Advanced Guide to Software Onboarding – examples, guidelines, metrics

Fun little story about software onboarding.

Back in 2021, we were using Asana as our main project management tool. The software looked super cool and seemed like it had everything we would ever need to run our projects efficiently.

And the problem was exactly that.

What we needed as a project management solution was a simple, no-hassle solution.

What Asana offered was a complex, all-in-one platform for all kinds of projects and use cases.

Asana was simply too good for us.

software onboarding
Unsubscribing from Asana like:

The funny part is, Asana offers one of the best and most outstanding user onboarding experiences in the SaaS market with its signup flow and onboarding checklist.

And still, our team wasn’t able to use the tool to the fullest. 

What was the problem?

You might wanna keep reading to find out that and:

Let’s get started with a definition:

What Is Software Onboarding?

Software onboarding is a user onboarding process specifically directed at employees who need to adopt digital tools into their daily workflows. While the approach to onboarding for software onboarding depends on the software to be onboarded, whether the entire team is being onboarded, if there are remote teams or remote employees, and many other criteria, the goal of user onboarding for employees is always the same; to complete employee training as fast and as effectively as possible.

One thing to be aware of is the difference between software onboarding and software adoption, which is not necessarily very complicated.

While software adoption is an entire process of adopting software in and out of the software with specific strategies and, in special cases, with the help of onboarding specialists, software onboarding refers to a process within the software adoption process, specifically the part that takes place in the software itself.

Software onboarding is also not the same thing as employee onboarding. While employee onboarding as we know it often focuses on the initial experience of employees, software onboarding is more an employee onboarding process that takes place during times of change and like software adoption, it is extremely intertwined with change management.

And lastly, while software onboarding is a concept associated with user experience, it has a lot less to do with customer experience and customer service.

So, in short:

👉 Software onboarding is the in-app portion of software adoption.

👉 Employee onboarding is the initial onboarding process, software onboarding happens at times of digital transformation,

👉 Software onboarding is close to user onboarding but can be really far from customer onboarding

And what is it that makes software onboarding so special, then?

Why is software onboarding important?

Here’s a hot take for you:

Whatever onboarding tasks, employee engagement methods, or onboarding platforms you are using for software onboarding, it’s probably not working.

Sounds pretty drastic, no?

Only, it’s not a hot take at all. At least for your employees.

Because according to Gallup, only 12% of employees think companies are doing a good job onboarding them.

Now, this stat applies to all types of employee onboarding and not just software onboarding, but can you really tell me that companies use poorly designed onboarding programs for their initial employee experience and a very different, super effective onboarding process for software onboarding?

I didn’t think so.

Then, it’s best that you hear about the three main reasons why proper software onboarding is crucial for a positive employee experience during software adoption:

1- Improves time and effort spent on employee training

It might be stating the obvious, but a successful onboarding flow for employees during digital transformation and also during initial onboarding can improve and decrease the amount of effort and time employees need to spend.

At this point, we would need to define a successful onboarding flow, which is any user onboarding flow that speaks to your employees, is in line with your employee handbook for onboarding, and uses the opportunities digital onboarding technologies have to offer.

More specifically, a positive onboarding experience for your employees might include:

👉 Personalized processes for each segment (if you are onboarding the entire company, specific segments and onboarding flows for each department),

👉 Interactive product tours that focus on key features as well as additional features, user onboarding checklists, different onboarding UX patterns, and other onboarding elements,

👉 Direct access to the software’s knowledge base, customer support, or other ways to self-serve,

And many more details that might depend on the software you are onboarding your employees.

2- Eases outside of the app processes

Digital adoption being a challenging task in and out of the software being adopted; the digital onboarding experience inside the app naturally affects the onboarding workflows outside of the software.

To make sure this effect is positive, the software onboarding process you are designing for your employees is top-notch.

This way, out-of-the-app onboarding workflows like employee engagement meetings, supplementary software, and progress-checking processes can be more meaningful and worth everyone’s time.

3- Boosts company culture

It is not hard to imagine that a cumulative training experience would bring groups of people together.

When done correctly and using the right employee onboarding software, the process of software onboarding can have the same effect. And this is still the case for remote onboarding, given that proper channels for employee communication will be kept open.

Now you know what makes software onboarding worth your time.

But what really makes it worth a shot and, in the end, a successful process?

