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42 Essential User Onboarding Tools to Drive Your App’s Growth

Written by: Ty Magnin Ty Magnin 

First impressions are everything, and it’s especially true when it comes to user onboarding.

That’s why it’s so crucial to obsessively perfect your onboarding flow. Without a rock-solid foundation of user onboarding, your new sign-ups are lost in the wilderness. User onboarding is your window of opportunity to unlock the real value of your app—get it right, and you build the behaviors and patterns of use that will lead to long-term retention and real growth for your company.

Let’s take a comprehensive dive into 40 top user onboarding tools that will help you cultivate the engaged base of users your app needs to take off.

User Onboarding In-App

Onboarding is when users use your app for the first time and learn the ropes. It’s essential that you make a great first impression—the average app loses 77% of its daily active users after just three days. Here are some tools to make that first experience a magical one.

1. Codeless Onboarding with Appcues

We’re huge fans of Appcues. No, but seriously, it’s great. Appcues allows for 100% codeless onboarding—marketers can get their hands dirty with onboarding without having to hit up developers, while developers can pour their time into the product.

You can add a combination of full-on product tutorials to onboarding, and less-intrusive tooltips and hotspots to propel users to the hot-zone of user engagement, and get them to that aha! moment.

You can also conduct persona-based onboarding, to make sure each user gets the most juice from the welcome screen to long-term retention, and A/B test to discover what’s hot and what’s not.

2. A Hopscotch product tour

“The often maligned product tour is still the way the majority of applications onboard new users—and you can easily build your own. If you’re a developer, create your own product tour with Hopscotch. Hopscotch is a framework that lets you build a simple welcome tour for new users in JSON and HTML5—it includes a core javascript and CSS file that you need to get started, along with a template for rendering basic tooltips.

3. Do it yourself with JavaScript and jQuery tooltips

You can get a wide variety of tooltip plugins for free in Javascript or Jquery. Above is an example of grumble.js’s animated, eye-catching tooltips that you can integrate into user onboarding to get users looking where you want them to, when you want them to. Looking for more? Here’s an epic list of 73 other free, open-source tooltip plugins.

4. Progress bars with intro.js

What makes video games so incredibly addictive? The progress bar. According to Lolapps co-founder Kamo Asatryan, adding a progress bar to onboarding can increase conversions up to 40%. The “need to complete” is one of the most powerful psychological drivers of user behavior out there—and it’s why partially filled progress bars drive us insane.

Intro.js, a javascript guide, allows you to harness this principle by allowing you to insert a progress bar into your onboarding flow, and get users to actually cross the finish line.

5. Humanize onboarding with Wistia

Sometimes, it just helps to see a face—our brains are neurologically wired to respond instinctively. Introduce new users to your app with onboarding videos. Not only do you add that extra touch of personalization to your product, but you also make learning engaging by breaking down complex processes. Inserting a video in an introductory marketing email increases click-through rates by 96%. With Wistia, a video-hosting for business platform, you can tap into the power of personalization by including a video play-by-play of your app in action.

As Chris Savage, CEO and co-founder of Wistia says, the goal of video is “to make someone feel something. Video is a great way to save time, but beyond that, it’s the best way to scale emotions and human connection.”

6. Single Sign-on with Auth0

When it comes to user onboarding, the your goal is to reduce friction and drive users into your app as quickly as possible—but don’t allow haste to turn your app into a security hazard. With a tool like Auth0, you can activate users immediately during onboarding, with single sign on (SSO) cross platforms, and social login through Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

7. Show them a familiar face with gravatar

Gravatar has a simple idea that takes advantage of a deep psychological trigger—the power of seeing one’s own face. Gravatar users choose a headshot that serves as their online avatar. If your site signs up with Gravatar, that user’s avatar will pop up on screen when they start onboarding. Seeing their own face will make them feel welcome and engaged.

8. Mobile push notifications with Leanplum

“We’re all on our phones all the time. Push notifications can lead to higher conversion rates by 4x, and 80% higher user engagement. By using a tool like Leanplum, you can personalize push notifications based on specific actions users have taken during the onboarding stage, and bring them back inside your app. Bam, get that trip to Hawaii, Shawn!

