Effective User Onboarding: Top Proven Tips and Examples

10minutes read
user onboarding design

The first experience with the product is the most important. Suppose a person is initially confused, faces difficulties, cannot understand the interface, and does not understand why he needs a product or service. In that case, the user is unlikely to become your client.

No matter how simple and intuitive your website, online store, or service may seem, this is always an uncharted territory for new users. When users enter an unfamiliar online space, they do not go straight to solve their problem; they gradually learn all the functions and then know how to complete their task. Users adapt to the interface, get a better idea of ​​the product, and then decide whether to buy or not.

This mastering of an online resource is called onboarding. The success of your offer depends on its effectiveness. That is why, in this article, we would like to raise the topic of what an ideal user onboarding design should be so that the user would turn into your client and stay with you for a long time.

What is the user onboarding?

Imagine a person who flies an airplane for the first time. A flight attendant meets him at the plane entrance – she helps to find a seat according to the ticket, shows a place for luggage, talks about safety rules, explains who to contact in case of questions, and so on. The flight attendant is doing onboarding. She explains how to “use the product.” A person learns everything he needs to know for a comfortable flight. If the passenger understands everything, then the goal has been achieved.

The only difference with online onboarding is that the client is explained everything through virtual tools: interactive tips, email newsletters, video tutorials. The user learns to use the product, knows how the service functions, and realizes its benefits for himself.

Onboarding is an accelerated process of user adaptation to a digital product. Its main task is to explain to new customers how this or that service can solve their problem. Onboarding helps the existing client base quickly master new features and “tricks” of the product, introduced as the site or application is being improved.

You may have never heard of the onboarding process before, but you have come across it. For example, they followed the directions of small tooltips and windows that guide users to online stores, mobile apps, streaming services, landing page builders, and so on.

Even if you think your product is simple, this does not mean at all that your audience can reveal all its benefits without outside help. To win customers’ interest, you need to involve them in working with the resource as soon as possible and demonstrate its main advantages using onboarding.

How does user onboarding work?

User onboarding is a period of getting to know a product. It demonstrates the functionality and value of the product, service, or offer to the user.

For example, the first time you visit Duolingo, a language learning service, the user immediately realizes that you can learn a free language. Further, the potential student is asked to choose a language, a learning goal, and a preferred place. You can also take a test and determine the level of knowledge of the language. All this allows the system to understand the needs of the client better.

How does user onboarding work
user onboarding workflow

After passing the test, the user is offered to create a profile or continue studying the service. Clear explanations and tips accompany the whole process of getting to know the site. With this approach, even a novice Internet user can understand the interface.

Why is user app onboarding important?

According to a study by Andrew Chen, only 14% of new users return to the app after installation, and only 2.7% don’t uninstall the app after a month. In general, for the mobile industry, the overall statistics of engagement after 90 days of use is only 4%.

Your success depends on how you position your development, how you introduce it to new users, and how easy it is to succeed with your application or website design.

If you are not successful with your product, maybe you have problems with your user flow or functionality? Then we suggest you read one of our latest articles about the Step-by-Step Guide on How to Conduct a UX Audit.

Let’s look at the importance of onboarding using a simple analogy. Imagine taking a final driving test. An instructor sits on the passenger seat and watches closely. You know where to get and how to behave on the road to get the long-awaited license. But due to a lack of experience, you still make mistakes and fail the test.

Now imagine that the instructor was not silent throughout the entire journey but helped: he corrected your actions and directed you with recommendations. You would probably agree – with such support, you would surely pass the test correctly and get your license the first time.

Onboarding acts as such an assistant instructor. Support and guidance during the onboarding process reassure the user who first came to the site. The beginner begins to feel more confident in an unfamiliar interface, gets involved in work, and quickly masters the functions that interest him. Onboarding clearly shows him exactly how to close his pain with the product.

User onboarding benefits

As you can see, a lot depends on the first impression. The first session determines whether the user will continue to work with the service. Thoughtful user onboarding that shows your customer that you care about their success will help you turn casual users into loyal customers and loyal customers into brand fans. See what other superior results onboarding leads to:

Less customer churn

We all remember the fatal meaning of 90 days, after which uninvolved customers get frustrated and walk away. It is essential to have time to show customers (including through onboarding) that their life will become much better with your service. This way, you will retain more customers and lose less profit.

Satisfied customers

The client will be more likely to be satisfied with your service if he can understand his work’s logic and solve his problem with minimal effort.

A service with unique functionality that is difficult to use is unlikely to be successful – adapt to the client, help him understand the product, and show him the beauty of your offer – user onboarding will help with this. A customer who realizes how good your service is will be with you longer and bring you more profit and new customers.

More new clients

The clearer and more effective your service are, the more likely it is that customers will recommend it to other people. There will be more customers (and more profits). According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 84% of B2B decision-makers start buying with a referral(an affiliate program participant who registered on another participant’s recommendation.) – sounds like a strong argument to work on onboarding.

Higher efficiency

A robust and repeatable onboarding process results in better user engagement, lower churn rates, and more revenue and customer referrals. Accordingly, work efficiency increases, and you can scale your business.

By the way, do you know how hero images increase product sales and lead to higher efficiency? No? Then learn Everything You Should Know About Hero Image in Web Design article.

