Lesson 6
6 min

Build vs. buy: the ultimate decision

How the heck are you going to make that elegant onboarding experience you’ve so thoughtfully crafted? Great question. This lesson will help you decide whether it makes sense to build it in-house or outsource the project.

User onboarding 101 badge showing a map and a location marker

Build vs. buy: the ultimate decision

Now that you’ve learned about the value of user onboarding and how to integrate it into your product, you might be thinking to yourself: How the heck are we going to make this happen? 

These days, off-the-shelf solutions (like Appcues) are becoming more and more attractive, especially as consumers are demanding better UX from enterprise experiences. But you’ve also got that whole team of talented developers and designers… surely they could build a custom solution that could meet 100% of your users’ needs. 

Ahh, the old build vs. buy conundrum. 

Assess the risks

If you’re struggling with this decision, start by asking yourself the following questions:

List off questions to assess build vs buy

Once you’ve assessed the risks involved on either side, you’ll want to dig deeper into the real costs of building your own solution.

Calculate the real costs of custom development

If you’ve been shopping around for onboarding solutions, you’ve likely taken note of the price tags. And since many off-the-shelf tools are subscription-based, the upfront costs are often palatable. So what’s the cost of building in-house? 

Whether you’re a startup or enterprise, your resources are limited, and you should be hyper-critical of how you use them. Building your own onboarding flows means introducing opportunities for delays, bugs, security vulnerabilities, etc. Not to mention, as your team runs into inevitable hiccups, they’ll be spending less time on the core product (and other mission critical projects). 

Quote from Peter Reinhardt

In today’s world, for most businesses, the costs that come with building in-house consistently outweigh those of buying an existing product. But if you feel that custom onboarding could offer your product a serious competitive advantage, then by all means, get after it. Just remember: You’re not building a solution and walking away—you’ll need to maintain it. Especially since onboarding is an integral part of your users’ experience (and your activation rate).

Quote from Timothy Campos

The truth is, either option is not without risk, and at the end of the day, it’s really about keeping your core product and customers’ experience in mind.

Tom Barragry is a product marketing manager at GetResponse, which serves over 350,000 customers (like IKEA, Zendesk, and Stripe) in 183 countries with their all-in-one online marketing suite. When Tom was tasked with increasing activation for GetResponse’s email marketing solution, he knew they needed to improve their onboarding experience, but he wasn’t sure how they were going to do it. After much consideration, he decided to use Appcues instead of building it in-house. We know, we know… we’re a bit biased when it comes to Tom’s decision, but we thought you might find his thought-process helpful. Take it away, Tom!