Product teams put a lot of time, thought, research, and effort into creating clever products that meet vital user needs.
Excited by the new product, many users download or otherwise engage with it. But sometimes, very few people convert from interested downloaders to active users.
This is often the result of poor user onboarding, as developing the onboarding experience is sometimes relegated to a footnote in the intensive process of product development. But this is a mistake.
User onboarding is the process of introducing new users to your product and is pivotal to the user experience. According to research conducted by ProfitWell, a positive onboarding experience significantly decreases user churn within the first 27 days of engaging with a product. It also makes users 21 percent more likely to upgrade from free to paid services.
In this article, we will go over what makes a user onboarding good, and then examine 5 onboarding experiences that I think make great examples.
Looking to learn more about the concept? Check out our Definitive Guide to User Onboarding.
What Makes A User Onboarding Good?
What constitutes good user onboarding depends on the product, the user, and what need they are fulfilling with the product.
For example, you can imagine the different approaches to user onboarding that would be needed for a banking app as opposed to a game, and for products targetted at specific sector experts as opposed to the general audience.
According to Samuel Hulick of UserOnboard, good onboarding experiences should be:
- User-centric – is focussed on teaching the user what they need to know to get started with the product, and not just be concerned about showing off the product.
- Action-oriented – it should get users completing actions as quickly as possible, rather than spending a lot of time showing them how they will do it when they finally get to work with the product.
- Informed – and focus on getting the user to gain value from the product as soon as possible.
- Constantly Evolving – just as product features are monitored to ensure that they are doing their job, and tweaked and changed to do it better, onboarding needs this kind of attention as well.
- Holistic – onboarding should not happen in one go the first time the user opens the product, it is something that needs to be constantly present and available, and leveraged to introduce changes, new features, and so forth.
Onboarding needs to complete one, more, or all of the following tasks:
- Show users the key benefits of the product and how to achieve them.
- Show users the key functionality of the product and how to use it.
- Focus on getting users doing and using the product as quickly as possible.
- Support account set up and registration.
Better User Onboarding with Less Effort using UserGuiding
There are many different ways to deliver user onboarding which we can categorize under insource methods and use of 3rd-party tools.
Using specialist software solutions such as UserGuiding, you can easily create a wide variety of onboarding elements such as interactive guides, hotspots, checklists, surveys, and more.
Best User Onboarding Experiences
As we have already said, what your user onboarding should look like depends on the product and the user base, and should be designed just as carefully as the product itself.
There is no such thing as a one size fits all solution.
But you can certainly gain some insights and tips from looking at best practices. To me, best user onboarding I’ve seen recently are from:
1- GhostwriterAI – Onboard users 1 feature at a time
As I’ve just mentioned how HELPFUL UserGuiding can be in your journey to great user onboarding, I’ll start with an example from its users.
That also offers the best user onboarding experience I’ve seen in a while.
I’m talking about GhostwriterAI, which is an AI-based content marketing platform for brands and influencers.
What makes GhostwriterAI’s user onboarding experience the one of the best is, even though it has many features that has different functions, it covers all of them.
But 1 feature at a time!
When you first log in to the platform, you find yourself in the Profiler tool, which acts as a base to all other features so it’s probably the best feature to start with.
Then, a guide made in UserGuiding welcomes you to the Profiler tool, showing you the basic elements and the core value of the tool.
The guide shows you the ins and outs of the profiler tool. Then, you are left free to try out this feature, or move on to another one.
Let’s see what happens when you click “Content Curator” after finishing the first guide.
After a short loading screen, a guide pops up and welcomes you to the Content Curator tool.
It also shows you around this specific feature, and what value you will get from it.
These small guides exist for all the features, that demonstrates the core functions of the features, then leave you to explore by yourself.
If there was one big onboarding for all the features of GhostwriterAI, it could perhaps last for an hour if it showed everything small guides did.
To make it shorter they would have to cut from certain parts so it would lose value. But by dividing the user onboarding into digestible parts, GhostwriterAI has created the perfect user onboarding experience for its users.
And they’ve actually done this in 63% less developer time, because they’ve used UserGuiding. (see the full story with the CEO of GhostwriterAI.)
UserGuiding is a user onboarding solution that many companies use to create experiences as Ghostwriter did. And since it is a no-code product, anyone in a company can utilize it for growth.
But don’t take my word for it, see for yourself:
2- Netflix – Intuitive and Strong CTA
When it comes to the best products, especially the ones that are consumed by millions on a daily basis, users should need relatively little instruction to figure out how it actually works.
Controls, menus, and functions should be designed to meet user expectations. The menu icon should be familiar and in an expected place. Double tapping and swiping should have the effect that the user expects. Relying on known actions significantly reduces the learning curve for users.
But for many products, the biggest challenge is actually getting user’s to sign up and start paying.
This is something that Netflix has mastered, with their one-month free trial that gets users into the product risk-free and loving it enough to start paying.
They deliver this expertly with a simple sign up screen which explains exactly what they are getting themselves into. A one-month free trial, and the ongoing cost of the subscription after that date. This is complemented by a strong call to action (CTA), which is displayed as “Start Your Free Month”.
