User Onboarding: All You Need To Know Before Starting

Written by Toonimo

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User onboarding is represented as the process that users go through when testing out a new product. Recent studies show that roughly 40% to 60% of potential customers utilize a platform for the first time, if not impressive they won’t return. We must ask ourselves: What a new user needs to know in order to get started? And how onboarding/support helps the current users to complete their journey?

In the recent years, most of the companies have shifted to cloud based platforms. This simplifies the way users get real-time support and onboarding. Since there are significant changes in this era, users need to be able to adapt and utilize products at a much faster pace. The onboarding experience is critical for the growth of the product and could determine the product's lifespan.

The best practice for a solid outcome of a product is to involve a UX designer in the building process. The users will have an overall positive experience and they will be able to familiarize the main features of the product.

The main goal of the product manager is to convert new and existing users to lifelong clients. The main features must have a high engagement rate, the adaptation process of the product should be relatively easy to use.

Think Like Your User

The onboarding process doesn’t end when completing or beginning the registration process. It is important to think about what might make the users depart; each platform should have a different type of an onboarding plan. For example: informative text bubbles, welcome annotations to the interactive walkthroughs, audio-visual graphic and lastly, choosing the best pattern when building an onboarding plan.

Getting Started


As we mentioned above, when building an onboarding plan it's necessary to choose the best onboarding pattern, for example:

  • Tour: When the product is relatively straightforward and easy to understand, but companies still want to welcome their users onboard. They can use screenshots and or animated GIFS. The tour onboarding plan could also give the product a really impressive first impression.
  • Step-by-Step Guidance: The most common onboarding plan that a SaaS platform utilizes are from both B2C and B2B marketplace. The step-by-step guidance is built for platforms that are more complex and that have longer steps. For example: when a user needs to create a report and send out different schedules to colleagues. This scenario involves more than 6 steps therefore the complexity rate is much higher. In this case a step-by-step guiding walkthrough would be very suitable.
  • Visual Guidance: When explaining a complex platform that consists of visual text bubbles. With no additional interactions. For example: an online complex billing form that can only be explained with visual cues and graphical annotations.
  • Annotated Support: Knowing in advance that certain steps in the onboarding process are difficult to understand Companies can save users before they leave. Introducing a new feature annotation can be very helpful.
  • Voiced Guidance: A relatively new feature that explains each step with a real human voice. It could also be personalized and adjusted to job roles and or a user’s name. This feature is mainly used in the B2C marketplace by explaining complex processes.


Building the onboarding plans could be done in two ways, one is coding the onboarding plan internally (using internal resources). This could be exceedingly expensive and very time consuming. The second is using a third party solution that specializes in onboarding programs; which could save a lot of money and development time.
Most solutions support the functionalities above (The real human voice is a relatively new feature so not all of them support it). Those tools help build the walkthroughs independently without any professional help, which can save a lot of time and money. When building an onboarding plan it’s important to keep track and measure the success of the plan and identify new ‘pain points’. For that reason, an analytical dashboard must come with the platform that is chosen.

Test & improve:

As mentioned above, when building an onboarding plan it should be tested internally. If this solution is not possible there are a few other alternatives that can be used to receive objective feedback. After launching an onboarding program, set a milestone to check the engagement of the plan. Identify which walkthroughs are successful and which ones are failures. It may come to the point where a replacement of the whole walkthrough is needed or just minor changes that need to be altered. Certain tools can help setting goals by determining how effective the program is over a period of time, and if it was worth the investment of time and money.

Great Onboarding examples:

Have you encountered an onboarding plan after registering for a new tool or platform? Here are a few great onboarding plans that you could get inspiration from:

Here is a great example for tour type onboarding, Airbnb explains how to get started with three guiding images.

Source: Airbnb website

Here is a great example of a supreme onboarding plan. A combination of audio/visual guidance and ‘support points’ (orange buttons at the right-top corners) for targeted support.

Source: Similarweb website

Great example for visual guidance to get started with a simple platform

Source: Mailchimp website

A great example of the text bubble annotations to clarify and make sure the user understands the meaning of each action.

Source: Linkedin website


Companies should keep in mind that having a superior user onboarding experience could differentiate products from the rest of the competitors. Moreover, interactive onboarding programs are becoming very common especially when using SaaS platforms. Shortly, every company will have to deliver some kind of onboarding solution to their users. A successful onboarding plan can reduce the work overload from the support department and encourage the users to solve issues independently.