User Onboarding best practices and examples – create great apps

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Adam Trojanczyk describes everything about the User Onboarding - best practices with proven examples
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The thing with the first impression is that you can make it only once. This obvious statement has been coined in relation to the relationships we establish with other people. However, it also applies perfectly to how we influence the way our software, products, and apps are perceived by users. That is why is worth ensuring the best onboarding flow.

What do you learn from this article?

  1. What is User Onboarding

    1. The term onboarding
  2. Why is User Onboarding important

    1. The importance of guidelines
  3. User Onboarding Best Practices

    1. The elements of user onboarding process – know the four rules
    2. Guidelines during onboarding
    3. Examples of passive and active onboarding
    4. The "Wow" and "aha" effects are great feedback from users
    5. Onboarding and push notifications
    6. How to improve user onboarding, reduce user churn and enhance positive experience
    7. Well-chosen content – a key to successful onboarding
  4. User Onboarding examples – apps with the best onboarding experience

    1. Zbiletem.pl – simple onboarding flow and you have a ticket in your phone
    2. A guided onboarding process for users not so familiar with digital world
    3. The elements of user onboarding process – know the four rules
  5. User onboarding statistics – how to measure user onboarding

  6. Afterword

Before new users are able to get acquainted with the solutions we provide, the first thing noticed by the users is the appearance, transparency, and intuitiveness of the product. It’s simple: the more intuitive the functionalities, the fewer difficulties occur when using the solution.
At Inwedo we usually take two main perspectives before we start working on the app: 

  • First: how we want the system to be navigated by the users. 
  • And second: the way in which we present them with directions to follow.

Do you want to know more about our methods? Read about the Discovery Workshops.

 

What is User Onboarding and why it matters
Maciek Wiśniewski, our UX/UI designer, created an interface for an app, which was focused on cooperation with users who rarely use a smartphone. The nature of their work forced the team to solutions that did not stimulate and did not force users to constantly contact the app. Also gave the opportunity to jump in once in a while and simple, trouble-free service.

What is User Onboarding

​​The term onboarding (adaptation) is very often used in the world of software, but when we ask members of the same team about it, there is a good chance that we will hear different definitions of it. Some will call it teaching new users, and others – a simple and fast tour of the product. 

I often use this definition of user onboarding: a system that actively guides users to find new value in the product you are creating. But it’s a tech context of this term. So where does it comes from?

The term onboarding

The term itself derives from that used in HR departments. User adaptation refers to the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills, and experience to become effective members of the company.

This definition from above covers the entire user lifecycle and starts before the user registers on the site. User onboarding is also a process that dramatically increases the likelihood of users adopting your product.

 

Why User Onboarding is important

Imagine that, encouraged by the latest life-changing technological solution, you fill out the form and click the Register button. Then, somehow, you find yourself on an interstellar Star Trek ship. You see buttons, switches, and flashing LEDs all around you, and you have no idea what’s going on. This is exactly how first-time users of your product/app can feel.

 

Let's talk about why is User Onboarding important

The importance of guidelines

Good web designers conduct research, user map flows, and test the interfaces they design. But users have never done this before, so completely new people who start using your app may not know how everything works, how to use what they need and how to find what interests them to use your solution at all.

When you give your users guidelines, you actually give them a scaffolding on which they can move, and you also help save them from feeling completely lost and frustrated.

User Onboarding Best Practices

Interface transparency should not be the culmination of how we wish to care for our users. I believe in creating systems that “grow with the user” when building interfaces, and, in fact, the user’s ability to use them. It is onboarding that plays a huge role in this process. It can be an ultra-friendly part of your product. It can make people who are just curious about your app and want to check out the trial version become the most engaged users of your app.

Great onboarding is the immense power of your app to get people to take action.

The elements of the user onboarding process – know the four rules

Good onboarding should be: simple, easy, functional, and useful.

  • Simple – because the simple and sincere user experience when using our solutions keeps the user committed. It also reduces the mental effort needed to take action and help quickly achieve legitimate goals and objectives;
  • Easy – the easier it is to learn how to use a product/application, the better. “Simple” products increase user engagement and reduce frustration when using them. This way, our users won’t feel any worse if they can’t understand something that might be obvious to others;
  • Functional – the product does exactly what users need/expect from it;
  • Useful – the usability of our solutions depends on both the ease of use and the functionality they offer. This means that the products we create must not only provide functionality itself but must also be simple and easy to use.

