Everything You Need To Know About SaaS Onboarding [8 Best Examples]
What is SaaS onboarding? What are the best practices? How do you create great user onboarding experiences?
When it comes to onboarding a new user, the onboarding experience must be focused on providing that first moment of value.
In this post, we’ll go over the basics for great user onboarding and then show 8 of our favourite SaaS onboarding examples.
(or TL;DR – you can build amazing user onboarding with Userpilot, no coding needed!)
What is SaaS onboarding?
SaaS onboarding refers to the process of helping new users of a “Software as a Service” get set up so that the user will realize the value of the product quickly.
What are SaaS onboarding experiences?
User onboarding experiences are all the interactions that a user has with your SaaS product onboarding at the beginning of their user journey.
Starting from the signup flow, you’ll generally have a welcome screen and some initial experiences/interactions.
In the first few seconds, your user may have a great experience that will lead them to the Aha! moment (the moment when they realize the value of your product). They’ll likely activate and maybe convert from free trial to paid.
Or, they might have a terrible and confusing experience (think empty states, irrelevant flows) and decide to end their adventure with your product.
How to build the best SaaS onboarding experiences (and best practices)
1. Reduce friction
*Disclaimer: sometimes friction-based onboarding may be beneficial (e.g. highly complex enterprise platforms that require a lot of technical setups and human help).
2. Start with a welcome screen, ideally with a microsurvey
Once your user signs up for your tool, welcome them! But make it worthwhile by asking them 1-2 questions about what they want to accomplish, or adding buttons that would allow them to “choose they own journey”.
Using the welcome screen to segment your new users by the goals they want to achieve can be game-changing. You will get them to accomplish their Job-To-Be-Done faster, reduce their time-to value, and generally help them activate much sooner than if you drag them on a one size fits all 20-step-long product tour.
3. Segment your users (personalization)
Tip: Apart from your welcome screen responses, you can continue to create more segments (and serve more relevant in-app experiences) based on user attributes, or user behavior.
4. Create an onboarding checklist with a progress bar
The purpose of good user onboarding in SaaS is to take the user on the shortest path to value. You need to know what the user wants to achieve and then show them the fastest route to achieving this goal/result.
Luckily, checklists are proven to naturally trigger our need to “close the open loop” and push the users to complete the activation points!
A successful checklist build means that users get to the Aha! moment and activate quickly! But be careful, don’t overload your checklist! And remember to throw in an incentive at the end to reward your new users.
Tooting our own horn here: Userpilot checklists come with their own set of analytics, so you’ll be able to see engagement stats and where people are dropping off so you can keep improving!
5. Build interactive walkthroughs, not linear product tours
Instead of a multistep tour that users may not remember, consider creating interactive walkthroughs.
Each step in their onboarding flow (or walkthrough) should be triggered by the required action from the previous step. You can see below that the experiences are triggered in reaction to the actions of the user, and follow the user’s own pace.
Not sure how to do this? Book a demo with Userpilot, we’ll show you step-by-step!
6. Remember, context matters
As you gather more user behaviour or user attribute data, you should work to keep onboarding experiences as relevant as possible to what your user is doing in your app.
Imagine you’re a user of a social media scheduling tool. You are supposed to schedule some posts for next week, but inspiration eludes you. You are typing a few words into the editor, deleting them, typing again… You don’t have any posts in your queue.
Wouldn’t a helping hand pointing you to the ready-made post calendar with content templates be great? A perfectly timed tooltip like the one below can work wonders here!
Contextual user onboarding in SaaS outperforms traditional linear onboarding any day of the week.
7. Use native tooltips
A good practice for your new user onboarding in SaaS is to use the more subtle native tooltips, especially at later stages in the user journey. Native tooltips are tooltips appended to your native UI that only unfurl when the user hovers over them. They are less disruptive than onboarding walkthroughs and can help especially with secondary feature adoption that the users can discover on their own.
8. Make sure your SaaS onboarding flow is self-serve
Ideally, your user should be able to go through your user onboarding process without having to wait for a Customer Success manager to find time for them. Self-serve, product-led SaaS should be accessible to its users 24/7.
Have a Resource Center available in-app allows the user to search all your help and onboarding documents on-demand, by keyword, can improve the user onboarding experience immensely.
9. Don’t just set it and forget it
Your work is not done when you’ve improved new user activation! What about secondary features? And how about new features? A feature release note will not be enough for your users to adopt them. You need to think about how to implement them into your evergreen onboarding flow.
Product managers/marketers responsible for onboarding often see it as a one-off ‘set it and forget it’ activity. This mindset can be really disastrous. Your product evolves all the time, your positioning, market and user personas change, and so should your user onboarding.
And that’s it!
Want to build all of the above? Book a demo with Userpilot and we’ll show you how! On top of user onboarding flows, Userpilot offers behaviour analytics, microsurveys and NPS, all customizable to your branding.
But wait, how do you improve your existing user onboarding experience?
If you’ve already built your SaaS user onboarding and just want to improve it, here are a few ways to troubleshoot and improve:
- Look at your user behavior analytics tools and see where users are dropping out or getting stuck – a session recording may be best for uncovering qualitative issues.
- Come up with some hypotheses on how to improve your onboarding experiences.
- Implement the improvements to your onboarding flows.
- A/B test your new onboarding flows
- Compare feature adoption goals for each experience variant (A – before, and B- after)
Hint: You can set feature adoption goals, tag features, and do product experiments (A/B tests) with Userpilot.
The 8 best SaaS onboarding examples
Best user onboarding experience #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.
Best onboarding experience #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.
Best SaaS onboarding example #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.
Best Onboarding Experience #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.
Best onboarding experience #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 increasing 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.
SaaS onboarding example #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.
SaaS onboarding example #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.
They’ve also added a checklist + help widget to educate the user.
They’ve everything to set up as a self-serve customer.
Instead of an academy, they have a video library.
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.
Best SaaS onboarding example #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 we’ve learned from these SaaS onboarding examples
So what’s the takeaway here?
- The onboarding process starts right from the landing page – make sure your value proposition is clear
- If your product attracts different types of user personas or use cases, then make sure to include personalization in the onboarding process
- 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
Want to get started on building amazing user onboarding experiences with Userpilot? Book a demo today!