After several years of collaborating with diverse products teams and agencies in Europe (France, The Netherlands). Ashley has joined Morphosis as a UX Specialist, where she leads clients and projects from ambiguity to clarity by setting direction that combines user, business and development goals. Her design practice combines design thinking, product management, user research, and visual design.

Business, Design

Why is user onboarding so important?

“A user interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it’s not that good.”  

User interfaces shouldn’t be complicated; a good user interface means that a new user should be able to understand and use it easily. Existing users should also be able to understand a new interface or feature without too much guidance. 

This is where user onboarding flows come in, when defining every new feature or product, user-onboarding should always come in the design and development processes.

In this article, we’ll give you an overview of the importance of user onboarding with tips on how to improve it. Before we jump right into it, let’s see what user onboarding refers to.

What is user onboarding?

“User onboarding is simple; it shows the value of the product and closes the difference between users’ expectations and what the product will help them achieve.” 

Onboarding is a structured approach to convey a product’s core value proposition. The benefits, functionality and impacts can be shown to utilise a series of preliminary measures aimed to involve, convert and retain the user.

Although the primary goal of users is to understand the core value of a product, the primary goal of a company is engagement, conversion and retention. The success of both consumers and companies can be assured by considered onboarding experience.

Types of onboarding

There are different types of user onboarding that you can implement depending on your app, your business model, and the kind of users you are catering to, among other things. No matter the methods, they should all have the ability to encourage users to learn whilst exploring the app. 

We’ll focus on three that is often seen as the three marketing screens but are actually beyond that. Let’s get right into it!

1Benefits oriented onboarding

As shown in the name, this type of onboarding shows the benefits or value a user is going to receive from the app in a conversion attempt.

This method explains what the program does without specifying how you can utilise the app’s different functions directly. These onboard screens also contain requests for approval so users can opt-in, such as accessing and sending push notifications.

2Function oriented onboarding

This approach emphasises the device’s functionality, which shows users how to use the app. In particular, it shows users how to start and how certain actions can be carried out. This usually involves visual instructions that are meant for better interpretation and clarification of the app.

3Progressive oriented onboarding

As the name implies, progressive onboarding ensures that users can see new details as they explore the app progressively. The users can understand the app as they explore it instead of getting the directions upfront.

The key point here is to make it possible for users to understand the functions of your app so they can get acquainted with the app as they progress through the different flows in the app.

Why is user onboarding important?

User onboarding is important because it offers functional training to users and demonstrates how to use the main features of the product in simple steps. It is also proved to be one of the most important parts of the user journey. 

Besides that, the key point of a user onboarding flow is to promote user activation and user retention. This makes your marketing a lot more profitable, and the secret to higher activation rates is a better user onboarding experience. 

By properly onboarding users to a new digital platform, the users know what your app is all about and how to use its key features. This, in turn, improves user retention rates as they fully understand how your digital product helps solve their pain point, so they have a good reason to return to your app. 

If for any reason your user onboarding fails to activate and retain enough users, it will pose a serious challenge to the future of your digital product.

User onboarding mistakes to avoid and how to fix it

  • Distracting – When an onboarding flow pops up in irrelevant places within the app, distracting the user from completing a task.
  • Controlling – When you lose control of the app and the onboarding it takes over the entire screen and makes you click next until it finally puts you back in the driver’s seat.
  • Flaky – The times when you get kicked out of a tour before it’s over and can’t start it again to see what you missed.

Each of these qualities can make the onboarding process incredibly weak. So instead of distracting, go for integrated, controlling for empowering, and flaky for steadfast

  • Integrated –  With an integrated onboarding process, users will be able to self-initiate the process when they are ready at their own pace.  This creates a bond between your users and your app, getting them immersed even deeper into the user flow. 
  • Empowering –  Is your onboarding experience meant to educate users about your UI, or is it empowering users to perform actions that will directly benefit their lives? People sign up for your app with the hope their lives will be better in some way because of it, so let’s make sure we reflect that in the onboarding process. 
  • Steadfast –  An onboarding experience starts before the first engagement —how you convince users to take that first step to onboard matters. Even if you get them to initiate the process and get them into your app, it only takes a while before they drop off your product.

So there might be some areas or features of your app that were neglected but might become significant again, making “new feature onboarding” is very important. Invest in the long haul, and see your onboarding efforts be rewarded further down the line.

Addressing any problems in the onboarding phase helps to eliminate potential obstacles and leads to engagement and better user experiences.

Improve your user onboarding process with these extra tips

So far we’ve covered what user onboarding is and why it’s important. Now let’s see how you can improve your user onboarding process.

These best practices will help you track user onboarding more successfully:

  • Knowing your users 
  • Personalisation
  • Making it quick and easy
  • Focus on empty states
  • Push notifications

1Know your users and understand their needs

User onboarding, as we said, involves showing value to the users, and it begins by knowing who they are. Each user has many goals to accomplish with your product. You have to empower them to reach all of their goals for them to convert to long-term users.

To give users what they seek from your product, you need to know all of these:

  • Who are your users?
  • What do your users want?
  • What are their pain points and how can your product help them?
  • What would stop them from using your product?

