11 Best Practices of User Onboarding You Need to Do in 2021

Two plus two equals four.

To be able to turn your users into loyal promoters, your User Onboarding needs to be good.

Very good.

Research conducted by Wyzowl shows that 86% of people are more likely to stay loyal to a product that invests in the onboarding process.

After all, first impressions are what matters at most.

We’ll discuss the importance and the best practices of User Onboarding in this article, so, fasten your seatbelt and get ready for departure.

What is User Onboarding?

User Onboarding is the process of getting the user acquainted with your product, and eventually, turn into promoting users by fully adopting it. Along with New User Onboarding, keeping existing users in a continuous onboarding cycle for a while for them to experience the product at its fullest will make it highly possible for the User Onboarding to be successful.

Onboard! haha

Think of User Onboarding as making bread:

  • It seems easy, but there’s always a trick to make it reach the nirvana.
  • There’s a certain way everyone’s doing it, but that doesn’t mean that’s the best way.
  • Not everyone likes or wants the same one.

And just before I share my tricks and secret ingredients of User Onboarding, let’s talk about:

Why is User Onboarding important?

A good User Onboarding is crucial because it’s the phase where the user understands the value of your product and decides to adopt it or not. If the software user onboarding is not catchy enough, people won’t feel motivated to learn more about the product. 

Why is user onboarding important?

There is this perfect Turkish saying that goes:

People are greeted with their clothes, acknowledged with their knowledge, and sent off with their morals.

Mevlana

Your UX is your clothes, your knowledge is your Onboarding, and your morals are the value of the product.

Makes sense, right?

Let’s get into a bit more detail about why user onboarding matters in 3 clauses:

#1 – First impressions always matter

Onboarding begins as soon as the user first interacts with your product.

This can be clicking on a tooltip, reading an article, or coming to your landing page. If the user is not satisfied with what they see at the first sight, they are not going to try to adopt your product.

Slack welcome module
Slack really knows how to make users feel cozy.

Just like you feel down when you’re not properly welcomed into a fine dining restaurant 🤷🏻‍♀️

So what do you do?

  • You make a good UX design,
  • You make it easy for your users to signup or get further information,
  • You add warm welcome modal to your product,
  • You send a well designed welcome email with little but necessary information.

All these are steps of User Onboarding.

So I can say that User onboarding is what determines if your product is going to rock or not.

Since ‘’What to do and the best practices of User Onboarding’’ is what this article is about, you will find every detail you need right after 2 sub-headings.

But before that, let’s see another reason why the Onboarding Process is important:

#2 – The Competition is higher than ever

There are thousands of businesses – if not ten thousand of them, and only a few hundred managed to become unicorns.

It’s not because they invest more in their product, it’s because they invest in their Users.

And what will those users do if they don’t get the hang of your product?

Leave without any chance of coming back.

More than half of people (55%) churned or returned a product just because they didn’t understand how to use it. You can’t risk losing half of your users if you want to succeed.

This is why:

#3 – A Good Onboarding is a good investment

Customers who are impressed with the onboarding of a company show a 12% to 21% higher willingness than the median to spend more money on it.

In other words, spending a bit more money to improve User Onboarding is not a waste, but an investment. A smart one.

Not only does it help you convert more users, but it also gets some weight off the customer support team as well.

I’m talking about a decrease in support calls up to 72%.

If we’re now on the same page about why User Onboarding matters, let’s dive into the best practices to boost up your retention:

User Onboarding Best Practices

#1 – Know your target audience

The most common mistake that’s done while making a product is assuming that everyone learns and thinks the same way you do.

They don’t.

If you design a product and a user onboarding that would make ‘’you’’ satisfied, then you’re going to attract no one but a possible soulmate.

If you’re looking for retention and promotion, you have to design the elements of your product according to your target audience.

  • If you have a product no-code people, don’t teach them how to integrate your product into theirs. Help them out.
  • If you aim to reach product managers, don’t try to explain to them how they can customize the product. Tell them how the product works, and how they can set the priorities.
  • Simply put, if you make a product for non-hearing people, don’t try to explain your product with an audio.

