User onboarding design is a critical but also a challenging aspect of any app launch. It is the first impression a user gets, which is why it needs to be planned and executed to drive future adoption. Beginners and sometimes even seasoned app designers find it hard to know where to start, when it comes to designing the onboarding flow.
We’ve put together an onboarding checklist with 9 elements that empower you to create the most seamless and the best onboarding experience for your new users.
#1. Map user journey for different personas, based on their goals
User journey mapping or customer journey mapping is a visual representation of the process that a user goes through to accomplish a goal. When created for different customer personas, it can help in understanding your customers, their needs, goals and motivations. This data helps craft the most appropriate messaging that is bound to resonate with your users.
When Spotify wanted to improve the music-sharing experience for its customers, it started by creating a customer journey map. The goal of this customer journey map was to determine where music-sharing features best fit into the app experience.
A user journey map is extremely useful because it helps identify key areas of customer engagement and takes into account customer behavior.
Learn more about user journey mapping from our Comprehensive Guide to User Journey Mapping.
#2. Find the activation event
The activation event is the key driver of the app onboarding design that unlocks the path for users to become loyal customers. Aimed at sparking the “Aha!” moment in your user’s mind, it should make users appreciate your product for what it is and bring users closer to your app's core value.
Several years ago, Duolingo experienced a leak at the top of its funnel. They ran several tests to find out how they could stop it.
So instead of users signing up immediately after opening the app, they let them sample the app. This is probably the most powerful pitch when it comes to improving onboarding and user stickiness.
With gradual engagement, Duolingo postponed registration until a later moment in the user journey where the user is bound to register in order to move ahead.
Think of the “Aha!” moment as the emotional reaction in your user when they suddenly realize the true value of your product.
#3. Establish clear and consistent value proposition
The value proposition is a promise of value that the user will derive from consuming or interacting with your product. Clearly communicating your value proposition is what attracts your customers in the first place, making it a critical component of your app onboarding checklist.
Users should be able to grasp the “Aha” moment within a few seconds in their app onboarding journey.
Apple echos its value proposition in the copy about its iPhone range of products – specifically, the design of the device itself. In addition to the design aesthetic, it is the ease of use and the aspirational qualities that an iPhone offers its user.
Ideally, within 5 seconds, the users should be able to grasp the product’s core advantages.
#4. Convey the brand image using simple UX onboarding design + messaging
The brand story that you convey, will only be compelling if you've got the right mix of words.
Since your onboarding message is one of the initial interactions your user has with your product, try not to complicate it for them. Simplifying your UX onboarding design can be hard though. As Steve Jobs once said, ‘Simple can be harder than the complex’.
When designing and conveying the brand's image and messaging ensure that the language and flow you use as a part of the onboarding UX:
- Brings the user closer to their goal
- Guides the user within the product and provides instructional components and feedback
- Relates to the visual design of the product
- Influences the mood of the user
Look at Mailchimp's clear UX copy and illustration sequences in its onboarding content flow.
Mailchimp's onboarding flow inspires confidence even in users who don’t have any experience with marketing software and creates a brand image in three simple steps.
A great UX onboarding best practice is to ensure that the entire onboarding process is clear and concise. The copy should be succinct.
#5. Introduce core features in the onboarding walkthrough
Feature adoption is a measure of how many app features your users are using. The more features they use, the more will be the value that they derive from your app. The onboarding process gives an opportunity to help users discover and adopt features that offer value.
When users don’t adopt these features, the objectives they were built to satisfy go unachieved, impacting everything from your onboarding to your conversion rates.
Let’s take a look at how Dream11 - India’s #1 fantasy sports app sees heightened activity during IPL with millions of new users logging in daily. For new users to onboard quickly, Dream11 has a great onboarding walkthrough.
- First of all, for a new user the key activation moment is selecting a match and creating a team.
- Knowing that first-time users need to be guided through the steps of creating a team, Dream 11 app ushers the users through the process.
- Their onboarding experience educates the user by showcasing each feature and how it works.
The following screenshots show how the users are provided micro-guidance.
Dream11 uses in-app digital nudges to guide users through the key features and activate them quickly.
Start by understanding what your users need to do to get activated. Then, guide them with smart nudges to help them do those activities.
Learn more about the Art of Perfect User Onboarding.
#6. Implement in-app progress monitoring
Consider adding a simple progress bar to your onboarding screen to let your users know how far they have come in the onboarding process. This simple tweak can encourage users to finish the entire onboarding routine. Progress monitoring also creates an opportunity for apps to upsell and cross-sell their products.
Progress monitoring can be done by:
- Creating checklists that align with the customer journey
- Triggering automatic workflow and send notifications every time a step is completed
Progress monitoring not only helps make onboarding easier, but also contributes to the conversion and retention of existing users.
#7. Add a “Skip” option
Every user has a different need and not all of them would want you to handhold them throughout the onboarding process.
If you want onboarding to be frictionless, include a "skip" button as a part of your app onboarding design.
Users skip through the onboarding process for several reasons, including:
- Knowledge of app features and functionality
- Level of technical expertise
- Lack of time
- The inclination to learn on their own
The ability to “skip” steps gives users the freedom to manage their own app onboarding.
#8. Use minimal and standard visual elements
Many brands try catering to a variety of audiences in the onboarding process and in turn create a not-so-compelling visual onboarding experience. Some other apps try to include non-standard visual elements that may confuse the users. Using standard shapes and colours (e.g, green is to go ahead) like accordians, dropdowns, buttons, carousels, breadcrumbs, create a visual language that the user is already familiar with.
Trello, a visual product management tool, doesn't waste too much space and time by implementing too many visuals. It doesn't complicate the onboarding process with visuals that may distract users from the goal of signing up.
Use smart and standard visuals to explain how the core product features work as a part of app onboarding design.
#9. A/B UX testing
A/B testing is an opportunity to realize the version of the onboarding flow that will ensure maximum conversion rates.
An A/B test provides the necessary customer feedback that identifies flaws in the product's interface and eventually the customer's best onboarding experience.
The benefits of A/B testing for app onboarding UX are:
- Eliminates any guesswork and allows product managers and marketers to rely on data-driven findings and statistical certainties.
- Narrows down the impact of different app elements, and provides real-time data on new features and their adoption.
Run A/B tests to find out how to make your onboarding even more effective, so as to improve product adoption.
Designing an ideal onboarding experience requires a detailed study of user behavior, providing contextual walkthroughs, and testing and refining several app elements.
Onboarding UX best practices are aimed at helping you come up with a seamless app experience that allows your users to appreciate your app.
This app onboarding checklist reiterates that app onboarding design is not only about giving users a warm welcome. Rather, it is about helping users experience the value of your product, setting them up for long-term success and ongoing product adoption on your app.