9. Create a tutorial with iShowu

When they’re learning about your product, sometimes users need you to show them how it’s done. iShowU is the perfect software to do that—it lets you take a video of what happens on your screen and even add audio. Record tutorials of how to use your product’s features and integrate them into onboarding, when your customers need them most.

Email

Email remains one of the most flexible and versatile communication tools out there. When it comes to onboarding, it’s crucial that you don’t overwhelm new users—there’s a thin line between providing too much, and too little, information. The asynchronous nature of email is perfect for this—launch a drip campaign that staggers important information to make sure users are getting the juiciest parts of your app, when they need it.

10. Personalize email with autosend.io

Email remains king of online communication—tap into its power with Autosend.io and send your customers personalized emails throughout the onboarding process. We recommend a three-message strategy: a welcome email when users sign up, a re-engagement email to inactive users, and an evaluation survey to anyone who uses the product.

11. Send trigger-based emails with Customer.io

Customer.io is the perfect tool for sending your users emails triggered by anything they do on your site. A conventional drip email campaign puts every customer on the same schedule—that’s crazy. With Customer.io, you can get the right email to the right customer at the right time depending on what they do or don’t do during onboarding.

12. Segment like a pro with Vero

You ever wish you could email ONLY people who quit mid-way through onboarding and also happen to like Jay-Z? Then check out Vero. Like some kind of online Sherlock Holmes, they collect customer data from a bunch of different sources and let you segment customers however you want.

13. Sign them up for your newsletter with Mailchimp

It’s fitting that a company called MailChimp is the 800-pound gorilla in the room when it comes to email marketing—and perfect for new feature announcements. Thanks to their awesome templates, handy automation, and powerful analytics, they’re a powerhouse in the email space. Try automatically signing up recently onboarded users for your newsletter while their interest remains high.

14. Personalize outreach with Close.io

Automated emails are great, but sometimes it takes a human being to get customers into the onboarding process. That’s why at Close.io, within two hours of signing up for their sales CRM product, every user gets a personalized email from a living, breathing member of the Close.io team. According to Steli Efti, that email, combined with a phone call to every new user within five minutes of sign-up, can increase conversion rates by 66.7%.

A/B Testing

With its scientific approach and focus on cold hard data, A/B testing is the modern marketer’s best friend. Here are some tools to unleash its power on your onboarding process.

15. Optimize onboarding with Optimizely

Your onboarding flow has limited real estate. Make your product tour too long, and users will skip out on it in boredom. Make it too short, however, and they won’t learn how to get max value from your app and churn out. That’s why a little A/B testing goes a long way.

French Girls, a photography app, used Optimizely’s A/B testing to double activation conversion to 50%—just by flipping around the order of the welcome screens. Instead of having users draw a portrait and take a selfie, they had them take a selfie first.

16. Test away with Apptimize

Apptimize is another great product to A/B test your mobile app’s onboarding process. Apptimize’s CEO, Nancy Hua, shows a clear understanding of how crucial onboarding is: “If you don’t nail onboarding your developers may as well have been drinking beers instead of building those features that no one saw.”

Apptimize makes A/B testing easy—you can simply upload a new image you want to test and pop it right into your app’s onboarding flow.

They’ve also written here about seven apps with great onboarding—while their strategies might not work for you, some of them are probably worth a shot in an A/B test.

Analytics

You don’t just need to know when users are coming and going—you need to know why. There’s limited onboarding space, and a narrow window of opportunity to capture people’s attention and nudge them into sticking around. These analytics tools will give you a more data-driven approach to onboarding.

17. Double down on the stickiness with Amplitude

Long-term retention starts from Day 1, with onboarding. Use an analytics tracking platform like Amplitude to identify your a-ha! moment, and then focus all your onboarding efforts on driving users toward it. Amplitude specializes in analyzing data based on behavioral cohorts—groups of users organized around specific actions and usage patterns.

Identify the key behaviors taken during Week 1 that lead to long-term retention, and design your user onboarding flow around getting users to them ASAP. With Amplitude, you can track an unlimited amount of events taken within your app, and run experiments out the wahoo.

18. Visualize onboarding through KISSmetrics

Kissmetrics is an event-tracking and analytics platform that allows you to create conversion funnels with defined parameters, to get a close-up of what actions users are taking in-app. You can then segment out lagging users and re-target them, either through email or in-app messaging, to keep them in the funnel and moving toward activation.

