready tool.
It has browser support on the last 2 versions of Microsoft Edge, Firefox, Google Chrome, and Safari while also supporting framework wrappers like React, Ember, Angular, Vue.js, and ES Modules.
With 85 contributors and 9.4K stars on GitHub today, Shepherd serves almost 500 users and is free to use.
Crumble as an onboarding tool is a pretty easy to use (talking to the developers here) jquery plugin. The meta-information for the feature tour for your website or app is stored as a standard ordered list in the page HTML.
Basically, it looks a little bit like this:
<ol style="display: none;"> <li data-target="#one" data-angle="130"> The first step in the tour </li> <li data-target=".two" data-options="distance:20"> This is the second step in the tour </li> </ol>
3- Bootstrap Tour
Get the CoffeeScript enthusiasts here, ’cause Bootstrap Tour’s main language is exactly that.
Bootstrap Tour is a simple solution for onboarding users or employees. Although its latest release was back in 2017, Bootstrap Tour still seems to work fine. And yes, it is still simple and looks good. After installing a few standard dependencies, you are good to go.
With 66 contributors and 4.4K stars on GitHub, Bootstrap can be the free solution for a simple and practical onboarding flow.
As they put it on their website, Intro.js is a lightweight, user-friendly library for creating step-by-step customer onboarding.
It is one of the most popular and up-to-date free open source software you can find with 20.8K stars, 2.7K users, and the latest release date of 6 November 2021 on GitHub.
One thing to keep in mind before opting for Intro.js for creating your onboarding flow though is that Intro.js is free only for open-source, personal, and non-commercial sites. The pricing for others is:
- Starter pack without any official support for $9.99,
- Business pack with a month of official support and code review for $49.99,
- Premium package with a year of official support, code review, and unlimited projects for $299.99
No, the car is not a part of the product.
Joyride is among the smaller free open source software on GitHub but it sure is capable of creating a good product tour.
In fact, as soon as you step on the Joyride’s website, it gets you on a tour that ends with visitors doing a little keyboard sequence to start the car engine on the photo above (not gonna lie, that was cool as hell).
While all versions of Joyride depend on jQuery and what-input, it is quite easy to set up and get rolling.
So if you need a free tool to get your feature tours live, Joyride might be the one.
Somebody need multi-page tours? Hopscotch is here to help.
Hopscotch is a framework to make it easy for developers to add product tours to their pages. What put it on the list is that it lets users code for multiple-page product tours, something not so lightweight to do by hand.
It also has other features like event callbacks, i18n support, and lightweight callouts.
Although it has not been updated for a long while now, it still seems to work. So if you need a free onboarding option that can jump from page to page, this one’s for you.
Not bad at all, right?
With Driver.js you can highlight anything on a given screen, use focus shifters, control with keys, and use it anywhere for overlay. It is pretty lightweight too, only ~4kb when gzipped.
All those features and the most important one is that Driver.js is not just another tour library. It can be used for any use case, for example, dimming the lights on a given page.
And of course, it is free to use.
Well, that’s almost all of the best free open source software you can use to create a product tour, or something a little wilder, a multi-page product tour 🤯
But hey, some of us are not developers. Some of us don’t have coding skills. Some of us don’t have the patience.
After all, coding is a full-time job (literally) and when a tool is open source it does get a bit glitchy.
“Why bother with all the code?” -> When you can create a whole user onboarding flow in minutes, without coding 🚀
When I first started my career in SaaS as a content writer, right before I found out what exactly conversion rate, churn rate, and all that jazz was about I came to one devastating realization.
Coding was something that took hours.
I had absolutely no idea and I always assumed it was some heist movie hacking type of magic.
What was more devastating was the fact that coding took hours AND it was just for a tiny component on a whole website.
*hacker voice* “I’m in.” “…in a lot of pain.”
That’s when I told myself, “time is money.”
So, let me put all the free open source discussion on the side for a second and introduce you to a real time-saver: UserGuiding.
Userguiding is a no-code tool that not only helps you onboard your users but also ask them how their experience was, analyze the UX data, and make changes in real-time for a better experience.
Use UserGuiding to create way more than product tours, like:
✅ UX Modals,
✅ NPS Surveys,
✅ Notification Bars,
✅ Resource Centers, and more.
New startup? No funding? Need a product tour for the website?
We know how that feels. When you are at the very start of your SaaS journey, it all feels like developing something in-house is better than paying even the tiniest amount.
That’s when a good free open source software can help you. Although they aren’t always updated regularly, a FOSS is known to be highly customizable, easy to get on high quality since it is collaborative, and most importantly they are free.
But when you get that tiny little funding coming, you might want to concentrate your developers’ precious time on better things, like your product.
When that time comes, don’t hesitate to switch to a no-code onboarding tool. We’ll be waiting 😎