User Onboarding Throwdown: Canva vs Piktochart


It’s really hard to compare onboarding processes for different products. After all, every tool has a different function, a different audience, and a different interface. If the first run experience for Canva was nearly identical to the first run experience for, say, Typeform—well, something would be dangerously wrong with one or both of those experiences.

However, while you can’t hold up Canva to Typeform, you can hold it up to Piktograph. Both apps promise to make design easy, speedy, and most importantly, accessible to even the least design-savvy folks. You can use either to make infographics, social media posts, reports, posters, and more.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at Canva and Piktochart’s onboarding flow designs and see how they stack up.

Signing Up

When it comes to their homepage—the launching point for their onboarding ux—Canva and Piktochart took extremely different approaches.

Canva signup form

Canva’s is simple—apart from the sign-up box and the two quotes, there’s not much going on. You can navigate to other pages using the footer menu; however, these links are so subtle it’s unlikely many people will use them.

This means users are driven toward one action: signing up. And because Canva lets you do so with Facebook or Google, there’s little friction. Even if you choose to manually enter your email, Canva doesn’t require you to open a confirmation email or enter your password twice.

Piktochart homepage
Piktochart signup page

Piktochart’s homepage, on the other hand, is designed to show you the platform’s main features. There’s a lot going on; between the screenshots, videos, multiple navigation options, and rotating carousels, the user quickly gets overwhelmed.

Once you do click “Sign up,” you’re taken to a new page that reiterates Piktochart’s benefits. The CTA is hidden beneath the fold—which further slows down the process.

Winner: Canva

Learning the Ropes

Canva 23 second guide video guide for new user onboarding

After you’ve signed up to Canva, there’s an intermediary screen asking for your central use case. Awesome, now you can have a more personalized experience!

But this is actually a wasted opportunity—I experimented by choosing all three options, and each onboarding ux process was exactly the same.

Next, you can watch a “23-second guide to beautiful design in Canva.” Not only does this video quickly show you around the app, it’s also fun and engaging. (But 23 seconds isn’t actually correct: it’s actually 32.)

Piktochart gives new users much less support. Once you’ve logged in, you see the main Piktochart dashboard.

Piktochart pop-up modal window
Piktochart user onboarding templates

A chat window pops up, suggesting you choose a template for your first design (rather than start from scratch). There are also links to not one but four ebooks.

While ebooks are a fantastic medium for really diving into a topic, they’re less than ideal for onboarding. Anyone who’s excited about creating her first design isn’t going to want to stop, drop everything, and read through a 37-page ebook (let alone four).

Plus, even after you click on the type of design you want to create, it’s not immediately clear what happens next. Turns out you need to scroll down to choose a template for that design. Since these templates are beneath the fold, it’s likely many users will give up in frustration before finding them.

Winner: Canva

Reaching the First WOW Moment

After Canva’s video, you’re still not completely on your own. The onboarding process continues with the “Beginner’s Challenge.”

Canva beginners challenge user onboarding
Canva first WOW moment

If you follow the directions, within five seconds you’ve changed the color of the circle: a.k.a., your first quick win.

However, I’d argue this isn’t Canva’s first WOW moment—that comes one second later, when you search for a hat and drag and drop it onto the monkey. This action requires you to combine two features; plus, it’s visually pleasing, light-hearted, and fun! Moving through the rest of the Beginner’s Challenge only gives you more confidence and momentum, so by the time you’ve finished scrolling, you feel great about tackling your real project.

Piktochart overlay
Piktochart tip pop-up box

With Piktochart's onboarding ux, on the other hand, you’re immediately working on an actual design. There’s a nifty overlay showing you what’s where; the only problem with this strategy is that once you close it, the reference is permanently gone.

Clicking on random elements will bring up related tips. It’s nice to have information doled out in chunks, but it also makes the user arbitrarily click everything in sight.

Piktochart product tour icon/pop-up
Piktochart product tour

There is a tour, but it’s so buried within the UI you have to assume Piktochart doesn’t want you to find it.

The good: it clearly shows you how many steps are in the tour and how far along you are. Also, the instructions are straight-forward, and the accompanying GIFs demystify things even more.