Guidelines during onboarding

Onboarding is at the forefront of a well-designed UX. It invites users to perform the actions we have previously planned in a way for us to show them the most important functionalities. This can be called an action aimed at inducing motivation to act. It should include both an introduction to the application and help users find themselves in the main navigation elements.

Importantly, some products require set up before you can work with them. When you plan to use a new messenger, CRM or file sharing tool in your company, you will first need to add a contact list. In case of apps used to discover new fashion trends, you may need to specify your interests and preferences.

Onboarding should ensure that the user follow all the setup steps that are necessary to achieve results.

Examples of passive and active onboarding

Introducing a user into an app doesn’t always have to be automated. Sometimes it can be, for example, an active and two-way conversation with a consultant who will explain how to use the tool. This is how, for instance, Superhuman works, trying to teach its users a whole new way of working. I myself have had the pleasure of participating in such onboarding many times using, for example, Brand24 or Autenti, and these were very good experiences.

Ultimately, it all depends on your product and business model, because, on the other hand, passive and automated onboarding requires neither an individual conversation nor a longer and scheduled meeting. Instead, it is embedded in the product itself as, for instance, most CRM systems available on the market do.

The “Wow” and “aha” effects are great feedback from users

Few things affect our emotions like a positive surprise. Therefore, in new user onboarding, very strong emphasis should be placed on this way of building relationships. In the industry, it is often called the “wow” effect. Surprise helps establish an emotional connection with users and helps them understand the characteristics of your product. Variety, gamification, and a system that uncovers additional elements after completing certain tasks are just some of the ideas to enchant your users. Plan the onboarding process in that way, to make users feel they discovered your application without any help. . All nooks and crannies. This will bring them the satisfaction of exploring and every quiet sigh of contentment plays in your favor.

Onboarding and push notifications

Nothing annoys me as much as a website or an app that displays a popup with a newsletter registration and asks for location and permission to display push notifications. In addition, it happens practically simultaneously and immediately as soon as I enter the site or scroll down a little.

If you want to keep in touch with users and push notifications from your app are an essential source of maintaining a relationship with them, there’s no better moment than recently completed onboarding. If you have previously managed to enchant users with your product and they have discovered all the features they need to use the solution, this is the perfect moment to take advantage of it.

How to improve user onboarding, reduce user churn and enhance the positive experience

In an age of growing XaaS (Everything as a Service), access to new technologies is easier than ever.

The cost of switching to another solution is practically negligible. That’s why 40-60% of users only test the product once and then never return to it. In addition, the average churn of users who have already started using the app is 71% in the first 90 days.

How to improve User Onboarding
Inwedo is co-founder of the Zbiletem.pl application. The team was a shareholder and implemented the solution in the Polish market. Currently, they continue to develop the app in cooperation with Swedish Venture Capital Progrits.

Thanks to the properly designed onboarding flow, users can become proficient in using the application and gain their first positive experience. Combined with a well-tailored UX, they have a common goal: to make your product easy to understand and use. Users will get attached to it easier and find it harder to use competitive solutions.

The argument is quite simple – when users spend their precious time downloading, installing, or registering for a new application, they expect the product they intend to use to improve their life in the right and expected way. The first impression after opening the application is crucial. Users need to feel rewarded for their tremendous faith. They have to experience it right away. Otherwise, they will feel the desire to use another, better solution. It is worth noting that the Twine platform has reduced its bounce rate by more than half (and it used to be a staggering 65%) thanks to well-implemented onboarding.

Additionally, ProfitWell’s research conducted on nearly 500 products (software) shows that users who have had positive onboarding experiences are much less likely to give up the product within the first 21 days of use.

To make full use of the product possibilities, we shall provide well-managed onboarding not only as a good start for our new users. It is a great introduction to another feature or tool development. Our greatest job is worth nothing if users have no clue the new solution exists or how to enjoy them 😉

When Microsoft asked its users what they would like to add to Office, it turned out that 90% of the requested features were already there. 

Another example is the video platform Wistia whose functions have remained largely unnoticed by the customers. After thorough user surveys and the introduction of onboarding, the retention of users increased by 30%.

Well-chosen content – a key to successful onboarding

User onboarding is not something that should be highlighted. It should be completely natural, friendly, and enjoyable. It should also be based on well-chosen content. Otherwise, it will become just a collection of completely unnecessary arrows, fields, or to-dos. Well-chosen content should be one of the biggest priorities of the whole process and it must not be scrimped on. Sometimes the content will have the form of videos, other times – notifications, emails, and maybe even conversations with a live consultant or bot.

