10 User Onboarding Best Practices in 2024

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We always remember a first impression — especially when trying a new mobile app or SaaS platform. 

The first time new users log in to an app or platform, they’re excited to explore. They want to try out the features, play around a bit, and see if it can fill whatever existing gap they’re currently experiencing. 

But those first few interactions can make or break the relationship. A bad first impression can quickly drive a new user away — meaning high user churn, low product adoption, and unhappy customers who aren’t finding ROI in their investments because their end-users cannot find value in the tool.

A user onboarding experience ensures your first impression with a new user is as strong as possible. Here are ten best practices to make your onboarding experience better. 

What are best practices for onboarding new users?

  1. Understand your customers’ needs and pain points
  2. Create contextual onboarding experiences for different user types
  3. Don’t overwhelm new users
  4. Guide users to an easy win early in the onboarding process
  5. Remove barriers to your user’s “aha!” moment
  6. Design your onboarding UX on brand
  7. Take a multi-channel approach to user onboarding
  8. Turn user onboarding into a continuous process with ongoing guidance and support
  9. Use product analytics to measure success
  10. Use data to launch new experiences and create a data-driven onboarding experience

The Importance of Onboarding New Users

User onboarding encompasses the first few interactions and experiences a user has with your product or tool. It begins when a new user learns about your product and ends when the user finds value in your offerings — otherwise known as the “aha!” moment

The user onboarding process is designed to bring new users to the “aha!” moment as efficiently as possible. It guides them through how to use the product, get the most out of tools and features, and find value in your solution that drives business outcomes. 

Effective user onboarding improves user adoption rates, retention rates, and customer loyalty. It keeps your customers engaged while they look for opportunities to integrate your platform or app into their day-to-day. 

10 Best Practices for New User Onboarding

Ready to start building your user onboarding process? Here are ten best practices to create a contextual, helpful product-led onboarding experience. 

1. Understand your customers’ needs and pain points

The fastest way to show your users the value of your product or platform is to clarify how it will help solve their problems. Centering your onboarding process around solving customer pain points will bring them to that aha moment faster and increase the likelihood they will adopt your platform. 

But to make that happen, you need a clear understanding of those pain points and how they differ from customer group to customer group. 

Start with the “why” behind a customer’s trying your platform. What problems are they hoping to solve and why have they chosen your solution? Your onboarding process should be centered around solving those contextual challenges and driving tangible business outcomes.

Showing off all the cool bells and whistles early on might be tempting, but prioritizing meeting customer needs can generate more long-term relationships. 

2. Create contextual onboarding experiences for different user types

Not every user is going to interact with your product the same way. Different features will have different levels of appeal depending on the problems your new user needs to solve. Trying to create a generic one-size-fits-all onboarding approach can make building genuine connections difficult. 

Instead, contextual onboarding experiences can provide unique prompts, user onboarding checklists, and platform instructions based on user type. 

Contextual onboarding introduces new products or features as the user engages with the platform. It relies on user behavior analytics and custom events to trigger onboarding prompts to give users the direction they need precisely when needed.

Here’s how Canva uses contextual onboarding: 

canva_user_onboarding

After the new user selects the profile that fits their description, Canva can offer tailored recommendations to meet their needs best. 

With a digital adoption platforms like Whatfix, product teams can create contextual onboarding flows for specific user cohorts to help deliver personalized, outcome-driven experiences that enable users to realize your product’s value, overcome any learning curve, and drive business outcomes.

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3. Don’t overwhelm new users

You don’t need to squeeze every bit of information in the first few interactions with your user. While you want them to reach their aha moment quickly and efficiently, you don’t want to throw too much at them. 

Avoid overwhelming by pacing your onboarding process to get the basics down first. Once you’ve established value and solved a customer problem, you can start diving deeper into more advanced tools and features. 

