The 5 'Best' User Onboarding Examples

Written by: Jackson Noel Jackson Noel 


“So, who has the best user onboarding experience?”

We get this question all the time. And the answer is, well, complicated.

User onboarding is a highly idiosyncratic function of who the user is—their motivations, pains, etc.—and the product’s ability to satisfy that new user’s desire.

Can we really declare whether Netflix or Slack has a better user onboarding experience?

Even within a product category, subtle differences in value propositions and user personas make attempting an apples-to-apples comparison a dangerous game. Who has better onboarding, Zendesk or Help Scout?

Zendesk is a much bigger tool that offers far more capabilities than does Help Scout. It likely attracts a different user persona with different needs than the thousands of happy Help Scout customers.

Their user onboarding experiences are different. And they should be.

But tactics used within user onboarding experiences are a little easier to compare and contrast. So while we won’t be crowning any champions, we can still admire the craftsmanship some makers have put into their product’s front door.

Without further ado, here are the 5 best really pretty awesome user onboarding experiences that will delight your pants off.

Canva

Canva is a design tool for non-designers. In just a few minutes, any old hack can start creating beautiful graphics for web or print.

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What we like about Canva’s user onboarding:

  • The video at the beginning helps users quickly see the value they are about to unlock, building user motivation. It’s short (23 seconds), doesn’t require audio, and is to-the-point—nothing kills momentum like a 4 minute product overview video.
  • Canva follows the “Do > Show > Tell” mantra. New users are educated on how to use the application by completing design exercises.
  • It’s fun. To make the tutorial delightful, each onboarding task tickles the user’s pleasure sense. Putting a hat on a monkey is amusing. Searching for your favorite food feels yummy. This tactic frames the new user’s first impression working with Canva as a fun positive and keeps them coming back for more.

Duolingo

Unlike most apps, the language learning application Duolingo has a user onboarding experience that begins with the product and ends with a signup form.

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What we like about Duolingo’s user onboarding:

  • Why waste time with the boring stuff when you can provide value right away? Duolingo reverses its funnel by starting with a learning exercise rather than a form. This also follows the Do > Show > Tell philosophy from above.
  • Duo asks new users to define their language learning goal. Based on Robert Cialdini’s Commitment and Consistency Principle, this early commitment likely has a massive impact on a new user’s eventual success with the platform.
  • Duolingo’s progress bar helps set a user’s expectations of effort to complete a lesson. As users watch their progress move along, they may feel more committed to driving it to completion. Progress bars take advantage of the Goal Gradient Effect, which suggests that people move towards a goal, their efforts increase.

Quora

Quora is the home to over 5 million question-and-answer threads. But the app doesn’t waste any time in finding the information that’s most relevant to you during its user onboarding experience.

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What we like about Quora’s user onboarding:

  • The first action is to personalize your interests. This is key for all platforms that have content-related value propositions (think Twitter, Pinterest, Netflix, etc.). On Quora my mom can read about home gardening while I read plot theories for the next Star Wars film. Yay!
  • Quora asks to verify your email address early on with the promise of seeing “who you already know on Quora.” I’d speculate that they ask this upfront because running your address book against the millions of Quora members and then ranking them by influence takes some time. This process likely takes place in the background while you select categories to follow.
  • Quora’s checklist UI pattern leaves a user more onboarding tasks for the next session. Humans are conditioned to dislike leaving checklists unfinished, so they’re a good way to continue personalizing the user’s experience while not completely killing momentum in the first session.

Learn how to onboard like these amazing apps!

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Tumblr

Tumblr’s user onboarding experience is bolstered by its creativity and personality. It really shines in visual design and microcopy, and giving new users a taste of the community’s energy.

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What we like about Tumblr’s user onboarding:

  • A username generator that serves as the first step of the user onboarding experience. This removes friction for users who don’t know what to name their blogs yet; and it sets the tone for the fun, energetic, quirky content that is to come. If you didn’t catch it, the name suggested in this onboarding instance was “ScreechingDuckFire,” which was too good to pass up.
  • Tumblr’s walkthrough points out important UI elements that help users get more value out of the tool. Ensuring users know how to repost and favorite likely results in higher user engagement rates. Plus the animated icons add an element of delight to what could otherwise be a snoozeworthy tutorial.

Slack

Slack, the ever popular team-messaging app, does a great job explaining itself to the new users it continues to acquire. It does it in a human—yet robot-generated—voice that keeps fans raving about the software.

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What we like about Slack’s user onboarding:

  • Slack’s microcopy explains why they need new users to fill out certain fields. They pair graphics with simple text to contextualize information each new user is being asked for.
  • After collecting this information, Slack uses its very own Slackbot to host a walkthrough of the software. In addition to showing new users a feature tutorial, it asks for some information via the chatbox. This interactive approach drives users to take meaningful action while educating them on how to use the software.
  • There’s no unnecessary friction. Slack doesn’t ask users for system permissions, to verify their email address or even to create a password until after they’ve begun using the tool in earnest!

*If you love Slack as much as we do, and you want to read more on their user onboarding, we broke down some of Slack’s recent updates here.

What do you think?

What do you think of these five onboarding experiences? Anything good/bad that we missed? Any other onboarding experiences that you hold in particularly high regard? These are but 5 of hundreds of onboarding flows we love.

If you’d like to read more on onboarding, check out our User Onboarding Academy.

Recommended reading

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