The User Onboarding Academy

Take your onboarding from good to great with this expert deck.
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What is user onboarding?

User onboarding is the practice of making your product or service as easy as possible for new customers to get value from. It’s a way to build retention directly into your business, ensuring that customers understand how the product works and why it’s worth paying for.

Improving onboarding can:
  • Decrease drop-off after sign-up
  • Increase free → paid conversions
  • Speed up trial → paid period
  • Improve user engagement
  • Reduce churn/non-renewals
  • Increase retention

User Onboarding Strategies

The goal of onboarding is to help users find your product’s core value(s) and benefit from it regularly. A good user onboarding strategy gets users to realize these values quickly, turning them into enthusiastic, profitable customers.

A number of SaaS companies are pioneering the art of onboarding. You’ve probably seen—and even been swayed by—many of these. Recognize and master them:

User Onboarding Best Practices: We’ve studied onboarding for years — this post contains the best of our knowledge, based on years of research and establishment.

76 Tips to Optimize User Onboarding: We teamed up with, FullStory, Leanplum, Amplitude, and UserTesting to put together this epic guide.

Intro to User Onboarding: Good onboarding starts with understanding what you want users to achieve and your product’s core values.

The Importance of User Onboarding: This post proves that onboarding is the most important stage of the user journey by 2.6x.

Minimum Viable Onboarding: The quick-and-dirty for early stage startups that might need a few quick wins and shortcuts.

Who Should Work on Onboarding?: We're asked this question all the time. The answer: onboarding is a team sport.

Lean User Onboarding: Applying lean principles to onboarding can help teams that are getting started, as well as more experienced teams that want to improve activation.

Your Retention Problem Starts with These 7 Onboarding Mistakes: We’ve uncovered deadly mistakes that startups commonly make with new users, and that kill retention numbers.

User Onboarding Examples

Good onboarding can vary drastically from product to product. While there’s no magic bullet, there are tons of great products and apps to draw inspiration from. Here are some of our favorites:

The 5 'Best' User Onboarding Experiences: 5 pretty awesome onboarding experiences that will delight your pants off.

3 Fundamental Onboarding Lessons from Classic Nintendo Games: Nintendo games pioneered three time-tested user onboarding truths.

Onboarding Deep Dives

Slack’s User Onboarding Experience: Slack’s first-time user experience clearly demonstrates its value proposition and swiftly gets users to take meaningful action.

Typeform's First-Time User Onboarding Experience: Typeform’s startlingly clean new user experience helps fuel its organic growth.

TurboTax’s New User Experience: TurboTax’s goal-oriented onboarding experience makes a dreadful experience kind of fun.

LINE's Simplified User Onboarding Experience: Messaging app LINE dramatically simplified its onboarding to achieve IPO success.
ProdPad’s Code-Free Onboarding: ProdPad uses a code-free onboarding tool to reduce their paid-to-trial period by 80%.

Onboarding Throwdowns

User Onboarding Throwdown: Canva vs Piktograph

Side-by-side comparison of two popular design apps’ onboarding.

User Onboarding Throwdown: Asana vs Trello: Side-by-side comparison of two popular collaboration tools’ onboarding.

Good User Onboarding Design Keeps Users Engaged

Users often encounter information (and product) overload, so making a good first impression is paramount. The best user onboarding designs not only look great, but also keep users engaged and move them towards Aha! quickly. When it comes to designing the UX/UI of your onboarding experience, there are many proven UI patterns and practices to delight your users and keep them engaged.

User Onboarding UI Patterns: We've analyzed over 327 UI patterns for you to find out what works for your product.

Choosing the Right Onboarding UX: We dive into 3 common types of onboarding designs.

5 Ways to Keep User Onboarding Simple: Here's a guide to keeping user onboarding as simple as possible.

Product Tours: When to Use Which UI Pattern: Product tours are great for onboarding new users. Here's a guide to choosing the best kind for your product.

Best Practices for an Effective Product Welcome Page: We've analyzed over 500 onboarding experiences to help you design welcome pages that drive activation.