4. Guide users to an easy win early in the onboarding process

Build momentum by giving users a “win” in the first few onboarding interactions. You may not be able to solve their problems in just a few days, but you should be able to prove that you’re moving in that direction. 

An early win can show them what will come if they complete your onboarding process. Knowing what your customer’s win should be will depend on their end goal. 

Going back to the example of Canva, a small business owner may want to test out the product to reduce their graphic design spend. While they may not see the financial impact a tool like Canva can provide, the app can show the small business owner just how easy it is to create high-quality visuals. 

This initial win can encourage the new user to keep testing the platform and engaging with the onboarding experience until their final goal can be recognized. 

5. Remove barriers to your user’s “aha!” moment

The onboarding experience should make reaching the aha moment as easy as possible. This means identifying and removing the barriers that stand in their way. 

Anticipate your users’ questions or concerns at each stage of the process and provide the relevant information before they ask for it. It should also be easy for your users to connect with support if they run into a hurdle you haven’t been able to anticipate. 

You can identify barriers by talking with users and collecting customer feedback. Ask where you can improve the experience and what hurdles they ran into while working through your onboarding process. 

6. Design your onboarding UX on brand

As your first impression with new users, your onboarding experience is the time to set the foundation for your brand. The user experience should align with your brand look and feel and voice. 

Using a platform that enables onboarding UX customizations will make it easy to design your onboarding experience to align with your branding. 

Digital adoption platforms like Whatfix are a no-code solution for creating contextual user onboarding experiences and self-help user support content for product teams. With Whatfix, product managers can build, test, and analyze user flows, in-app checklists, step-by-step guided tours, smart tips, self-help wikis, and more.

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7. Take a multi-channel approach to user onboarding

Multi-channel onboarding experiences help keep users engaged during the early phases of the process. Adding additional onboarding channels makes it easier to stay in touch with customers and nudge them back to the app or platform to complete tasks and actions. 

Here’s an onboarding email example from Loom

loom_user_onboarding

You can create a multi-channel approach to user onboarding with: 

8. Turn user onboarding into a continuous process with ongoing guidance and support

Your product and offerings are constantly evolving and updating — and your onboarding process should do the same. Creating a continuous onboarding process with ongoing guidance and support keeps customers in the loop of new features, product updates, and how to navigate through interface changes. 

Continuous onboarding also allows you to guide users to more advanced ways to use your platform. After they’ve achieved that aha moment, continuous onboarding can show them the additional features and benefits, as well as the product support, they can get from further investing in your product.

9. Use product analytics to measure success

Product analytics is the best way to tell how strong your user onboarding experience is. Tracking user behaviors, flows, and metrics, such as time spent in the app or log in frequency, can give you a good indication of how well you’re connecting with your new users. 

Product analytics can also point out opportunities or weaknesses in your onboarding process. You can identify features that are rarely used or demographics that may be slipping through the cracks, identify product trends and find patterns to predict future behavior, spot and fix user dropoff areas, and build new offerings to fill those gaps.

With product analytics software like Whatfix, teams are enabled with a no-code event tracking solution to capture custom user engagement events, map user flows and journeys, identify friction areas, segment users into cohorts, track conversions, and more.

whatfix_user_onboarding

10. Use data to launch experiences and create a data-driven onboarding experience

Using data to back up your decisions is a tried and tested way to improve ROI. Strategic decision-making will lower risk and ensure the changes you’re making to your onboarding process align with customer needs and expectations. 

In addition to product analytics, look for high-quality data from: 

  • One-on-one conversations with users. 
  • Social media, reviews, and other third-party sites.
  • Competitors and market analysis.
  • Industry changes and trends.

A holistic approach to data collection can give you new and alternative perspectives and prevent you from making decisions in a silo. However, it’s still important to prioritize your user experience and not get caught up in the hype of new tools or exaggerate outside threats. 

At the end of the day, your onboarding experience should match your users’ expectations — even if it means doing things differently. The right data will make decision-making easier and bring you closer to your customers. 

