One of the most frequent questions we get from UX and customer success teams trying to improve their SaaS user onboarding experience is:
Which software companies have the best user onboarding experiences? Who can we turn to for some inspiration when it comes to providing a delightful user onboarding experience?
The answer isn’t always so straightforward.
When it comes to onboarding a new user the experience must be obsessively aligned with providing that first moment of value. Or, as we call it, the Aha! Moment.
The problem is that every SaaS is unique, each with their own Aha! Moment. As a result each SaaS Onboarding flow has to be unique.
For example, it’s so much easier to show value for an app like Slack as opposed to an enterprise software that requires a bunch of integrations to see any value from.
Having said that, we’ve studied several fast-growing SaaS products to give you the inspiration you need to nail that vital initial user onboarding experience.
We’re going to look at:
User Onboarding Experience Breakdown #1: Box
Box offers a secure platform for content management, workflows, and collaboration.
Here’s how it onboards new users…
Box has a fairly simple home page layout, with a prominent CTA, enabling new users to get up and running as soon as possible.
Clicking the CTA takes users to the pricing page, where they can see a breakdown of each price plan. This means users can immediately choose the most relevant plan for them. It also highlights the value proposition of Box.
Box then provides a fairly simple sign-up form, only asking for a few key details. It also repeats the main benefits of the product, so that they’re fresh in the user’s mind.
Once users access Box, they’re shown a brief tour of the product, with tooltips explaining how the product works. Note that the tooltips also explain the benefits of the feature, not simply how it works.
Box also makes use of empty states, by providing sample content in the form of a welcome pdf. This shows users how the product will work for them.
Here’s where Box’s onboarding gets really clever. When a user starts their free trial with Box, they’re given 14 days to use the product.
However, Box provides a checklist of onboarding tasks. Completing these tasks will extend the trial. It’s a great way of rewarding positive interactions with the product, and means new users are likely to reach the eventual Aha! Moment.
Box’s checklist also provides a progress line, so users can see how close they are to completion.
Every time a user starts one of the checklist tasks, Box ensures they know exactly what to do with useful and clear tooltips.
What we love about Box’s onboarding experience:
- Guides new users through every aspect from sign-up to first using the product.
- Gamifies the checklist by offering an extension to the free trial.
- Clear and compelling tooltips that not only show users how to do something, but why it’s so great.
User Onboarding Experience Breakdown #2: Productboard
Productboard is a product management tool, designed to help you gather feedback and then act on it.
Here’s what Productboard’s onboarding flow looks like…
The home page features a large “Try now” CTA that stands out thanks to the vivid color.
Once you enter your email address, Productboard asks you to validate it. Note how they provide links to the most popular email clients, reducing the friction as much as possible.
After clicking the link in the email, you’re presented with this screen. It uses a clever fill-in-the-blanks method of finding out more about you and your specific use case.
Finally, you’re taken inside the app and are immediately presented with a checklist. The items are designed to show you the key features that Productboard provides, enabling you to reach the Aha! Moment.
What we love about Productboard’s onboarding flow:
- Tries to reduce friction as much as possible, especially when validating your email address.
- Interesting and unique way of understanding your use case.
- Uses a checklist to drive user action.
User Onboarding Experience Breakdown #3: FullStory
FullStory records and reproduces real user experiences on your site, helping you support customers, boost conversions, and debug faster.
Here are a few things we’d like you to take note of from Fullstory’s user onboarding experience:
The landing page has a strong value proposition, with a clear CTA to signup for free. The highlighted ‘sign up free’ CTA pushes users in a subtle way to dive quickly into FullStory and initiate that first contact with the product.
As it waits for you to validate your email, FullStory takes a chance to gather feedback with a beautiful ‘How did you hear about us’ modal.
FullStory welcomes you back once you finish validating your email. It’s a friendly, personal touch that helps develop your relationship with your product.
The signup flow continues with persona-based questions. This helps FullStory enhance your experience as they continue learning about your use cases.
FullStory instantly pushes for activation. You will get almost no value if you don’t install the script, therefore they include this step in the signup onboarding experience.
What we love about FullStory’s onboarding experience:
- As a product with many use cases and various user personas, FullStory excels in learning about each user. This helps it personalize the onboarding for each persona and provide the most value for each specific use case.
- It pushes for activation (installing the JS code) early on during the signup process. This helps FullStory show value the minute the user lands on the main product UI, as they instantly start seeing real-time sessions playbacks.
- Beautiful trustworthy UI.
User Onboarding Experience Breakdown #4: Airtable
Airtable works like a spreadsheet but gives you the power of a database to organize anything. It’s a productivity and workflow alternative to spreadsheets.
Here are a couple of screenshots from their signup flow.
It’s easy to get started with Airtable, thanks to the clear CTA on the homepage.
Airtable’s onboarding flow starts with a video to reiterate value and make you excited for that first-run product experience.
Just like the FullStory example, Airtable tries to understand a new user’s persona and any relevant use cases.
Empty states where there’s currently no data are a great opportunity to drive action. Airtable make the most of these empty states with a clear CTA.