The bad: the user is passive. You don’t get to try out any of the tips until the tour is over, further delaying your WOW moment—and running the risk you’ll leave before it happens.

Winner: Canva

Taking the Next Steps

Canva dashboard

After you finish the Beginner’s Challenge, Canva finally sends you to your dashboard. (Note that you reached this step in Piktochart two steps ago.)

Rather than leaving that white space totally empty, there’s some reassuring human copy. It’s a good touch.

I also like that Canva points you toward a social media design (I’m guessing that’s the most popular). But this suggestion could be emphasized much more.

Once you click “Social Media,” you’re back in the edit mode from the Beginner’s Challenge.

Piktochart templates

You might actually find Piktochart a little easier to use at this stage; after all, you’ve got handy templates to work from, whereas in Canva you’re starting from scratch.

Also, when you have a question in Piktochart, you can search the help box for answers without leaving your work. In contrast, clicking “help” in Canva will open a new tab for the app’s support portal.

Winner: Piktochart

Receiving a Welcome Email

The best onboarding flows incorporate emails, so I was excited to see what messages Canva and Piktochart each had in store for me.

Canva welcome email

Canva sent me three. The first was a simple welcome email, giving me links to common new users questions, along with the Help Center.

The decision to make this email plain-text was wise, as plain-text emails receive higher opens and clicks than HTML and image-based ones.

Nonetheless, this message could be better—it doesn’t remind you what purpose Canva serves or tell you what to do next.

Piktochart welcome email new user

True to form, Piktochart’s welcome email was much longer and more ornate. Unlike Canva’s, it does a fantastic job summarizing the creation process and highlighting the core function.

Winner: Piktochart

Getting Re-Engagement Emails

Canva engagement email

A day after the first email in their onboarding ux, Canva sends another. Bizarrely, this email was very similar to the first—basically, it nudges you toward helpful resources. But you probably don’t want to visit the blog or pricing page before you’ve logged in and made another design.

The next day, Canva corrects this error by sending a friendly, “Why don’t you start your first design?” email. There’s subtle social pressure: the intro urges you to “Join more than 6 million members designing postersfacebook coversbusiness cardsblog graphics, and much more,” and there’s a glowing testimonial from Joe Vukson underneath. (Minor nitpick: Who’s Joe Vukson?)

The day after that (so, three days after sign-up), Canva sends a “feature” email. This message encourages you to start designing with layouts. It’s clean, appealing, and effective.

Canva basically wins this round by default, because Piktochart doesn’t send a single engagement email. I tried making accounts where I logged in frequently, infrequently, or not at all—but no matter what I did, zero messages landed in my inbox. What a missed opportunity!

A little more than a month after you complete registration, Piktochart does send a check-in email—but to ask you to answer a quick five-question survey, not draw you back into the app. It’s the equivalent of going on a date with someone, ignoring them for weeks and weeks, and then texting to say, “Hey, how’d I do?”

Winner (by default): Canva

And the Winning Oboarding UX Is...

Canva is the user onboarding throwdown winner!

As you can see, Canva beat Piktochart four to two in their onboarding ux. Canva did an impressive job of involving the user in the learning process—not just telling her what to do. In addition, Canva’s first run was quite manageable, but not so easy you felt like it’d glossed over any main features.

The Piktochart experience was far less streamlined. There were several different attempts to show the user how to use the product (the ebook, the pop-up boxes, the overlay, the tour), but these attempts were random, occasionally repetitive, and ultimately ineffective.

The tool also flopped when it came to email engagement—although Canva wasn’t much better. PIktochart had just two small victories: a better welcome email and in-app help.

Want to become a User Onboarding Master? Check out our free User Onboarding Academy!

I started freelance writing as a freshman in college. By my third year, it had turned into a full-time job: 1,800 words a day (or roughly 60 articles per month). After graduating in June 2016, I joined HubSpot as a staff writer. As a content geek, getting to work at the place that invented content marketing is pretty much a dream come true. When I'm not brainstorming ideas or furiously typing away, you'll find me running, listening to podcasts, geeking out about cool tech, or researching my latest obsession (UI/UX, consumer psychology, venture capital, to name a few).

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