How to Deliver Better User Onboarding Experiences With a DAP

Onboarding processes are unique, and you need a no-code tool that offers customization options to ensure your user onboarding experience aligns with your users’ contextual expectations.

Whatfix enables product teams to analyze, build, and deliver branded user onboarding experiences with in-app guidance, self-help support, and user behavior analysis and analytics tools to measure product usage, stickiness, adoption, and overall experience.

With Whatfix, you can:

1. Guide your users with branded, personalized in-app guidance

Whatfix’s no-code editor enables teams to create native-looking, on-brand in-app guidance, such as product tours, user onboarding checklists, pop-up launchers, and more. With Whatfix Analytics, teams can segment users into cohorts and create targeted, contextual flows tailored to the tasks and features most important to them. This guides users to contextual “aha!” moments and drives product adoption.

Popup-guided-tour

SaaS procurement platform Marketboomer deployed Whatfix’s DAP to create in-app guidance, provide contextual support, and gather in-app feedback to improve its customer onboarding experience.

With Whatfix, MarketBoomer’s product team enabled its users with product-led onboarding, which drove its user adoption and guided users to their “aha!” moment. This led to an increased customer NPS, eliminated support tickets, and empowered its customers to find value in Marketboomer’s PurchasePlus platform.

marketboomer_logo

“Whatfix is the ideal way for Marketboomer to communicate training to customers. We can easily target use case types and countries, and push relevant, personalized content to customers. Whatfix task lists enables us to progress our PurchasePlus experts and monitor efficiency in real time.”

Drew Nixon – Head of Customer Success at Marketboomer

2. Enable users with contextual alerts, tips, and validations

Whatfix provides teams with the ability to create contextual alerts for product updates, tooltips for contextual help, beacons to draw users attention to certain areas of a product, pop-ups to make announcements like feature launches, and more (called Smart Tips). 

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3. Provide self-help support at the moment of need

With Whatfix, teams can embed a self-help wiki into their product and digital workplaces. Whatfix Self Help integrates with your FAQs, knowledge base, support community, user documentation, release notes, YouTube video tutorials, third-party links, and more. Users can search for issues they’re facing and find the contextual support help content at the moment of need. These Self Help entries can prompt in-app Flows to guide users through their support issues. 

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See how Cardinal Health Canada accelerated seller adoption of its new medical equipment purchasing marketplace with Whatfix’s Self-Help. With Self Help, Cardinal Health provided 24/7, on-demand support to its sellers navigating its new buying website.  Whatfix’s interactive walkthroughs provided proactive onboarding, education, training, and support to users when they needed it, rather than having to rely on re-active resolution through phone calls and emails, reducing support costs and human effort significantly.

“Whatfix is excellent. It gives us the means to easily, effectively, and unobtrusively communicate to our users. Since implementing Whatfix, 45% of survey respondents have rated the self-help options on our website as above average or excellent.”

Adam Shapiro – Senior Business Analyst, Cardinal Health Canada

4. Analyze your product usage to create user flows and experiences

Whatfix Analytics provides a no-code event tracking and user behavioral analysis solution for product teams to evaluate and analyze user behavior, flows, in-app experiences, and more. With Whatfix, map your user journey, pinpoint your “aha!” moment, track conversions, measure custom user behavior events, identify friction and dropoff areas, build user segments and cohorts, and more.

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Create contextual user onboarding flows, drive adoption of new features, and make in-app announcements with Whatfix

Whatfix is a no-code digital adoption platform that enables product managers to create contextual in-app guidance, product-led user onboarding, and self-help user support – all without engineering dependencies. With Whatfix, create branded product tours, user onboarding checklists, interactive walkthroughs, pop-ups, smart tips, and more – all enabling customers and users with contextual guidance at the moment need. With Whatfix, analyze, build, and deliver better user experiences.

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