Once you’ve got a grasp on these details, you can build empathy for your core audience through user research. As you develop a product, regular user testing and usability analysis will not only help your team enhance the overall design but also help find areas where to focus on user onboarding.

But of course, you can’t and won’t always know the answers for each individual. That’s when you ask, Interview existing users and ask what made them use your app/product?

What had to happen for them to succeed? This information gives you a good grasp of the motives of your user and will help design the ultimate boarding flow.

2Be concise. Don’t overload users.

Learning anything for the first time can be very difficult – take driving, for example; it can be challenging until it becomes easy like second nature. This is why the user onboarding experience needs to be very selective about what the user sees.

If possible, restrict the flow to 5 or 6 screens or popups to only show one main message on each screen. You do not want to push complicated buttons and clicks to the user, nor do you want to force them to go through multi-step instructions that feel like work.

Also, if you need any user information, be sure to ask immediately, use it to personalise their experience with the rest of the app, but always be careful not to add too many steps.

3Don’t get too personal

It is good to encourage a new user to provide certain information that will help personalise his or her experience, but it is important not to ask too much for details.

Some apps require users to set preferences before they can use an app; asking a lot of unnecessary questions, especially in the early stages would be a bad idea, seeing how privacy is personally vulnerable and becoming very scarce nowadays.

Always check what kind of details you can gather during the onboarding to further personalise the product or experience later. Keep it simple, and be careful. Don’t throw in lots of surveys to the users. One or two questions should do, with choices that are easy to click and tap. 

4Focus on the empty states of your product

When designing the empty states of your product, there are questions that you need to answer which include:

  • Can the user learn about the features of the empty state?
  • How do users make use of a screen with no date?
  • How long would the screen be in an empty state for the user?
  • How did the user get to this screen?

Always focus your design attention on the empty state when building a product; continuously take a step back and look at your user onboarding from a new user perspective. 

For example, if you design an analytical dashboard, the normal instinct is to design a screen with beautiful graphics and charts containing full information in all fields.

Of course, this is necessary because you have to know the status of the product. But make sure that you think about the  “zero data” state too.

5Ask to send push notifications

It is necessary to secure – and, preferably, to maintain – permission to send push notifications to utilise push and email as channels. It is good to ask for permission in the early stage in order to use these channels to reach users who are to activate the app.

It is inadvisable for a huge percentage of the current user cohort not to activate and churn out the app during the first session. There is really no way of reaching the user to help them complete the boarding process without the push or email notification.

User onboarding examples

We’ve explored the importance, best tips, benefits and reasons for investing in onboarding. You may be wondering how an amazing onboarding looks.

Below are four examples of great user experience onboarding from real companies:

1Duolingo

Duolingo user onboarding

This language app onboard flow guides visitors through a short translation exercise, which reveals exactly how fast and simple a new language is to learn — before users sign up for the app.

Users pick their language from the landing page and choose their goal. Duolingo uses behavioural science ideas of goal perception and commitment to keep the users engaged for longer.

Duolingo’s onboarding aims to get users started as quickly as possible, mastering the language within ten clicks. By allowing users to access key features from the beginning of their application experience.

2Evernote

Evernote user onboarding

Evernote is a popular note-taking app for gathering ideas, prioritise tasks and to-do lists. It starts by having you register for an existing Google account or an email address.

Evernote user-onboarding is quick and easy; when you click on sign-up, you can pick the plans that you want, making it easy to exchange notes and whole notebooks with your team, as well as syncing your notes automatically between all devices and access when offline.

3Slack

Slack user onboarding

In the business world,  the Slack messaging platform is commonly used because of the ability to interact with teams. Their onboarding experience is quick, engaging and practical. 

New users are asked to set up the basics such as their Slack’s name and contact a chatbot to go on a tour. The chatbot displays all the key functionality and requests additional user information – a smart way to smooth and engaging input from the user.

4 Netflix

Netflix user onboarding

With its customised onboarding flow, Netflix cleverly alleviates any uncertainty. The payment gets cleared out on the landing page with the claim: “Watch anywhere. Cancel Anytime”

Netflix then requires an email, password and payment data but does not take the advantage of requiring unnecessary information for its records.

Netflix then asks for some preferences so that it can automatically start providing relevant user content. However, when you’re in the onboarding flow, very little detail about searching and watching is given. However, this isn’t necessary, thanks to Netflix’s intuitive UI design.

5Grammarly

Grammarly user onboarding

Grammarly is a great personal writing assistant—used to check for spelling, grammar, word choice, and more through online recommendations.

Their onboarding experience is no different, with anything from email to update instructions. Their smart learning demonstration works greatly to promote learning and show people how to use the unique features of the tool in a secure setting.

The best onboard experiences don’t just educate users on how to operate an app but how the app makes tasks easier and changes their lives. This also helps them feel valued, welcomed and to manage the learning curve perfectly, exploring effortlessly to curate the onboard flow. 

Bottom line

These are not only necessary measures, but things you have to do that will guarantee success. However, every user onboarding flow differs according to the type of app for which it was designed, but there’s always an optimum approach is to reel users. 

We hope this has given you an eye-opener on user onboarding importance, including some best tips and examples for your next user onboarding design! At Morphosis, we specialise in UX/UI design providing only the best design. Contact us today to learn more about how to use onboard your users with your app.