19. Optimize onboarding with Mixpanel

By using Mixpanel, another analytics tool, the folks at Desk.com were able to do a deep dive into their user onboarding process. They used Mixpanel to collect thousands of different data points, and split test their user onboarding tour between modal windows and tooltips. Tooltips proved the clear winner—Desk found that if users didn’t skip the tour and got past the first hover tooltip, 97.06% of them would get through the rest of the funnel.

20. Predict the future with Framed.io

Framed.io is an analytics tool that uses machine learning to analyze what your customers do. The juicy part is that it doesn’t just tell you what users have done in the past— it helps predict your customer’s next moves so you can intervene and change up onboarding accordingly, through re-engagement messages and emails. It’s got built-in integration with the other analytics platforms you already use, and the data you’ve already collected—Amplitude, Mixpanel, Segment, and Google Analytics.

21. Find out who’s serious with Totango

Is there anything more frustrating than the users who sign up for a free trial and then never use your product? Nope. Totango uses analytics to automate customer success during user onboarding. It can tell you which free trial users are actually active and engaged, and which ones are just kicking tires.

22. Centralize data with Segment

Pushing your data around Amplitude, Kissmetrics and Mixpanel is hard. It’s easy to let your analytics get out of hand, and get crushed under a mountain of data. Segment provides a centralized hub that consolidates all your user data, doing the work for you—and it’s got integrations with over 100 different apps.

User Testing and Surveys

You almost never get something right the first time you try it—and it’s no different with your app’s onboarding experience, no matter how much you’ve poured into it. These tools give your customers a voice and let them tell you how to improve onboarding.

23. Watch and learn with Inspectlet

It’s easy to get wrapped up in your product—you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears into it. You amass mountains of user data, but sometimes you need to actually watch how users interact with your app to develop the qualitative insight you need to ramp up onboarding. By using a tool like Inspectlet, you can watch how real, live users as they proceed through each stage of onboarding—every keystroke and click of the mouse.

24. Test the Wow! with UserTesting

UserTesting is another tool that allows you to record sessions of users interacting with your app—but not only can you see what they do, you can hear them think aloud as they step through user onboarding. What seems obvious to you isn’t always obvious to your users, and aggressive testing provides you with the insight you need to reduce friction and ramp up UX, getting new users to that Wow! moment even faster.

25. Get their opinions with Qualaroo

The art of the user survey is getting the answers you want at the right time. Qualaroo promises to “ask the right visitor the right question, at the right time.” You can segment your customers however you like, schedule exactly when you want questions to pop up, and get their hot takes at each step of the onboarding process.

26. Create a free Typeform survey

If you’re strapped for cash, but still need to get the answers you need, create a free Typeform survey to get the user insights you need to improve your onboarding flow. Typeform’s conversational formats will help you get more honest answers from customers.

27. Mobile touch heatmaps with Appsee

When it comes to your mobile app, visualizing what your users tap is just as important as figuring out what they do, especially when it comes to those critical first few moments of contact with your app. Services like Appsee allow you to build aggregated heatmaps of where your users are tapping and swiping from the login screen, so you can get in and excise obstructions from your interface.

Support

Most companies suck at customer support, so it’s a huge opportunity to set yourself apart if you can excel at it. You might initially think an issue during onboarding would surely lose you a customer. But if you can solve it effectively, you’ll increase their trust in your product.

28. Have a chat using Olark

Olark lets you do that by live chatting with customers who run into a problem. Plus, you can have Olark automatically ask users for feedback at critical moments during the onboarding process—it all happens in-app, so you get their honest reactions right as they’re succeeding or failing.

29. Unlock the data behind the issues with Livechat

LiveChat is another great software tool for talking to customers and solving their issues in real time. What really sets it apart are its analytics. You can get data galore on where in the life cycle customers are having problems. Use LiveChat to monitor your onboarding process and identify the places that trip up your customers.

30. Use HelpScout’s customer support tickets

HelpScout automatically creates a customer support ticket for any user who has an issue with your product. It also builds unique customer profiles, categorizes customer correspondences with issue tags, and integrates with tons of other tools. Remember, you need to make a good first impression, so set up an “onboarding” tag and tell your support team to give those tickets priority.

