User Onboarding

A Guide to SaaS Signup Flows

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    Home / User Onboarding / A Guide to SaaS Signup Flows

    A signup flow is the first experience you offer a potential customer.

    And most users will not even signup to the products they've seen the register screen of.

    In this article, I'll try to explain different types of signup flows with examples, and evaluate common mistakes.

    Let's start with the definitions:

    What is a signup flow?

    It is the very first and most crucial part of the user experience journey where users sign up to create an account on a website or app. Optimizing the sign-up flow is especially important for SaaS businesses to increase conversion. 

    First, we need to talk about the concept of friction that measures the effort the user has to exert to sign up. There are several aspects to consider while measuring the friction:

    • How many steps are there to complete the flow?
    • How many fields to fill there are?
    • What other additional activities users must do like any program installation or email activation? 

    Generally, friction-based flows that involve many steps, fields, additional activities were mostly for complex products. Those products need great integration and the value of the product is high such as software so users are willing to complete this long sign-up process. The customer conversion rate is high as only the ones who truly want your product go all the way. 

    On the other hand, frictionless signup flows let more spammers. You take less information about the users. And you can lose a lot of users on the activation process. You will have a higher successful signup rate but how much of them will convert into customers is not certain. Customers have their chance to find the value of the product at their own pace which may also backfire. There are no installation or payment walls in frictionless signup which makes the whole process a lot more easier. 

    Despite the type of sign-up flow remember that first impressions matter and every business have different objectives.

    When to use Frictionless Sign-up?

    When you have a simple product that needs no technical integration to work with. B2C SaaS businesses can use it. Simple products that don’t need email marketing or along the way engagement with customers can use frictionless sign-up. 

    The sign-up process aims to collect data from users to serve your authentic customer. If done in the right manner, sign-up flow helps to personalize the account and makes customers a part of the business, which will allow you to grow further, faster. 

    You need to find the optimal level of friction for your business!! By the optimum level, you can increase the quality of your sign-ups and improve user engagement.

    Let’s dig into different types and choose what is best for your business. 

    what is a signup flow

    Types of Sign-up Flows

    1. App access after a number of tasks

    The most common type of sign-up flow is the one user gives their information before accessing the app. You can access the app after conducting a series of tasks. By your email address and password, you can sign up. Then your account is set up and a confirmation email send. Now customers can use the app. 

    Almost everyone is familiar with this process so people are more likely to trust this process and feel comfortable to proceed. For the business, it keeps the spammers away. 

    People tend to lose their attention quickly so the amount of information wanted should be not too much. It shouldn’t take too long 

    2. Account setup after app access 

    User gets into the app immediately after signing up their mail, then comes the email confirmation. In the model, friction is very limited as not any other information is required at the beginning. 

    Removing the password requirement and email verification at the beginning decreases friction a lot.  Further, when user interacts and likes your product it is easier to proceed and otherwise you can still retarget them through e-mail. 

    By this way, Chargebee double their sign-ups!!! Just by asking for the email activation at the second signing to the website. 

    3. Access App Immediately

    In this type, you access the app the minute you get into the site, and later you sign-up and confirm your email. There zero friction in this model. Here you can have gradual engagement over time for onboarding. In this way, customers internalize your service, learn how they can use it and why it matters. 

    This is the most risky type of sign-up flow beside the other two. You are losing user information and leave customers on their own without your guidance. 

    If you are a new business you need real feedback and that wouldn’t be the best way to start engaging with your customers. You cannot test your product easily by skipping the sign-up flow at the beginning. 

    Sign-Up Flow Examples 


    Mailchimp is a company that provides software for email marketing that allows users to schedule automated emails and track their results. They have the following sign-up flow. Mail sign-up, password selection, email activation follows consequently. Then the user is asked to choose the free or premium models according to his/her needs. After all those steps account is set up. Even though there are several steps, it is pretty a straightforward journey and users can choose what they want easily.

    signup flow examples mailchimp 1
    signup flow examples mailchimp 2


    Hubspot's’ sign up flow six-step process. It provides a customer management platform. Company details, its domain, and information wanted after account creation, email confirmation, and password selection. Hubspot is completely free that its sing up process is relatively simpler than MailChimp. 

    signup flow examples hubspot


    Hotjar provides software to see how visitors use your website, collect user feedback and show how you can turn more visitors into customers. After the basic process of e-mail sign up, account setting via email link, and password selection Hotjar requires further information about the user for customization. The fact that they explain this on the page guides the user and adds trustability and confidence to the company. “Tailor-made just for you!” slogan makes customers feel special and bonds them to the business.

    signup flow examples hotjar
    signup flow examples hotjar 2


    Basecamp is a project management and communication tool for remote businesses. They follow the strategy of showing the number of sign-ups in the last week that gives more confidence and trust to customers. Rather than that, they have a simple form to fill out. Minimal friction and numerical justification for their business seem to work out well. 

    signup flow examples basecamp


    Github is a code hosting platform that allows people to work remotely from anywhere follows relatively a complicated sign-up process but they walk the customer all through the journey.  On the right side of the sign-up platform, Github’s value proposition is provided. Github provides unlimited collaborations, public repositories, great communication, frictionless development, and an open-source community. Further on the other steps users customize their account by choosing their plan and dashboard. 

    signup flow examples github

    How to design your sign up flow?

    Each sign-up flow model has its pros and cons. The context of your business matters significantly. Here are the three core aspects you need to consider before matters.

    1.Know your product. How complicated is your product? What solution do you provide? Who is your target market? Think about the people that will use your product. 

    2.Define your audience. You need to explore what your audience values. What motivates them? What do they need? Different people have different attention spans. How long they will endure through the sign-up flow?

    3.Define your purpose. Do you need customer information? What is your goal for the sign-up process? How are you going to achieve it? 

    After answering these questions you need to come up with the essential fields that need to be filled up. For customers to proceed you need to have an "Aha" or "Wow" moment from the very beginning of the onboarding journey. Keep the only essential fields to expect a fast connection with your customers. 

    You don't want users to curse you and immediately feel hatred without even trying your product so you need to build a sign-up flow that optimizes conversion. 

    To avoid such customer engagement let’s further see the common mistakes that are made often. 

    Common Sign-Up Flow Mistakes 

    More the information required, the more the friction. When you ask for too much information from users it could intimate them and backfire. In this case, you need to justify the information is needed for the sake of users. 

    Long sign-up flow duration may lose the attention of the user and they may not finish the process. 

    There will be spammers if you have no friction. This may also slow down your business as well as a high friction based sign-up flow. 

    Higher the information you require, the higher the expectation of your customer will be. But in most cases, with less information upfront companies have better quality and quantity of users. You need to explain yourself, business, product in few steps. 

    With no friction, you can lose the connection with your customer. No friction would make it difficult to get feedback and testing your product would be harder. 

    Overall, we have explained the friction mentality of sign-up flow, types of it, seen examples and common mistakes made. Let’s recap the basic tips:

    • Be minimal, short, simple
    • Make it seem natural
    • Don’t distract visitors
    • Less is more
    • Do not repeat fields
    • Guide your users through the signup process
    • Keep attention to the duration of registration
    • Put password strength meter
    • Find the most optimum friction level 
    • Avoid common mistakes 

    Don’t just copy other businesses.

    Be you, be unique.

    Again, context matters and it differs!!

    What comes after signup?

    Once your users has access to your product, their onboarding officially starts.

    For SaaS, the onboarding game has different rules, and much more important outcomes: varying from increased retention to skyrocketing growth.

    Here's our extensive guide to SaaS Onboarding.

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