How to create a successful user onboarding

Discover how to create a successful user onboarding for your website. Learn from examples like WhatsApp, Duolingo, and Slack to enhance activation rates and drive user engagement effectively.

How to create a successful user onboarding

How to create a successful user onboarding flow

If you’re asking yourself how to improve your user onboarding, chances are you don’t see the activation rate you expect. You’re not alone: 80% of apps or platforms users churn because they don’t know how to use them. But that’s not where you want to be! So let’s have a look at why user onboarding is important and how to do to create a successful one. Stick to the end for 3 examples of successful onboardings.

What is user onboarding?

User onboarding is the process of helping new users become proficient in using an application. It starts before the user even interacts with your product and continues until they are an engaged customer.

The onboarding process is a critical part of your product, so you should be taking steps to ensure it’s as effective as possible. This means that you need to design an experience that will introduce your users to the product and help them get started. You also need to make sure that they have all the resources they need to continue using the product on their own.

There are many factors you need to consider when designing an effective user onboarding experience. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Why is user onboarding important?

User onboarding is one of the most important parts of a product because if people can’t figure out how to use it, they’ll just delete it and never come back. In fact, 80% of users say they’ve deleted an app because they didn’t know how to use it!

That’s why it’s so important to make sure your user onboarding process is easy to follow and understand. Make sure you explain everything step by step and that there are no surprises along the way. Your onboarding process should have users at its core.

How do I measure user onboarding effectiveness?

There are a few different ways to measure the effectiveness of your user onboarding process. One way is to look at your activation rate: how many users sign up and start using your product after going through your onboarding experience? You can also look at adoption over time: how many of those activated users continue to use your product after a certain number of days or weeks?

Another way to measure effectiveness is to see if people are completing your onboarding funnel. This means measuring how many users finish all the steps in your onboarding process, from signing up to using the product for the first time. Qualitative data is also important here: understanding why people drop out of the funnel, and what they didn’t like about the experience, can help you improve it.

Finally, it’s important to measure user satisfaction after completing the onboarding process. How confident do they feel in using the product? Are they satisfied with what they’ve learned so far? Measuring these things will help you gauge whether or not your onboarding experience is successful in accelerating product proficiency and driving higher engagement overall.

Define your user: for whom is the onboarding?

Your persona will highly impact the kind of experience you provide. How’s your target person and why do they want to use your product? What question do they have when interacting with your product for the first time? Answering these questions will help you to create an onboarding experience optimized for conversion.

Read further: How to use a persona template. Step-by-step guide.

User Onboarding Formula from Sparkr

User onboarding is the process of getting a new user up and running with your product as quickly and easily as possible. It can be divided into two main phases: the first is when you’re introducing customers to the product and providing them an opportunity to learn what it’s all about, while the second is where they have a chance to explore further on their own time and deeper within your product features that interest them more.

At Sparkr, we’ve crafted the following formula for user onboarding success:

Sparkr formula for successful user onboarding

This formula has helped us increase activation rate up to 366%. Read our case study to find out more.

Elements of great user onboarding experiences

There are many elements that go into a great user onboarding experience. It’s important to first explain what the product does and how it can help the user. After that, you should give users a tour of key features and guide them through completing tasks within the product. Additionally, it’s important to educate new users on how to use multiple tools within an application. And finally, let them know when new versions of the product are available for download.

Of course, there’s no golden rule and the onboarding experience depends on your specific business. But by taking these steps, you’ll be well on your way to crafting a winning onboarding experience!

To craft a winning onboarding experience, you cannot prescind from data and talking to users. In order to understand what makes an effective onboarding process, you need to look at how people interact with your product once they’ve signed up. What works for one company may not work for another – so always be prepared to experiment!

9 Steps to successful users onboarding

1. Make it easy for users to sign up

The easier it is for people to register for your product or service, the more likely they are to do so. Keep registration forms short and simple, and make sure there are no hidden fees or complicated procedures.