31. Let them serve themselves with Zendesk

If they hit a roadblock during onboarding, many customers are likely to give up rather than contact your support team. Enter ZenDesk—it lets you create an online help center where customers can access FAQs, fixes for common issues, and community-curated solutions. Help your customers help themselves—before it’s too late.

32. Beautiful 404 pages with Statuspage.io

With onboarding, it’s key that you put your best foot forward at all times—and that applies to when things go wrong, as well as right. Not everything goes according to plan. Websites go down, and servers go out. StatusPage.io, as part of their philosophy to implement “engineering as marketing,” created the free tool Better Error Pages, which literally gives your web app or site a better error page. With it, you can turn a potentially catastrophic outage—like a new user becoming lost—into an opportunity.

Marketing

The marketing work isn’t done when someone signs up for your product—only beginning. Onboarding is a great opportunity to refine your inbound channels and create buzz.

33. Get all the demographic info you want with Clearbit

Let’s assume that somewhere along the way during onboarding, you’re going to pick up users’ email addresses. That’s a great piece of information to have, but you need more to qualify leads like a pro—location, job title, industry—the list goes on and on. Clearbit can get you all that data and more.

34. Roll out the red carpet with Drift daily

Drift Daily is the newly launched tool by Drift, and it sends you an email each morning or drops you a line in Slack, whenever a key influencer or VIP signs up for your product. Armed with this information, you can roll out the red carpet for these new users during onboarding, and prioritize your outreach.

35. Onboarding is the perfect time to ask for a referral with Extole

Referral’s one of the most powerful and viral drivers of growth—just ask Dropbox or Paypal. Get new users to spread word-of-mouth referral during or immediately after onboarding, right as their interest is at a peak.

By using a platform like Extole, you can get your Refer-a-Friend program up and running, along with detailed analytics, without having to build the code yourself. It pays off too—not only are referred customers 18% less likely to churn, but also have 25% higher lifetime values (LTV).

36. Helpshift and 5 Star Reviews

For mobile apps especially, bulking up on those iTunes store ratings is crucial to driving growth. Use a tool like Helpshift to prompt users for ratings, right after they’ve gotten to the aha! moment, and are ready to spread the word.

User onboarding resources

It’s tough to build your onboarding flow from scratch—but then again, there’s no reason for you to. There’s plenty of available resources out there that allow you to see tried, tested, and true strategies for user onboarding.

37. User Onboard

UX and onboarding guru Sam Hulick’s useronboard.com provides amazing, screenshot by screenshot teardowns of user onboarding, ranging from Slack, to Gmail, to the latest Peach. Each screen is accompanied by Hulick’s excellent and expert commentary, which delivers the good, the bad and the ugly.

38. User Onboarding Academy

At Appcues, we put together a User Onboarding Academy. From creating a beautiful UX to leveraging psychology hacks, our 16-lesson curriculum covers everything you need to know about onboarding active, engaged users.

39. Really Good Emails

Onboarding is one of the best times to send a customer an email—they just signed up for your service, their interest is high, and you have relevant information for them. So you better make the most of it and write a top-notch email. Check out Really Good Emails’ onboarding section for examples.

40. UX Archive

Need some inspiration for your mobile app’s UX? Look no further than UX Archive. It has screenshots showing how different apps create a UX for 22 different tasks. The onboarding section alone has over 100 examples of how companies like Google Docs, Snapchat, and Hootsuite onboard new mobile users.

41. Crayon.co

Crayon.co is a massive resource library of 20 million marketing designs that you can tap into for inspiration when it comes to designing your web app—and the best part is it’s easy to apply filters and search for exactly what you’re looking for. One especially useful feature is the ability to track redesigns and see how the websites of companies, from Netflix to Citi, have changed and evolved over time.

42. Empty States

The empty state is a key part of onboarding—it’s the first screen users see when they download an app. The empty state nudges users to take action by pointing out that they haven’t done anything on the app yet. Check out EmptyStat.es for some inspiration to delight users from the start of the customer life cycle.

Recommended reading

Code-Free User Onboarding Ebook cover

Free Ebook: Code-Free User Onboarding

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