Netflix does then require an email, password, and payment details, but they keep these screens as simple as possible, not taking the opportunity to ask for any unnecessary information for their records.
Netflix then asks for a few preferences so that it can start feeding users relevant content immediately. But once you are inside Netflix, there is very little information provided about how to browse and watch. And this is because it is largely unnecessary, as the product is designed to be intuitive.
Here is the whole onboarding process of Netflix, from sign-up to the homepage, starting with the intuitive CTA:
Finish setting up your account:
You select a plan:
Setting up your payment:
Here you choose what content you like so that you can get related recommendations:
You wait for your personalization to process:
Aaand you are in the Home page of Netflix, what’s great from this point onward is that you don’t need further guidance, because the product is extremely simple:
3- Slack – Learn By Doing
Ideally, you don’t want to show the user what to do, you get them to actually do it.
Slack manages to deliver this onboarding experience fairly seamlessly.
When the user enters the messaging app, they immediately start exchanging messages with the Slackbot. The bot provides the user with information about how to use the platform and also has them physically doing it while they interact with the bot.
The bot is ideal for using more than just a one-off.
When Slack makes updates or changes, they can use the bot again to bring these to the attention of the user. It also pops up on occasion to remind users of old functionality that they haven’t yet taken advantage of.
Slack combines this with microcopy showing the user the type of content that they should enter into certain workboxes, and tool pop-ups appear very occasionally to orient and inform the user.
4- DuoLingo – Gradual Engagement
Often completing a complex registration form can put the user off joining up to a product. The amount of data required to access a product, before the user even really knows if the product will solve their problem of they will enjoy using it, can mean that they simply abandon the process.
DuoLingo jumps this hurdle by pushing the registration form back to the final moment.
Rather than jumping straight into registration, they start by showing the user the value of the app by taking them through a class. As a result, they know what to expect from the app before they give their details.
Users can actually access quite a lot of the app’s functionality without registration but are regularly reminded of the additional functionality and superior experience they will gain if they register.
DuoLingo also makes good use of progress bars to let users know how far they are through each class, and also how far they are through the registration process. This makes the user perceive the process as more manageable, as it has a set ending, rather than being open-ended.
Here’s how Duolingo shows the value of their app before signing up, starting with a great value proposion with a strong CTA:
You choose the language you’d like to learn, the numbers are a cool addition:
Asks you why you are learning the language to make your experience more personalized:
Even more personalization with the daily goal selection:
You can register here, but you don’t have to! That’s what’s great about Duolingo’s onboarding, you don’t have to register to try it:
Here you select how well you know the selected language:
You go through your first class and you are right in the product looking at your overall progress:
When registration is required upfront, especially if it requires additional steps such as email confirmation, it is a good idea to try and make this as smooth as possible. Productboard is a good example of this. It places links to the most popular email clients at the bottom of their registration so that leaders can access the confirmation with one click.
5- Canva – Personalization
Nate Munger of Clearbit nicely summarizes one of the big challenges facing the designers of onboarding experiences:
“Some new users expect you to welcome them and show them around the place while others prefer you to get out of their way and soon as possible and let them figure things out for themselves. The problem is that… you’re going to have to successfully onboard customers from across this spectrum.”
Online design platform Canva has done a good job of tackling the challenge.
They ask the user what they plan to use the platform for, and then take them to a tutorial focuses on what they actually want to do, rather than taking them through everything.
Not only does this give each user a better onboarding experience, but it also helps the user anticipate a better onboarding experience. When the user believes that the experience will be tailored to their particular needs, they are more likely to be open and receptive to the experience.
Here’s the quick user onboarding of Canva that gets you just where you want to be, which starts by you picking what you will use Canva for:
Then the product suggests a few designs that is related to your intended use:
Then gets you right inside the product where it assists you in creating your first design.
Justinmind takes a similar approach, offering both “full mode” for experienced creators of wireframes, and “beginner mode” for those that need a little bit more handholding through the process. The user is also able to switch between the two modes easily if they feel like they need more or less support.
Why Focus On Onboarding
Perfecting the onboarding experience isn’t just about getting users set up on the product, it is getting them back and using it again and again.
The onboarding experience has one of the most significant impacts on the overall user experience and is a major factor in the user determining if they want to return, or are happy to leave it.
It is important to always monitor the onboarding experience to ensure that it is working in the desired way. It is usually a sure sign that you are having onboarding issues if you see a steep drop off in users after sign-up, low conversion from free to paid features, and significant churn and non-renewals.
Ideally, the best onboarding experiences get the user to value as quickly as possible.
This requires knowing what represents value to the user. For example, is the value moment for an Instagram user seeing their feed, completing a post, or having someone else like their post? This is why good user onboarding always starts with good user research.
Perhaps finding your product’s “Aha!” moment can help.
Frequently Asked Questions
⛵️ What is User Onboarding?
User onboarding is where you show the value you offer to your new users and try to get them to their “Aha!” moments by explaining the specifics and how-tos of your product.
🚀 What makes a User Onboarding good?
A great user onboarding is always user-centric, interactive, and quick to show the functionalities of the product.
❓ Why is User Onboarding important?
Onboarding is your first chance to make a great impression, which can end up in higher retention and conversion rates.