2. Provide clear instructions on how to use your product or service.

Once users have registered, they need clear instructions on how to get started using your product or service. Make sure you explain everything in detail, from basic tasks like logging in and adding items to their shopping cart, to more advanced features that may be difficult for newcomers to understand.

3. Offer support if users need help.

Sometimes new users will run into problems while trying to navigate your product or service. If this happens, make sure you offer support through email, phone, chatbots, or other methods so they can get the assistance they need quickly and easily.

4. Celebrate successes along the way!

Users who successfully complete their onboarding process should be rewarded with a positive experience. Offer them discounts, special access to features, or other perks that will make them feel appreciated and valued.

5. Keep track of user progress

It’s important to keep track of how users are doing during their onboarding process, and make changes accordingly. If most users are struggling with a certain task, for example, you may need to simplify it or provide more help resources. By tracking user progress, you can ensure that everyone has a smooth and successful onboarding experience.

6. Include a welcome and orientation

When you open an app for the first time, it’s important to orient the user with what they’re seeing. This means welcoming them to the app, and orienting them to the main navigation patterns. If you don’t do this, users will be confused and may not understand how to complete key tasks.

A good onboarding experience can help users understand the general purpose of your app, and how to access areas needed to complete key tasks. It should include an introduction to the app, as well as a tour of the main navigation patterns. Make sure your welcome message is clear and concise, and that your tour is easy to follow.

7. Guide users through configuration

It’s important to guide users through their onboarding process. This way, you can ensure they have a great experience with your product and reach those “a-ha” moments. Configuration steps need to be easy to follow, or else the user may become discouraged and leave your product altogether.

When designing your onboarding process, make sure you introduce the app and orient them to the main navigation patterns. Additionally, if there are any setup tasks that need to be completed before they can start using the product, be sure to include these in the onboarding flow.

Highlighting the first steps of configuration helps set expectations for what needs to be done next. And if there are any tricky steps involved in configuration, it’s best to walk users through those as well. By following these tips, you’ll help new users get up and running quickly – and keep them coming back for more!

8. User signup flow

Signup flow is the process of signing up a new user for your product or service. It’s one of the most important steps in getting a new user started with your app. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for the user to sign up and get started.

There are a few key things to keep in mind when designing your signup flow:

  • The primary onboarding process begins when a user first logs in to your app for the first time.
  • A short and simple signup form can be successful if it doesn’t cause friction or overwhelm the user.
  • Often this step is made easier by offering the user to login with their Google, Linkedin or Facebook accounts.
  • A good signup flow is fast, essential and safe.

9. Facilitate setup and payoff task

It’s no secret that users are more likely to complete a product if the payoff task is clear and easy to understand. However, setup tasks can often be complex and difficult to navigate, leading many users to give up before they’ve even had a chance to experience the product. This is where user onboarding comes in: it’s the process of orienting new users and helping them get started with your product as quickly and easily as possible.

One important tactic is to break down big tasks into bite-sized ones, using checklists whenever possible. This helps reduce confusion and makes it easier for users to see what they need to do in order to get started. It also increases motivation by showing the user how many steps they need to complete in order for them reach their goal.

Another key element of successful user onboarding is facilitating a smooth transition from setup tasks to payoff tasks. Make sure that the most value can be gained from your product as quickly as possible by minimizing the number of steps between them. And finally, always be on hand to help guide new users through the process–they’ll appreciate it!

An example of the onboarding of CareerFairy, a project designed by Design Accelerator.

Onboarding for apps

When you design the onboarding for your app is good to keep in mind that the users want to get started as soon as possible. App users have typically more urgency and less attention than desktop users. You should try to minimize all the steps in order for them to reach their goal.

Introduce your app’s features and benefits right away and make it easy for them to get started.

Onboarding for platforms and SaaS

The onboarding for a platform product or SaaS should be focused on getting the user to create an account. The purpose of this is that you have a lot more features and benefits to offer once they are signed up for your product.

