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User onboarding best practices


"You will never get a second chance to make a first impression."

When people see your product or your new feature for the first time, the success depends on the first impression. 


As Bree Chapin says in First impressions - A Guide to Onboarding UX: "First impressions are rough. On average, nearly one in four users will abandon a mobile app after using it just once. Ouch. And once they've tried your app and left—they're gone. That's why it's absolutely essential to give your users the right-sized onboarding experience for your product."

Making the great first-time user experience doesn't have to be rocket science if you have a strategy and you are equipped with the right tools. In this article we describe user onboarding best practices that will boost your business metrics and keep your customers loyal and motivated.

Automate User Onboarding

User onboarding is the process of introducing a software product or service to people to increase their adoption and improve the success of a solution. You can onboard users manually or in an automated way. The manual way includes in-person training, calls, or webinars. For user onboarding automation you can choose from multiple marketing or digital adoption platforms. Marketing platforms, such as Mailchimp, can automatically send periodic emails with tips to your new users. If you want to provide more contextual guidance in the product, use digital adoption platforms. They can empower you to create interactive product tours or notify your existing users about a new feature. Automated user onboarding reduces the number of questions and tickets from users, thus save you time and scale up your product adoption. 

Understand Users

Before you start working on your automated user onboarding process, make sure you understand who your users are, what are their goals, motivations and obstacles. Start with a definition of user personas (create fictional profiles of typical users) and try to look at your product from different perspectives.

Dylan Ortega in his article How personas improve onboarding UX explains: "Personas can be especially useful when your team is finding ways to improve new customer onboarding. Seeing your product from the perspective of someone using it for the first time, not as the team that spent months or years building in, is critical to making your onboarding UX the best it can be."

For building personas, collect as much data as you can. Tickets, FAQs, conversations, or user interviews can be a valuable source. Ask questions like:
  • What are their goals and motivations? 
  • What they typically ask for while start using the product? 
  • Do they need more education? 
  • What can be an aha moment for this persona?
  • Are these people final decision makers? 

These and other questions should help you prepare a draft for the persona-based onboarding process. If you aren't sure whether your users prefer one or the other way, let them choose their path and watch the statistics. Do experiments.


Let users choose their onboarding path.

We know that for successful experiments you have to iterate on your content fast. Therefore in Usetiful we focus on making creation of a user onboarding process as simple as possible. You don't have to install any browser extension or code to see the draft of your product tour. Just design the steps in the online editor and share it with your team to review. 

When you start working on a content, bear in mind that user onboarding is not just about selling your product features or what your product does. You should show users what they can achieve with your product. As Samuel Hulick from UserOnboard wrote: "People don't buy products; they buy better versions of themselves."

Boost your business metrics with user onboarding

If you want user onboarding to have a real impact on your business, you need to bond it with your business metrics. Product owners typically watch many parameters to understand product performance or identify room for improvements. Some of these metrics can reveal whether user onboarding improvement is needed, typically:
  • Churn rate
  • User activation
  • Feature adoption
We list a few typical issues with these metrics that can be solved by digital adoption platform and user onboarding software.

Decrease customer churn rate

Your customers delete their accounts or cancel their subscriptions. Their loyalty is low because they don't see the benefits of your product or service. Maybe the first impression was good, but after some time, they encountered issues that were not able to resolve or, even worse, the product didn't provide the expected value.

Providing users with instant help or assistance whenever they need it sounds like an excellent strategy to decrease the churn rate. Modern digital adoption platforms can offer tools for self-service. They connect user onboarding guides with the knowledge base and other helpful resources and provide a simple interface. Then your customers can solve any problems promptly without waiting for your response. Searching for the answer themselves is quicker than contacting the company.

Smart assistant

Nobody knows at which point the churn rate is just too high, but all businesses agree that any customer churn is bad. Start supporting your customers with self-service features today!

Increase user activation

New user registered but never used their account to its full potential? Your product might be too complex or users expected something else based on information on your website. As a result, they use your product less and less compared to their first visit.

The digital adoption platform can show your product value to a new users faster and in a structured way. Create an introduction product tour that demonstrates how to use the product to achieve user's success. Step-by-step guidance provides just enough content at the right time so that users can learn much faster. Better absorption of information is ensured by the context of pages where the product tour runs.

Introduction tour to Grammarly

Calendify's initial product tour


Improve feature adoption

You released a new feature, but when you ask your customers how they like it, they don't know what you are talking about. They didn't discover the feature by themselves; neither noticed it in the release notes.

Prepare an in-product campaign that pops up next time the users sign in and let them navigate through the new functionality and teach them how to use it.

Facebook's introduction of the recent redesign



Digital adoption platforms can significantly speed up building your structured user onboarding and start solving your business needs. Usetiful is an easy-to-use software for digital product adoption that will help you to create awesome product tours without coding.

Not sure whether it's worth to invest in a user onboarding? Start with a Usetiful Free!

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