Here are some software onboarding best practices:

Top 5 Software Onboarding Best Practices

In theory, designing a user onboarding experience is simple, and it gets even simpler if the process is digital and the right onboarding software is used.

But in practice, it might just be way harder than it looks with all the inner mechanisms and intricacies of user behavior and cognitive load.

If you want the software onboarding process to work, you have to put effort into it.

So, let’s take a look at five of the best practices that I advise anyone building any type of user experience for employees:

1- Know your target audience (a.k.a. your employees)

For all types of streamlined onboarding processes as well as product experiences hoping to reach top user engagement, there is but one prerequisite before actually carrying out the design and the process:

Knowing your target audience to the core.

So, let’s say you have a SaaS company and you need to teach your employees how to use a SaaS tool. For example, Asana (no personal feelings, just a random tool 👀)

Since you are a SaaS company, you know that almost all of your employees are tech-savvy people, and you also know exactly how much time they can spare for onboarding, along with more crucial information.

This is unlike customer onboarding in this sense, so you know a lot more details about the users at hand, unlike your customer base.

So, when you have so much to work with, the least you can do it interpret all this into the onboarding you will build. By integrating all employee data into the onboarding, you will have more chances to finalize the process successfully.

2- Get the right onboarding tools

The material on your users is one thing, but nobody orchestrates an onboarding flow on paper.

If you don’t think you want your precious time and money to go to hours of coding software onboarding for your employees, what you need is a good third-party onboarding solution.

And I happen to know the easiest, most affordable solution for that 😎

Change your software onboarding process forever: with UserGuiding 💫

I have never been a big fan of change, but I had to go through change and onboard others to it many times as a part of my job.

Case in point: when we decided Asana wasn’t for us and started to integrate ClickUp into our daily workflow. Knowing just how hard it was to learn how to use Asana for some of us, this time around, we had different plans.

We would do the onboarding ourselves using the UserGuiding Now extension.

This would help us with two things:

👉 Onboarding the team to the features they actually needed to use (unlike how it went with Asana)

👉 Controlling the pace of the onboarding according to the team’s speed and workload (Not too fast and forgettable this time)

And the first part of the final onboarding flow looked like this:

software onboarding userguiding
A guide on ClickUp, made in 5 minutes by yours truly 😌

Wanna know how I did that?

Jump to how you can create software onboarding on ANY software part of the article here 👈

OR you could check out the other cool features of UserGuiding, including:

✅ Interactive product tours, guides, walkthroughs,

✅ User onboarding checklists,

✅ Tooltips, hotspots, in-app messages,

✅ Resource centers,

✅ NPS surveys,

And more, from powerful analytics and high customization to user segmentation and targeting.

👉 Try UserGuiding for free, NOW 👈 

3- Personalize & customize the process

A streamlined process doesn’t equal a standardized process.

If a software is being adopted by your entire company or by multiple teams, it is only necessary to tailor it according to each persona’s needs.

For example, the marketing team might need to know more about the emailing and creative features of a given tool, while the same tool might come in handy as a project management solution for the product team.

Customization is equally important since not being able to talk your users’ language can be a real burden on their cognitive load.

RAM’s software onboarding is a great example of this:

ram userguiding software onboarding
RAM’s software onboarding, made with UserGuiding

With a mascot specifically created to appeal to their own employees and friendly copy, RAM does an excellent job onboarding their employees to their new software.

Read the rest of RAM’s success story with UserGuiding here 👈 

4- Empower team leaders

When everything is set, and your in-app software onboarding is ready to be put into work, it is time to check up on team leaders to see if your onboarding flow really addresses the needs of their teammates.

Granting access to your team leaders and stakeholders to edit and customize the onboarding further is also a great practice and is easily doable with third-party user onboarding tools (like this one right here 👀)

Lastly, having your stakeholders check up on their teammates after the onboarding flow is completed by all members can unravel further optimizations for the onboarding flow and even help you discover difficulties and solve them before the whole software adoption process is completed.

5- Update & optimize 

The last best practice I’d advise anyone creating any type of onboarding is to always update the material they created and optimize their onboarding flows according to feedback.

Not all software is for seasonal use, and it is always likely that you might need to onboard a new user to specific software.

By frequently updating the onboarding flows according to the updates in the software you are using and working on the feedback your employees provided to keep the onboarding effective is essential for any software onboarding and software adoption project. 