If your product is meant to be used by more than one certain group of people, you can simply create different segmentations for your tooltips, product tour, surveys, etc.

Just start by asking them about their category:

customized product tour question

Then, you’ll be all good to go.

Quick Summary:

  • Build your product according to your users needs, not your intuitions.
  • Match the design to the purpose of the product.
  • If you have different segments of users, make sure to segmentate the product as well.

#2 – Your Signup form matters

If you successfully caught the attention of the user, they would sign up to your product.

So you better make sure that they make it past the signup form too.

It might seem a bit exaggerated, but trust me, even if people find your product worth a try, they won’t sign up if they have problems even at the sign-up page.

The bad news is, if your signup form causes too much friction, they won’t bother filling it up.

The good news, on the other hand, is that it’s almost costless and effortless to improve your signup form. All you have to do is keep it as simple as you can.

Here’s an example of how a signup form should be by Facebook:

Facebook good signup form

Let’s break down why this signup form is a good one:

  • It consists of only a handful of questions.
  • The information that is required is clear.
  • There is plenty of blank space around the form.
  • Additional information is given in the tooltip buttons.

If you really have to ask more questions to your users, you can save the extra questions for a second page. Just don’t forget to put a progress bar to make sure your users know that there IS a second page.

Any hidden information is a big thing to avoid while creating a signup form because it causes friction.

Quick Summary:

  • Keep your signup form clear and short.
  • If you can’t keep it short, divide it into 2 pages.
  • Don’t hide any instructions or information such as rules for the password.
  • Provide the user with a progress bar.

#3 – Good UX always pays back

Having a good design is good, having a good UX is a complete game-changer.

The more the user enjoys spending time on your product the more they will be likely to become loyal users.

To assure that your users will spend more time on your product, you have to keep them engaged with an actionable UX/UI design. It will not only appeal to their eyes, but to their minds as well.

Using proper Onboarding UX/UI patterns will:

  • Assure the user that you are pro in what you’re doing,
  • Make them more likely to stick around,
  • Convince them that paying for your product is worth it,
  • Make your NPS fly high (to the moooon 🚀  )

This is probably who google evolved from this,

Google's old, complicated interface
Google's new, good interface

to this.

And not this:

Spyder finder - the one for movies

It still looks cool in the movies, though.

Quick Summary:

  • Good UX is a must in the whole product, not only the onboarding.
  • Use a good UX design and proper UX/UI patterns to keep the user engaged.
  • A good UX will convince your users that you are the best option.

#4 – Adopt a User Onboarding Software

User onboarding tools can help you create and maintain a powerful user onboarding flow from start to end (and beyond), with the least amount of effort.

Equipped with every UX element that will complete your user onboarding flow, a user onboarding software like UserGuiding can help you boost engagement and improve conversions.

Adopt UserGuiding and take the reins of your product adoption to create user onboarding experiences without any coding.

Simple, Affordable, and Powerful User Onboarding Software.

New call-to-action

#4 – Use as many visuals as you can

I’m not saying that you should turn your website into a comic book, but don’t you like it more when a design has more than just shapes and colors?

65% of users indicate that videos are their favorite method of user onboarding.

It’s not because they are all youtube addicts, it’s because seeing something in action is the easiest way to learn how to do it.

Onboarding videos, interactive product tours, images, maybe even a virtual assistant. All these elements will – as always – make you seem more professional, and seeming professional will pay you back.

For an ultimate guide to work, you need to use a custom-designed page. Why? A custom-designed page tells people: “This guide is legit!”

Brian Dean

Visuals do not only make your onboarding easy to understand.

They also feel more lifelike.

And in a world of ones and zeros, giving a vibe of liveliness will take your revenue up to the top.

For instance, check out how cute RAM’s onboarding assistant is!

ram onboarding lighthouse
Created with UserGuiding

As for videos, here’s a great example of what an onboarding video can be like, by Uber:

Quick Summary:

  • Use visual elements such as images and videos to enhance your product.
  • People prefer being visually onboarded, especially by video.
  • Visuals make your product come to life and be more sincere.