What we love about Airtable’s onboarding experience:
- Gets you into the UI without email verification — less friction, faster time-to-value.
- Takes advantage of empty states to push user action to create a new base.
- User persona questionnaire to learn more about use cases.
- Resource and Learning tab to help users ease into the UI.
- Simple and easy to use UI.
User Onboarding Experience Breakdown #5: Userpilot
Userpilot is a SaaS onboarding tool, designed to enable product teams to improve their product’s onboarding without any coding knowledge required.
It’s also our own product, and we’re pretty pleased with how we onboard our users…
Firstly, when a user clicks to get a free trial, it opens a conversation with our bot, Ava. Ava then asks for the user’s email. It’s a simple and straight-forward way of letting new users sign up. It’s also more conversational, which helps to develop a stronger relationship with the user.
Once the user has signed up with their trial link, Userpilot asks them for one key detail — the primary brand color they want to use. This one simple question means that users can start personalizing Userpilot to them, but without the friction of long forms.
Before users get started with Userpilot, we use this modal to explain the key benefits of our product. We then ask users to install the Chrome extension.
This is key to the success of our product, and so by asking users to install it upfront, we’re increasingly the likelihood of activation further down the line.
Once they’ve installed the Chrome extension, it’s time for the user to get started with Userpilot. We prompt them to create their first experience with a simple slideout. Note that the CTA stands out with its bold color.
Users can then get started with our product right away, thanks to the interactive tour. It explains what the user needs to do, but ultimately they’re the ones that do it. This way they learn by doing, and can start seeing value right away.
After users have worked through the initial interactive tour, they’re shown a checklist. If they’ve installed the extension and worked through the tour, then they’ll actually have completed all but one of the tasks. This means they can now focus on the final task, which is to install Userpilot on their app.
What we love about Userpilot’s onboarding:
- Reduces onboarding friction as much as possible.
- Focuses on the few key tasks required to reach the Aha! Moment.
- Uses an interactive tour so new users can experience how Userpilot works for themselves.
User Onboarding Experience Breakdown #6: StoryChief
StoryChief is a content marketing tool for startups, SEO marketers and editorial teams.
Here’s a quick breakdown of their user onboarding flow:
Storychief includes a customer testimonial in the signup flow to demonstrate trust. This reassures new users that they’ve made the right choice.
The onboarding experience starts with a welcome modal. It includes a brief video that introduces you to the product.
StoryChief then provides you with a checklist that drives users to take a linear path towards activation.
What we love about StoryChief’s onboarding experience:
- Efficient use of testimonials in the signup process.
- A beautiful and brief product tour to get you started with their UI.
- Takes advantage of onboarding checklists to accelerate user activation.
User Onboarding Experience Breakdown #7: Salesflare
Salesflare is a popular CRM, designed to automate most of the work.
It employs an interactive walkthrough to help drive users towards the Aha! Moment.
Salesflare’s home page features a striking CTA button. The red button contrasts with the blue background, making it stand out further.
The welcome screen introduces you to Salesflare, and asks you to take the interactive tour.
The tour then shows you some of the key features that Salesflare provides. The key part, however, is that you have to complete actions as you go along. This helps you to learn by doing.
At the end of the tour, right as you experience the Aha! Moment, Salesflare prompts you to connect with a range of different services. This is how they activate new users.
What we love about Salesflare’s onboarding:
- Uses an interactive tour so that new users learn by doing.
- Prompts activation right as users experience the Aha! Moment.
- A conversational approach to onboarding.
User Onboarding Experience Breakdown #8: Feedier
Feedier lets you collect valuable feedback by easily rewarding your customers.
Here are a couple of screenshots from their onboarding flow:
We love checklists, especially native ones. This one makes onboarding so much easier. You’re even given a video for each step to provide more information if you need it.
A beautiful modal welcomes new signups and enables you to opt-in the product tour. Note how it reassures you that it won’t take long (two minutes) to get started.
Feedier supplements their user onboarding flow with timely email onboarding sequences to enhance the overall user experience.
What we love about Feedier’s onboarding experience:
- Native checklists to get you set up through the journey of activation.
- Event-driven onboarding email sequence to keep pushing users through the activation process.
What can be learned from these 8 companies in terms of a great first-run product onboarding experience?
- The onboarding process starts right from the landing page – so make sure your value proposition is clear.
- If your product attracts different types of user personas or can be used in various use cases, then make sure to include personalization in the onboarding process. Grab more info about your users and adjust your onboarding flow accordingly.
- Get users to that initial ‘Aha!’ moment as soon as you can in the onboarding flow. If your product requires an essential integration before you can show value, then push for activation during the signup process.
- Use ‘Get Started’ pages or onboarding checklists to help guide users through the activation process.
- Take advantage of empty states in your product whenever you can. These empty states are a great way to natively push for user action.
Which one of the above best practices are you going to implement next? Do you have more examples? Feel free to share below.
About the Author
Aazar Ali Shad is the VP of Growth at Userpilot, and has more than 7 years of SaaS Experience. He is currently helping 700+ SaaS companies improve user onboarding and increase product adoption. He’s a SaaS Onboarding specialist.