Now, let me show you how you can bring all this into life with a trusted software onboarding tool: 

How to Create an Onboarding for ANY Software with UserGuiding in 3 Steps

You might not believe me, but UserGuiding Now is a UserGuiding extension to help you onboard your users to ANY software without having developer access to the software.

Here’s how to do it in 3 steps:

1- Create a Guide

First things first, let’s go to UserGuiding Panel.

When we get there, what we want to do depending on the onboarding UX pattern we want to use is to go to the section for it.

I want to create a guide for software onboarding so, here I am at the guides section:

userguiding software onboarding tool

And yes, you guessed it. I am building a software onboarding guide for Asana!

The modal will lead me directly to the URL I inserted, and I am ready to get down to the fun part:

2- Edit & Customize

Once I am on Asana’s dashboard, I can use the UserGuiding extension to start creating on the software’s UI.

I will start with a fun little welcome modal:

software onboarding solutions userguiding

I can add tooltips, hotspots, a user onboarding checklist, and a lot more, but I kept it simple for this once.

Here’s what I came up with in 5 minutes:

userguiding example software onboarding asana

 It’s not much, but it’s honest work 🧑‍🌾

Once I am finished with customizing my design as well, I am ready to:

3- Configure Changes & Publish with UserGuiding Now

I am going back to UserGuiding Panel to save and configure changes: I can easily change page targeting, auto-triggering, scheduling, user segmentation and more!

After I turn the guide into active, and click save, I am ready to publish:

userguiding software onboarding tool

But for it to work, I need to use USerGuiding Now, which is a really simple process.

All I will do is go to settings and to containers. There, I will find my container code, and I will take the very last strand to put it on the UserGuiding Now extension:

userguiding software onboarding for employees

Lastly, I will insert the link of the page I want the onboarding to take place, and voila!

software onboarding userguiding now

My software onboarding flow is ready to use!

Like what you see?

Try UserGuiding for free today 👈

But hey, we’re not done yet. 

Measure Software Onboarding and Adoption – 3 Top Metrics and KPIs

To succeed is to know you have succeeded.

And without the proper software onboarding success metrics, you might never know what’s going on with your software onboarding:

1- Onboarding completion rate

The onboarding completion rate is a simple but solid metric you need to track to make sure all your employees successfully reach the end of their onboarding.

You can track the completion rate with analytics integrations of third-party user onboarding software or do it outside of the app with a survey.

Either way, making sure that the software onboarding process that you’ve tailored specifically for your employee’s use is completed is a top priority. 

2- Feature adoption rate

Feature adoption rate is a slightly more complex metric and it is best tracked with an analytics tool or the built-in analytics feature of an onboarding tool.

To measure it, the formula is simple: Divide the number of new users of a feature by the number of total users and you have your feature adoption rate.

feature adoption rate software onboarding metrics

The higher it is the better.

3- Employee feedback

Lastly, an important KPI that we’ve mentioned above as well is employee feedback, which is best received officially, but informal feedback can be considered as well!

To collect your employees’ feedback, you can again use third-party software to prompt employees with NPS surveys or open forms to give you their suggestions and what they might have had a problem with.

Check out more metrics used in user onboarding here 👈

To Wrap Up…

Whatever type of software you want to onboard your users to and whoever it is that needs to be onboarded, the basic principles of user onboarding are always the same:

If you can’t make the process simple and engaging for the user, you can’t reach success.

Keeping that and the fact that using a third part onboarding tool (wink wink, like UserGuiding) can save you a lot of time and money, I bet you’re good to create your software onboarding.

Best of luck!


Frequently Asked Questions


How do I onboard users to a new software?

Software onboarding is a simple process in theory, but in practice, it might get hard. At times like this, remembering to personalize the process, using the proper onboarding UX patterns, and making an effort to keep it as engaging as possible might help your employees easily onboard to software.


What is the onboarding process in IT companies?

For IT companies, the onboarding process isn’t necessarily very different. A good user onboarding process with the right onboarding UX patterns can work for all industries. 


How do you create an onboarding document?

Creating an onboarding document might require a template, depending on the use case of the onboarding document. A better solution might be using in-app onboarding to make the best of your users’ time and yours.


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Serra Alban

When I realized I won’t be the next Tarantino I found myself as a creative content writer at UserGuiding. I’ve been obsessed with UX design, customer success, and digital adoption ever since. If you could stare at good UX for hours like me don’t hesitate to hit me up on LinkedIn. I might end up dropping too much movie trivia but hey, old habits die hard.