A Guide to Personalizing User Onboarding: Personalizing the user onboarding experience may be the best growth hack in the game.

Tools and Methods for Testing UI/UX

Open Source jQuery Tooltip Plugins: We compiled a massive list of 73 tooltip plugins.

Open Source Modal Window Plugins: Another epic list of 67 open source jQuery, JavaScript, and CSS tools for building modals.

Minimum Viable Usability Testing: We put together 4 usability testing hacks for busy growth teams.

Mapping User Journeys: This guide helps you better understand what your users want, and deliver value quicker.

User Test Your Onboarding Experience: We walk you through designing an impactful user test that gets results.

Onboarding Starts with a Good Landing Page: Setting proper expectations for new users starts with a good landing page.

Aha! Moments Deliver Immediate Value to Users

An Aha! Moment is the moment of first value received by your new users. It can be so powerful that they are inspired to exclaim ‘Aha!’ By designing your onboarding experience to drive users to your Aha! moment, you can improve new user user retention.

The Growth Marketer's Guide to Aha! Moments: The ultimate guide to finding and improving your product's Aha! moment.

Engaging Beyond the First Aha!Onboarding doesn’t stop at the first Aha! This post helps you map out successive Aha!s in the user journey.

User Onboarding Emails Can Provide Added Value

Email can complement your product’s onboarding process by assisting and re-engaging users that get stuck or drop-off.

Minimum Viable Onboarding (Email Strategy): We look at the components of an effective onboarding email.

3 Must-Have User Onboarding Emails: 3 core principles of building user motivation through email.

The Dos and Don’ts of Aligning Your Welcome Page and Welcome Email: Understand the different purposes between the welcome page and the welcome email.

The 5 Keys to Successful Welcome Emails: CustomerIO's advice for creating welcome emails that make a great, trustworthy first impression.

Measuring User Onboarding

Measuring and analyzing the success of your onboarding experience is a bit of a unique process. The better you do it, the more insightful data you’ll have to iterate and improve in the future.

Onboarding is the Most Important Part of the Customer Journey by 2.6x: Retention starts at onboarding. This post shows how the earliest stage in the customer journey gives your whole retention curve a lift.

How to Build a User Onboarding Funnel with Amplitude: A tactical step-by-step guide to building a user onboarding funnel with Amplitude.

How to Set Up Mixpanel Funnels for User Onboarding Success: A tactical step-by-step guide to building a user onboarding funnel with Mixpanel.

User Onboarding—What to Measure: This guide provides a few ideas for defining and tracking your user onboarding health.

Continuous Onboarding Improvement: Step-by-step guide to turning newbies into power users.

Understand User Psychology to Hack User Behaviors

Users can be demanding individuals with difficult-to-understand behaviors. By having a handle on customer and user psychology, you can better drive yours to conversion.

3 Sources of Motivation for User Onboarding: We wrote up this lesson in user psych to help you choose the best onboarding strategy.

Leveraging the Consistency Principle: We take a deep dive into one of the most powerful human preferences, and apply it to onboarding.

User Psychology Hacks to Drive Conversions: We explain 3 behavioral psychology hacks to drive users deeper into your product.

Supercharge New Users’ Desire: This post helps you design a process for motivating and rewarding users.

Drive Engagement Through Familiarity: We present another psych lesson to help you foster a stronger connection with user

Designing for How Users Behave

Build a Trustworthy Product: We analyzed dozens of research studies around behavior psych to find these tips about designing for trust.

Uncover User Frustrations: This post walks you through finding the user pain points and insights that matter.

Designing Goal-Oriented User Onboarding in 4 Steps: Hopper's UX designer walks us through the 4 steps to designing user onboarding with intention.

The Best in User Onboarding Software

There are several user onboarding softwares available to help you build, measure, and iterate your user experience.

Code-Free User Onboarding Software: Build measurable onboarding experiences without bugging your dev team.

42 User Onboarding Tools: We put together a comprehensive list of tools.