The clear focus of the project

If you pre-define user expectations while onboarding, it will be much easier for you not to waste time on unnecessary things and keep a clear project focus.

User onboarding best practices

The idea of ​​onboarding is to introduce the client to the application, let them use and understand it as quickly as possible. Onboarding defines how the user goes from installation to active use. If everything is thought out, engagement can increase by several times.

Developing a mobile user onboarding experience that makes customers fall in love with the app is a real challenge. Not every onboarding is equally successful and allows you to stand out from the crowd. How can this be achieved? There is an excellent job to be done.

Below are six onboarding techniques in detail that you can use to tie users to the application.


We need to talk about the benefits of the application. Of course, you won’t describe all the advantages right away, so it is better to highlight a few main advantages that would make your application stand out in the mobile industry’s general landscape.

Demonstrate your development benefits to users so that they simply have no choice but to continue using the application. You can talk about the services even before you sign up (immediately after download) or after you create an account. But it’s best to talk about the main benefits before registering.

onboarding that is built on advantages
onboarding that uses advantages


One of the common reasons users don’t come back to their apps is that they just don’t understand how to use them. Onboarding with instructions and tips is a good option for any app that tells you how to get started and achieve your first success.

Mailbox, in a few steps (namely 8), explains to its users what to do. The instructions do not cover all the details; the focus is on the most important.

At this stage, all you need to do is tell people how to get started; no need to create a 20-point step-by-step guide and cover every detail in detail.

While instructions are essential, there must be room for self-exploration, which also fosters engagement. There are seven ways to tell users in the right direction:

  • Interactive guides
  • Instruction screens
  • Status bars
  • Visual cues
  • Detailed analysis
  • Pop-up instructions
  • Video instructions

These techniques help educate new users, so they don’t feel left alone.

onboarding that is built on user manuals and instructions
onboarding that uses manuals and instructions


The signup or registration form is an integral part of many onboarding campaigns. Subscriptions are used for lead generation, so conditions should be simple, concise, and appear at the right time. Subscription forms increase conversion rates as well as engagement rates. You should have one critical sign-up screen that users simply won’t be able to dismiss.

a) Access after full registration

user onboarding access after complete registration
onboarding that uses access after complete registration

This picture shows perhaps the most popular method: users create an account, pass verification by email, and then get access to the application. If you have a new and relatively unknown application, this method will not work.

b) Access after mini-registration

Users need to enter an email address; access is provided immediately after entering the address. You can complete the subscription process later. This method is focused on conversions and should be used when you launch a more or less well-known application.

c) Instant access

user onboarding access after instant accses
onboarding that uses access after instant access

This is the best option. Full access opens even before registration. This way, you can introduce users to the news app, they see it, and if they like it, they don’t hesitate to subscribe.

On top of that, instant access promotes engagement. Optional signup is the best way to drive engagement so users can explore the app seamlessly. Pacer Pedometer doesn’t tire its users with registration reminders. New clients are invited to take a tour and so familiarize themselves with the application.


Use targeted and segmented push notifications! Sometimes people need a little nudge, a reminder of what they might be missing out on. Push notifications increase engagement by as much as 88%.

There are several reasons to send notifications: as a reminder of something, a message about an available update, the user can be nudged into action. For example, if the user did not use the application after subscribing, you can send a push notification describing some functional feature.


Thanks to email newsletters, you can remind people of yourself and tell them about the product not only within the first session but also in days or even weeks later. You can simply stimulate user interest even if they didn’t have the patience to get used to your service on the first try.

The advantage of onboarding emails is that they solve several business problems at once. For example, in a newsletter to new customers, you can describe the product’s basic features and immediately tell about its extended premium version.

user onboarding via e-mails
onboarding that uses e-mails

So, the Airtable service sends a letter with a proposal to switch to “Premium.” In case of refusal, he lists the difference in the functionality of a regular and an advanced subscription so that the client has the opportunity to think and weigh the pros and cons.

Onboarding emails are also great in terms of personalization. During registration and setting up an account, the client enters his data into the system – thanks to this, in mailings, you can refer to him by name or offer goods and services depending on his gender, age, and interests.

The main disadvantage of adaptive mailings is that a universal approach does not work with them. Do not mechanically send letters to all new users on the first, third, and seventh day after registration. If your client has not yet gone a certain way in developing the product, then the messages will just start to annoy him. In this situation, the beginner will not get to the second session.

Analyze your audience: weed out cold customers from warm and hot, passive – from active. If you can attract the first only with large discounts and great offers, then the second and third can read with interest in the platform’s news. Motivate active users: praise them for their achievements, talk about the functionality of the service, show how to work more efficiently. And of course, don’t forget to report updates to your product.

To Sum Up

Onboarding newsletters play a critical role in the onboarding of new users. Alas, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating onboarding email campaigns. But if you correctly consider your website’s specifics, online store, or service, then our examples and recommendations will help you make your user onboarding letters as useful as possible.

Still, even the most effective single binding tips will not solve all the potential complexities of engagement. That is why we recommend you a team of our professionals who know precisely how to make the design attractive and provide an excellent user flow.

To make sure of this, you are welcome to our projects at Dribbble and Behance and take a look at our services and what we can provide you in your work. We will be glad to do business with you!)

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