#5 – Turn the goals and tasks into challenges

Try to turn the user journey into an arcade adventure to keep the users engaged with your product.

Think of it like playing a mobile game:

If there is nothing to accomplish, people will get bored, tired, and discouraged quicker than you can imagine.

I’m of course not telling you to turn your product into a game. It’s not that complicated, don’t worry. I’m talking about giving a prize for some important steps the user takes.

For instance:

  • If your product helps people organize their tasks, give them access to adding more team members as soon as they hit the 3-months-of-usage mark.
  • If your product helps people find movie recommendations, give them access to pro-reviews as soon as they watch 10 movies via your product.
  • If your product is a bit too complicated to give anything away for free, give them 2 hours access to the premium version as soon as they reach an important point in their product adoption journey.

Quick Summary:

  • Point out the tasks to the users
  • Turn the tasks into challenges
  • Reward the users for each accomplishment

But how do you know which tasks will be effective as challenges?

That’s up to your product, but don’t worry, there are a few things that are the same for all products:

#6 – Set the first goal to Aha! Moment

First things first, what is the Aha! Moment?

The ‘’Aha! Moment’’ is the point where the customer understands the value of your product and decides whether to adopt it or not.

Now it should make sense why this should be the first stop of your ‘’task-challenge’’ process.

The sooner the user gets to the ”Aha!” Moment, the more likely they will be to adopt it.

Let me show you an example on how to do it successfully:

Pinterests's aha moment module

If you are signing up on Pinterest, this is the first screen you see after creating your account. They want you to engage with other accounts that can help you engage with the product.

Genius!

If this step didn’t exist, you would either see a blank feed that doesn’t seem appealing, or some random things that don’t interest you at all – leading to a loss of interest in the product.

As you get recommendations for people to follow, you start getting value from it, and spend more time in it.

As you spend more time on the product, you feel how much the product brings you, and you reach your Aha! Moment.

As you reach your Aha! Moment, you decide not to delete the app, like and post in it, and even recommend it after a while.

This is what Pinterest wanted you to do when they showed you that page.

And this exact scenario is what you want to implement into your product.

Had there been any other interruptions during the process, Pinterest wouldn’t be as popular as it is today.

So that’s why your user onboarding process needs to lead the user directly to the Aha! Moment.

Quick Summary:

  • Know your product’s Aha! Moment,
  • Make it the first stop of the User Onboarding journey,
  • Avoid any friction between the signup and Aha! Moment,

#7 – Let your users know about their progress

So, let’s imagine that you have mastered the art of setting correct goals and presenting them as challenges, what comes next?

Let me tell you: The next step is to inform people about the progress they made, along with how much there is left to fully understand the product.

People in 2021 are carving for information. Many people become better than others not because they work hard, but because they know how to communicate correctly.

That’s like the whole point: information and communication.

But no one can tell me that they aren’t getting overwhelmed by seeing tens of descriptions here and there when they get exposed to something new.

So here’s how to inform people without bombarding them with paragraphs:

onboarding checklist
Created with UserGuiding

Yup, you got it right. Checklists, progress bars, and checklists with progress bars.

If you have more than 3 tasks in your checklist for the user, you probably can’t reward them for each accomplishment. But the user still needs the thrill and satisfaction of getting recognized for the finished task.

Giving them a checklist provides your users with a good outline of what to expect.

A progress bar will trigger a feeling of urgency and challenge that will encourage them to spend more time with your product and dive deeper.

If nothing, the progress bar will be a comforting reminder that they have accomplished things and more is to come shortly.

Quick Summary:

  • People feel the need to be informed.
  • A checklist is a good form to inform about the upcoming tasks.
  • It also gives the feeling of accomplishment.
  • A progress bar will inform them about – obviously – the progress.
  • It also triggers a feeling of urgency and keeps the user engaged.

#8 – Keep the users informed at all times

Talking about keeping people informed, giving information only about their progress won’t be enough alone. 

