user onboarding

Why onboarding is essential?

Onboarding is an essential part of every product’s interaction with the user, irrespective of whether the workflow is complicated or incredibly simple. The reason for this is not to spoon-feed the user about how things are to be done, neither is it to babysit their interaction with a new environment.

Onboarding to drive activation and conversions

Show value

One of the most important parts of onboarding is to reduce friction for the user to discover value. Getting users to the ‘Aha’ moment as quickly as possible is a great way to get them hooked; the lesser the distraction in their workflow quicker will be the realization of the value of the product.


Landing page for Duolingo. source:
Language catalog
And voila, you’re learning the language!

Context and user expectations

Context and understanding user intention is important for good onboarding. While Duolingo is an example of a more personalized product, Atlassian’s products like JIRA, HipChat, and Confluence come on the other end of the spectrum in the SaaS (software-as-a-service) space.


  • User invites: The onboarding should be accessible to both new and old users. It should cater to a variety of different use cases in a clear manner.
  • Product updates: Educating users about new features and changes in the product. Introducing the user to navigation changes and nomenclature with empathy.

source: Atlassian Design

Demonstrate benefits with examples

Showing actual value delivered to the user’s workflow through examples and suggestions can be a smart move to turn new users into power users. Basecamp is a good example here.

Welcome to Basecamp
Basecamp asks users to invest in onboarding, which pays off later.

Running Experiments to Optimize Onboarding

Merely building a good-looking, covers-the-bases like onboarding is not enough. Given that onboarding gives a golden opportunity to convince users to convert, it would be a mistake not to optimize it. Let’s take a look at two examples of how experiments in onboarding helped boost activation and conversion.


Like a lot of products do, ProdPad started out by offering their users a 30-day trial period to get well versed with the product before they made a decision.


source: ProdPad blog


Canva is great graphic design software. Their growth team is always on the lookout for identifying opportunities to optimize activation. I really recommend reading this blog post to learn more about their growth process and how they execute it.

source: Appcues blog

source: Appcues blog

Onboarding is constantly evolving

Optimizing onboarding is a constant endeavor. This article on Inside Intercom discusses the factors that influence onboarding. The key aspects that shape how a user goes through onboarding are:

  • Time
  • Behavior

Resources that can help with onboarding

  • : Extensive and insightful teardowns of the onboarding of many products and services.
  • Intercom : For creating effective onboarding campaigns and educating users. Also a wealth of knowledge on their blog.
  • Appcues : Run experiments and create quick onboarding workflows to test with users. Their blog is another great resource.
  • zipBoard : For gathering feedback from both design teams and customers on workflows and product experience.
  • : Trigger customer engagement with targeted messages based on their behavior.
  • Inline Manual : Create walk throughs, tooltips, launchers and support articles to assist your users as they discover the product.
  • Userlane : Automate and personalize user onboarding, as well as staff training.
  • WalkMe : Digital adoption platform to ensure user success with intelligent guidance.
  • Whatfix : A performance support platform to ease onboarding, improve support and reduce training effort for users.
  • TourMyApp : Increase user activation by creating in-app tutorials.
  • Tutorialize : For website owners, front-end engineers and training managers to educate and engage with their audience, whether that’s new site visitors or employees.

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