6 user onboarding best practices for web apps

1. Use what you already know about the user

A good product should track and save any information which could be used later for a better experience or for optimization reports.
For example, with onboardX you can personalize the guides you create using texts like {name} or {anything}.


2. Have a Call to action

Just pointing users attention to different sections doesn’t mean much. You have to ask the user to do an action immediately after just finished reading because if he already spent the time to read your explanations is almost certain he will spend the time to do something. And if he does something is closer to understanding how your product could help him.

3. A great UX doesn’t mean you don’t need onboarding

Google, Facebook, Pinterest, Airbnb have probably the best UX folks from web industry but they know the UX is used mainly for the big picture and general experience but not for understanding the product and getting the user to AHA moment. You don’t have to be ashamed if you altering your UX (which you already paid for) with smart guides or other onboarding scenarios.
A good UX is different than a good onboarding.


4. Don’t be afraid to copy from big guys

Because ideas have sex, you need to see a lot of onboarding processes to be able to invent new ones for your product. Samuel Hulick on his website useronboard.com is doing cool onboarding processes reviews for a lot of big guys and it should be on your inspiration list.

5. Develop personas and don’t assume that all people are the same

For example, when a new user joins onboardX we save the source of the traffic and based on that we could segment and personalize their onboarding process with words/images they’re familiar.


A few weeks ago I posted an answer on Quora and based on information I know about the question (it was very specific to an industry), everyone who will register based on that link, it will be surprised in the onboarding process with industry specific words.

6. Step by step

A big mistake is trying to present everything about your product in just one step (usually a 4-5 minute “how to” video or one-page long text article).


We stay more than 10-12 years in school because we need to train our brain to learn. Just reading (or watching) is not enough, we have to think and make connections on our own to be able to really understand. Each person has its own learning rhythm and different levels of experience. You have to identify them and use this for a custom onboarding.

If you are in charge for onboarding for a product and you have other ideas to share, please leave a comment.




Don’t let your developers to do user onboarding

Developers think what they do is self-explanatory

The developers are logical persons. What they do is to implement logic in your product. The drawback for them to do user onboarding, is they apply the logic much more in detail than a regular user because they know any small implications and will overthink anything (which of course will result in a bad user onboarding process).

Between developers and customers should exist a person capable thinking as a customer and do the necessary adjustments over developer work (UX changes, documentation, anything needed).

Developers can’t think as a real customer

*only if the customer is a developer too

If a person is deeply involved in the development process of a product, that person will be biased when it comes to evaluating that product. Try to get evaluations from third parties for fair results.

Developers don’t have the aesthetic sense

The developers are creative people with rich imagination but unfortunately not a visual creativity. Most of them prefer to use #CCCCCC as the main color for everything because they know is neutral and can thank anyone. 🙂

Developers will hard code a lot

Hard coding mean to make a change in a program in such a way that they cannot be altered without modifying the program.

If you give a task to a developer to implement a walkthrough, most certain you’ll get intro.js

Do you want to change a word? Talk with the developer
Do you want to change the color theme? Talk with the developer + the designer
Do you want to disable temporarily the walkthrough? Talk with the developer.

All these come bundled with the fact that it can sometimes take several days for the most trivial changes, simply because implementation was hard coded and the deployment must be made as a core change.

The solution

onboardX is a web platform that helps you implement the user onboarding process without calling developers for any small change. Give it a try!

3 channels you can use for user onboarding

User onboarding is a process that has no fixed rules for implementation and its success is how creative and how well you know the product and the users (their habits, experience etc). Below, I will talk about 3 most know channels used for user onboarding and what’s are the pro and cons for each one.

Old fashioned school email

Probably most well-used method to implement the onboarding process.
Consists of a series of emails sent automatically 1, 3, 5 days after registration and can be implemented with any email marketing tool.
Most of them communicate a general message with text instructions, rather boring and often sent at the wrong time (when already I gave up the idea of using the product or when it shows me something I already tested).

Easy way to implement

Everybody does it, so users begin to ignore this kind of messages.

New hype: content marketing

The type of channel with a fulminant growth lately but still rarely used for onboarding process. The basic purpose of this channel is bringing traffic and create awareness but with a strategy well planned, you can benefit from the attention of visitors to enter in the process of onboarding, considering that there are already users of your product (even if they’re not) .

You have a lot of space to describe anything you want to get them to the “AHA moment” (screenshots,videos, podcasts etc).

It is possible that at some point, content no longer is relevant (your product has new features / UI changes etc.).

The newest in town: segmented in-app messages

Though used in prehistoric, messages in the app were considered difficult to implement, given the fact you had to talk to a fellow programmer for any small change. Ability to configure a tooltip only for users who have not entered into the application for 10 days or just for those who have some type of subscription, was almost science fiction.
With onboardX for example, the implementation consists of a single action, namely the introduction of a piece of code on all pages. After that, even if you’re not a coder, you can configure walkthroughs or hints on any page of you app and publish immediately.
Not say you can see statistics about each step of the walkthrough.

What user onboarding means?

Long story short, is the process by which the user reaches “AHA moment”, a decisive step to become a recurrent customer and an evangelist for your product.
Think that’s the last part of the process that started with bringing on site and continuing with conviction to enroll. If you’re doing wrong this last step, you can say that for the other two waste money.

You say that the UX and UI of your application are flawless but people are different and have a “luggage” different from previous experiences. Perhaps you’re like me, that when you see a calendar icon, intuits that if you click there you will see a calendar. Or maybe not.
Therefore it is good to have detailed explanations for those elements that lead the user to the “must to know” of you product. These explanations are part of user onboarding strategy and are just an example of how this process could be implemented.

onboarding example

The “AHA moment”


By definition a product solve one or more problems. Take for example Google. It’s a mammoth with products from multiple domains but you first get on google.com where the goal is to do one action, a simple search. Their “AHA moment” is when you realize that their results are relevant and help you solve your problem in this way making you come back tomorrow, and even to tell your friends about usefulness. Google knows that once you’re “caught”, you will give greater confidence to other products they own and this is how their goal was achieved.

When is starting the onboarding process?

I said that there are three major processes through which visitors get to be customers, processes that can be managed by people / different teams.

  1. Promotion (bringing traffic)
  2. Enroll (conversion rate optimization)
  3. AHA moment (onboarding)

So onboarding process begins when the visitor has access to the application and his desire to reach the “AHA moment” is at its peak.

When it ends the onboarding process?

Never. Analyzing data, you’ll notice that there are customers who do not use a particular feature or as the last feature is not a success. And in this case, you must make sure that the clients get to AHA moment of that feature.

onboardX approach in user onboarding process

onboardX is a web platform that helps you implement the ideas you have about the onboarding in a professional and a fast method. Give it a try!