User Onboarding examples – apps with the best onboarding experience

As part of the adaptation process, there are many different tasks and steps that the user must perform. Each of them is an amazing opportunity to positively surprise and engage users, and prevent them from getting lost in the depths of the vastness of information. See what it looks like in some examples.

Zbiletem.pl – simple onboarding flow and you have a ticket on your phone

User Onboarding example - zbiletem - a ticket in your phone app

Zbiletem.pl is a free app that can be installed on smartphones with Android or iOS. After logging in to the system (using your phone number) you can immediately start shopping. To pay for the tickets users may use a credit card, or choose a fast transfer, or BLIK. Transactions’ safety is guaranteed by PayU, the leader of online payments in Poland. Miłosz Olejniczak, CEO of zbiletem.pl, points out that what gives the app an advantage over other similar solutions is that the app is focused on its basic task. It does not include other services (f.ex. parking, transfers, train tickets). To buy a public transportation ticket users need just 3 clicks. In a few seconds, they achieve a result that, in other apps, takes much longer, and is usually more complicated. The user onboarding flow in the app is super simple and convenient.

While onboarding in Zbiletem.pl app users are led by subsequent screens, with just one action required to perform on each of them. This lowers the risk of confusion and distraction and the flow is very intuitive. Only when all the main parts of the account are set up, the user gains access to explore the full offer and choose what they need. Zbiletem.pl is really clearly designed. Thereby it guides passengers through the whole purchase process in a very simple way. However, our growing group of recipients is getting more diverse and the latest usability and user flow tests revealed a need to simplify it even more. With regard to such onboarding feedback, a short briefing will appear in the app in the following months. Perhaps in a form of a short video, showing how easily users can choose the ticket that serves them best.

Beata Król, Product Owner

Beata Król, Product owner describes the user onboarding process in the zbiletem appication
Beata Król, Product Owner

A guided onboarding process for users not so familiar with the digital world

User Onboarding example - Svensk Kolinlagring - CO2 sequestration calculator to help renew soil

 

The main goal of the project was to build software connecting different actors whose common goal is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. An online application, brings together companies, farmers, and researchers. It provides space for the exchange of knowledge for those who want to climate compensate in Swedish agriculture through regenerative farming. More than that, it is a platform of mutual support for the emerging community.

The platform is available to Swedish farmers, companies operating in this country, all institutions and researchers wishing to share their research, regardless of the country of origin, and all private individuals seeking knowledge in the field of organic farming. The construction of the application in the open-source model provides the opportunity to implement it in other countries wishing to engage in the protection and renewal of our common resource, which is soil.

Designing the application for MiljöMatematik we had to consider users, who don’t work with digital products on a daily basis. Our focus was on two main aspects. First: to incentivize users to record and share their data on the platform at all. Secondly – figure out how tomake the most of their time and focus. To improve user onboarding, we decided to implement a guided onboarding process. Explaining how the app works at the very start, the onboarding flow navigates the user through serves as a support in navigation through the following stages. The whole process is based on a few simple steps. At each of them users are informed of what’s exactly happening at the moment, and how it’s important for them.

Maciej Wiśniewski, UX/UI Designer

Maciej Wiśniewski, UX/UI Designer describes the main aspects of user onboarding in the app for Svensk Kolinlagrin
Maciej Wiśniewski, UX/UI Designer

We have been working on this product in terms of process optimization, design and coding. I am all the more pleased that it is an important product in the field of reversing the climate crisis. The latest case study of our work on this app may be useful if you want to see the entire process of working on the application for a specific professional group.

User onboarding statistics – How to measure user onboarding

The ultimate goal of onboarding users is to speed up the process of settling them into the product. This, of course, brings some extra benefits. Previously mentioned retention (on this topic, I recommend the article “Retention is King”), recommendations or buying premium products. But is there a way for measuring the success of onboarding programs? Many companies set milestones for the individual functionalities. Some set indicators on the usage frequency of each new solution. This allows them to measure the success of the individual user implementation process.

Most important for constructive evaluation is using the data. You can retrieve KPI for the onboarding process from what you already know or have the access to. Remember to collect all the information about your users and their paths. What they are doing, how they use the system, and what was their onboarding experience. At what point did they give up on it and what pushed them to do that? Always try to identify and understand the reason. This will help you restore usability flaws as quickly as possible.

Afterword

Finally, I would like to introduce you to an expert and his speech at Stanford University. Kevin Hale, Wufoo founder and Y Combinator partner explains how to create products that build a good first impression. This topic starts at 4:25, but I strongly encourage you to watch the whole lecture.