  • Users need to be informed about where and how to get help.
  • Users need to be informed about updates, new features and useful tips.
  • Users need to be informed about how and when they can contact a real person.

Simply put, users require all the information that you can provide. They don’t go with the ‘’less is more’’ code, they just want to make sure about everything.

Having said that, again, bombarding them with paragraphs of definitions won’t work.

So what do you do?

You use tools such as CTA’s, in-app messages, hotspots…

Plandisc hotspot - in app message
Created with UserGuiding

Let me make it clearer with 2 reasons:

  1. Those who don’t want to be informed can just skip or close the additional pop-up / screen. This way you will have satisfied the ones who do want to read, and those who don’t need the definitions.
  2. Having such small additions to your product will make you seem more reliable and professional since ‘’all the other professionals’’ are doing it.

Quick Summary:

  • Again, people want and need to be informed about everything possible.
  • Don’t forget to inform them about updates, small tips, changes, and how to get help.
  • Instead of having a description covering a lot of space on your product, use hotspots and in-app messages.

#9 – Be as personalized as possible

You can interpret ‘’being a personalized product’’ in many ways:

  • You can reach out to your users if the number is not too high.
  • You can include their name here and there in the product via automation.
  • You can let them select the theme, font, etc.
  • Or you can offer them real-time help with a real person every now and then.

But there is one thing that doesn’t change no matter how you personalize the product: make the product more livelike – even maybe emotional.

For example, make your overall language more sincere, or use a character that guides people while they get to know the product.

Make the users feel the product.

Is this a necessity to succeed?

Nope.

Will it help you rise to the top quicker?

Yeap.

How?

In a world full of ones and zeroes, if your product is the one that really understands the people, then they will be more likely to stick with it.

If you ever watched a sci-fi movie, you know that it’s easy to slaughter emotionless robots. But how many movies really killed robots that have emotions?

None.

Exactly…

Quick Summary:

  • Make your product personalized for each user.
  • You don’t have to create a new product for each user, just allow them to make their own changes.
  • The best method of personalization is speaking to emotions.

#10 -Let your users’ voice get heard

Let’s talk about some facts: if people dislike something, they spend hours complaining.

But if people do like something, they won’t bother complimenting the product and producer – since the product is meant to be good anyways.

If you don’t ask for people’s opinions every now and then, you will have complaints only.

What you need to do in such a case is simple: ask people for feedback almost every time they complete a task for a while, most preferably during the onboarding. Conduct NPS surveys, send them emails asking for ideas or make them rate some steps they have taken.

After you collect the data, though, what do you do?

Let it be and do as you know.

No!

Make sure that people know that they’re not only writing some words. They give value to your product.

They are using it, so they should have an effect on it.

NPS survey with Userguiding
Created with UserGuiding

Quick Summary:

  • People tend to adopt products that listen to them.
  • Ask for your users’ opinions. This will keep them engaged and approved.

Conclusion

As the world changes every single day, it would be impossible to think that the digital market and methods wouldn’t change.

This means: sticking to ‘’best practices’’ that tell you to catch up with the latest trends won’t help you establish a solid base. But there is one thing that doesn’t seem to be changing in a very long time: the people and how demanding they are.

No worries, just focus on entertaining them while giving them the information and service they need.

Sounds scary, huh? It’s not.

This article might be proof.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article. And if you are ready to take in more information, there are some good choices below. Enjoy!


Frequently Asked Questions:


How can users improve onboarding?

The user alone won’t be willing to improve their onboarding process. It will be your job to make sure that the process is smooth enough for them to complete without friction. But don’t worry, it takes only 3-4 key things to turn any onboarding process into a butter-smooth one.


How do you design the best onboarding?

1- You do research about the user persona of your and your competitor’s products.

2- You invest in UX, and you solely design for your target audience and not the whole market.

3- You never leave the customer alone in the product, you make sure that they have access to all help channels, and they enjoy using your product.


Hilal Yıldırım

Hilal is the Creative Content Writer of UserGuiding, specializing in onboarding and growth. When she isn't writing, you probably can't find her: she could be anywhere, taking photographs on her motorbike.

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