You can take the time to guide the user through the features you offer and through the completion of the basic actions. This way, you can make sure that they are getting the most out of your app and benefit from everything it has to offer.

What is in-app user onboarding?

In-app user onboarding is the process by which companies integrate in-app training into their existing software. It helps to teach new users as they navigate your application, which can help reduce lag times with customer success teams. In addition, in-app user onboarding allows for automated personalization and contextually customized instructions. The goal of in-app user onboarding is to make the experience more personalized, especially since it can be done through app messages and tooltips on a device .

Since in-app user onboarding happens within an app itself, employees are always learning about key concepts and it is accessible when they need it. This makes the onboarding process more efficient for both users and companies alike!

Examples of great product onboarding

1. WhatsApp: Combining safety and efficiency

whatsapp onboarding

WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging apps in the world. It’s known for its safety and efficiency, which is why it’s so popular. One of the things that makes WhatsApp so great is its easy-to-use onboarding process. Instead of making users go through a long list of steps, WhatsApp takes a screenshot of their profile and automatically detects their verification code. This makes it easy for new users to get started without any stress or hassle.

2. Duolingo: Driving user engagement with gamification

duolingo onboarding

Duolingo has become one of the most popular language-learning apps in the world by using gamification techniques to keep users engaged. The app starts with basic lessons but quickly ramps up the difficulty, requiring users to complete tasks every day in order to make progress.

Gamification is also used to personalize the learning experience for each user. Duolingo tailors its courses to new users depending on what they choose as their goal, increasing engagement and retention. And once users have learned enough of the language on Duolingo, they are asked to sign up for a course that will teach them how to use it in conversation. This builds trust with their product and encourages further engagement.

3. Slack: Focus and interactivity

slack onboarding

Slack is a messaging platform with a very interactive onboarding experience. The goal of its onboarding flow is to help users get started without being distracted by anything else. The chatbot both shows features of the app, as well as asking for further information in order to customize it. Users can discover the smaller functionalities in Slack’s user onboarding experience on their own. The micro-copy offers an explanation to every field users need to fill in, giving context to the effort demanded from them. Slack has no unnecessary steps and asks for permission only when necessary.

An example of App Onboarding redesign from Sparkr

In 2021 as unofficial project, I’ve done the redesign of the onboarding of Naga, an app to invest in cryptocurrencies. NAGA is an investment app. With NAGA users can trade multiple assets and copy the investment strategy of the top investors. The app has had more than 100K downloads only on the Google Play Store and an average rating of 3.8, which is quite low.

The current onboarding is descriptive but it’s quite long (more than 20 screens). The good thing is that NAGA’s tutorial shows to users what to expect. This helps create confidence. However the tutorial doesn’t grab the users’ attention and it’s easy to skip. It is only third in priority, after the welcome message and the registration/login buttons.

Naga current onboarding flow

The redesign has focused on three main priorities:

  • Give more prominence to the tutorial. This allows for a softer landing and the creation of trust. The result is higher activation.
  • Changing the info provided in the tutorial to create trust and answer the unspoken questions of users. Research shows that trust is the n.1 reason to use/not use a product in fintech, together with the benefit provided.
  • Reduce the number of unnecessary steps.

The overall effect is expected to create a higher activation from users and a higher conversion of users that will transfer funds. You can see the redesign in the frame below.

Naga onboarding flow redesigned by Design Accelerator


At this point it should be clear that successful user onboarding is not only about teaching users how to use your app, but rather about helping them achieve their goals. With the right onboarding experience you can help people get started the right way but also drive engagement and conversion.

The key to a good user onboarding is to understand your users’ goals, then design the right flow to help them achieve those goals. When crafting your onboarding, try not to focus only on features and benefits. That’s a common mistake. Try to also clarify to users what they can expect and reduce their insecurity to make mistakes. This way you’ll make your users feel more confident, and they’ll be more likely to move ahead in their onboarding flow.

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