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The Beginner's Guide to Creating an Effective User Onboarding Checklist

 Users download and open applications because they have a problem they want to solve. The process should be exciting as the possibility of resolving pain points becomes a reality. However, too often, applications are overwhelming and frustrating, leading to unsatisfactory experiences.

An effective user onboarding checklist is the antidote to disappointing interactions. They break the onboarding process into clear, structured, bite-sized chunks that guide the users toward adoption. 

However, you can’t just stumble on the right checklist by mistake. An effective checklist is the result of understanding the goals, benefits, psychology, and best practices of an onboarding checklist. 

In this guide, we'll explain what onboarding checklists are, why you need them, and share some onboarding automation best practices and steps to build great onboarding content.

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What is a user onboarding checklist?

A user onboarding checklist is an in-app set of steps that guide a user on how to learn to use and adopt a product or service. An onboarding checklist is comprised of tasks that a user needs to complete to get value from your app and can include things like:

Account setup

  • Creating an account 

  • Email verification

  • Connecting data sources

Product exploration

  • Interactive walkthroughs or product tours

  • Video tutorials

  • Feature 

  • In-app guidance on product features

Value demonstration

  • Complete a task

  • Give feedback

  • Celebrate or reward milestones

The exact specifics of what makes your onboarding checklist work depend on your product, user demographic, and what problems you want to solve.

The primary benefits of a user onboarding checklist

Checklists are an essential part of product onboarding software because they help address many issues. Here are five of the big benefits.

#1. User retention

Checklists help your users understand your product and find value quickly. Great onboarding experiences drive adoption and reduce your churn rate by demonstrating the key features that help users solve their problems.

#2. Product adoption

If you want users to adopt your product, they need to experience their “aha moment.” You can build your checklists to reflect the initial journey your users take from first interacting with your product all the way towards using it in their everyday lives. 

#3. Increased user satisfaction

Checklists reduce confusion and help your product make a solid first impression. Perhaps most significantly, they slash time to value for your users and give them access to the help they need to get the most from the product. These benefits increase user satisfaction. 

#4. Collect feedback

Onboarding checklists are a great opportunity to collect invaluable feedback to improve your product and your onboarding process. You can embed short surveys within your checklist to get real-time feedback during onboarding or right at the end to get the data you need to evaluate your onboarding process.

#5. Reduce support

Onboarding checklists provide the guidance your users need to understand your product. By promoting customer self-service, you can encourage your users to seek automated customer service options like FAQs, knowledge bases, and other help documentation. This process reduces your reliance on support and means customers can get help 24-7.

The psychology of checklists

Part of the reason that checklists are so important is that they work. But why are they such an effective way to onboard users? Let's explore the psychology of checklists.

  • The Zeigarnik effect: Open or unfinished tasks create mental tension, keeping them in mind until they are complete.

  • Positive reinforcement: Ticking off an item on a checklist is a mini-win. The rush motivates us to crack on and complete the rest of the tasks.

  • Paradox of choice: When faced with many options, it can leave us feeling paralyzed. Onboarding checklists break down complexity into simple steps.

When combined, these psychological elements combine to position user onboarding checklists as a compelling way to engage users and help them solve their pain points with your product or service.

How to build a user onboarding checklist

Building a product onboarding checklist consists of a few core activities. 

#1. Set your goals

First, you need to understand what you want to achieve with your user onboarding checklist.

Some of the aims include:

  • Increased user adoption: A well-designed onboarding checklist can help new users get up to speed quickly and start using the product effectively. This can lead to increased user adoption and engagement.

  • Paid plan signups: If you have different tiers or a freemium version of your app, you can use an onboarding checklist to guide users toward the features and benefits of a paid plan.

  • Reduced customer support costs: An effective onboarding checklist can help users find the information they need on their own, which can reduce the number of support tickets that your team has to deal with.

  • Improved user satisfaction: A well-crafted onboarding checklist can help users feel confident and supported as they learn how to use the product. This can lead to improved user satisfaction and loyalty.

Whatever your aim, a checklist can help you get there.

#2. Understand your customers

Next up, you need to think about your customers. Ask yourself some questions, such as:

  • What are your user demographics?

  • How technical are they?

  • Why do they need your app?

  • What pain points are you solving?

  • What challenges might your users run into?

Personalization is important here. If you have different cohorts of users, you can serve them personalized checklists based on their familiarity with similar tools, goals, requirements, or other factors.

#3. Map your user journey

The next thing you need to do is map out your user journeys. Once you understand your users, it’s time to think about their behavior within your product, from the first time they open the app to the point where they become active and eventually loyal users.

In effect, you need to think about the steps a user takes to achieve their goals with your app. Write them out and assign each one as a potential step for your checklist.

#4. Consider the aha moment

Your app’s “aha moment” is the point where your users realize the potential your product has to improve their lives. Whether that’s something that saves them time or money or enables them to do something they once considered possible, your checklist should funnel your users toward realizing that experience. The “aha moment” should be one of the final steps on your checklist.

#5. Build the checklist

The next step is building your checklist. This step is simple if you have user-friendly, no-code user onboarding software like Usetiful.

Once you’ve understood your goals and your customer's needs, you need to think about how to guide your users toward getting value from your product. The work you have done to map your user journey and understand your product’s “aha moment” will be critical here.

Building a checklist is all about balance. Too many steps will put off your users while using too few won’t get the job done. So, whittle down the list of steps to only include the core activities you need.

Onboarding software helps you create the various steps you need. If you use a user onboarding tool like Usetiful, you can take advantage of our drag-and-drop interface to quickly put together the steps you need.

#6. Constantly improve through feedback

The perfect onboarding checklist is a constant process. Seek feedback and measure onboarding, and use what you learn to improve your checklist. That could mean adding something new or taking away an unnecessary step, or even refreshing your copy so it’s easier to understand. Whatever it is, leave no stone unturned.

Examples of user onboarding checklists

One of the best ways to get ideas about your checklists is to look at onboarding UX examples.

Here are three great examples of onboarding checklists done right.

#1. ApplicantStack

This checklist from ApplicantStack shows how you can simplify even highly complex tasks with clean and uncluttered steps.

#2. Social Pilot

Social Pilot uses a punchy and unobtrusive checklist to guide users toward the benefits of their product.

#3. Zoho Books

Zoho Books keeps things simple and focuses on the first steps that users need to get “up and running”.

UX onboarding best practices

Let’s look at some user onboarding best practices that you can follow to create a great checklist.

  • Get personal: Where possible, use personalization. That starts with the name of the users but can also mean use cases, job roles, or other information.

  • Use visuals: Use colors and visual elements to help your checklists stand out. Green ticks or strikethroughs are popular, while progress bars are a nice touch.

  • Keep it simple: Simplicity is everything. Keep the copy light and clear. 

  • Show progress: Ensure your users know where they are in the process at all times, helping them feel in control.

  • Embrace gamification: Adding gamification in the form of badges or messages that celebrate milestones can turn your checklist into a fun and engaging mission.

Final thoughts

A user onboarding checklist is a fantastic option for helping users connect with your product. You can use checklists to trigger a guided walkthrough, interactive product tour, videos, or any set of actions that will help your users get value from your product.

User onboarding software like Usetiful allows you to build high-quality onboarding content and tie it all together in one place with a checklist. Try our onboarding solution for free today to increase product adoption and user satisfaction while slashing user churn.

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