8 User Onboarding Best Practices for SaaS Companies by Yaakov Carno

8 User Onboarding Best Practices for SaaS Companies by Yaakov Carno cover

What are some user onboarding best practices? What’s user onboarding in the first place? What is its goal? Where does it start and where does it end? And, how to optimize it to provide an excellent user experience and reduce the time to value?

These are the questions that Yaakov Carno, a PLG enthusiast and the founder of Valubyl, discussed in our recent webinar.

User onboarding best practices for SaaS – Yaakov Carno.


  • User onboarding is the process of introducing users to a new product. Its goal is to show them how to use the product effectively to solve their problems.
  • Onboarding is crucial for product-led growth strategies, as it enables users to experience the product value before they commit to purchase.

Yaakov’s User Onboarding Best Practices for SaaS:

  1. Understanding users and their pain points is essential for designing successful onboarding experiences.
  2. Onboarding starts before users sign up for the product. Make sure your ads or website copy communicate your value proposition clearly.
  3. Set realistic expectations and avoid creating a value gap to ensure a positive experience.
  4. Map out the onboarding journey and evaluate each step to eliminate unnecessary tasks. Simplifying the journey will reduce the time to value.
  5. Use your knowledge of the users and their pain points to personalize the onboarding experience.
  6. Focus on Aha! moments, helping users experience value quickly.
  7. Don’t overwhelm users with too much information about product features. Focus on delivering small wins in the initial experience to engage them and encourage further exploration.
  8. To check Userpilot’s onboarding features, book the demo!

What is user onboarding?

User onboarding is the process of introducing users to a new product in a way that helps them understand its features and benefits.

The main goal of user onboarding is to quickly show users how to use the product effectively to solve their problems and satisfy their needs and wants.

User onboarding is an essential aspect of product-led growth strategies. It helps users experience the product value which increases the chances they convert into loyal paying customers.

Yaakov’s 8 user onboarding best practices for SaaS

So, how do you help your users experience product value? Let’s have a look at 8 user onboarding best practices that Yaakov was happy to share with us.

1. Understand your users and their pain points

Designing successful user onboarding experiences starts by identifying who your users are and what pain points they’re experiencing.

The odds are that your product is going to have multiple user personas. To successfully guide them to value, you need to design a bespoke onboarding flow focusing on their unique needs.

Yaakov’s protip: Use a template to map out your user personas and their pain points.

User onboarding best practices: use a template to map out your user personas
User onboarding best practices: use a template to map out your user personas.

2. Remember onboarding starts before signup

Many companies think that onboarding should start once the user signs up for the product. However, Yaakov thinks that’s a mistake:

“The journey begins with the very first interaction a potential user has with your brand – whether that’s seeing an ad, visiting your website, or hearing about you from a friend.”

This initial experience with your product defines how users feel about it for the rest of the journey. If the experience is negative or confusing, it’s a downward hill from there.

User onboarding best practices: start onboarding users before they sign up.

Yaakov’s protip: align all your marketing efforts to make sure your users understand what problems your product solves, just like Canva does with its strong focus on user goals.

canva messaging
Canva has consistent messaging throughout the user journey.

3. Set realistic expectations

Another way to deliver a positive first-time experience to potential customers is to set realistic expectations and avoid creating a value gap.

Why so?

Not delivering on marketing promises leads to disappointment and leaves a bad taste in their mouth:

“When the promise we offer in our marketing (perceived value) is heavily misaligned with what we actually deliver (experienced value), new users are likely to have a disappointing experience and may never come back”

User onboarding best practices: avoid value gap.

Yaakov’s protip: Ensure your product messaging and copy are aligned with what you’re actually providing.

4. Build for the beginner’s mind

Product professionals often get stuck in the trap of thinking that everyone knows what they know about the product. This results in overcomplicated onboarding experiences that only they can understand.

The consequence is that users who don’t know how to use the product when they first sign up, don’t get any value from it, and drop out. This is unfortunate given all the resources that were spent to bring them to this point.

“Assume your users don’t know how to get value out of your product. Your product is worthless to users that don’t know how to use it”

User onboarding best practices: build for the beginner’s mind.

So what’s the solution?

Simplify the onboarding journey and focus on guiding users to value as quickly as possible.

But don’t oversimplify. If it’s too simple, it may not make much sense to users and the results will be similar – they will fold.

Yaakov’s protip: optimize empty states, and fill them with checklists and simple tasks/messages, just like Notion does.

Notion onboarding checklist.

5. Personalize the onboarding experience

Personalized onboarding experiences are much more effective than one-size-fits-all solutions. Throwing a wide net and showing all the product has to offer at once is overwhelming and increases the time to value.

The good news is that if you’ve mapped out your user’s personas, you have a pretty good idea of who your users are and what they’re trying to achieve inside your product.

User onboarding best practices: personalize the experience.

Yaakov’s protip: Use a simple welcome survey to ask your users what problem they’re trying to solve and what their role is. Once you have the information, trigger a personalized onboarding flow. Show your appreciation by greeting users by their names.

Canva welcome survey.

Warning: don’t ask too many questions. Irrelevant questions add unnecessary friction.

6. Get users to value as quickly as possible

The main goal of user onboarding is to get users to realize value as quickly as possible without wasting their time – each second and click is important.

To do so, Yaakov recommends mapping out the user journey and evaluating each step to make sure that they’re necessary and intuitive.

Use a template to map out the user journey. Score each step on a scale of 1-3 based on how easy it is to complete, how necessary it is, and how simple it is.

By removing friction you reduce the time to value and create a positive user experience.

Yaakov’s protip: When evaluating each step, think also about what it takes to complete them outside the product, like finding and scanning documents they need to submit.

User onboarding best practices: map out onboarding the journey to eliminate unnecessary tasks.

7. Focus on the Aha! moments

Aha! moment is when the users experience the product value, so it’s an essential stage in the activation and adoption process.

As each user persona has different pain points, also their Aha! moments will be unique.

Yaakov’s protip: identify the Aha! moments when mapping user personas and their corresponding onboarding experiences.

User onboarding best practices: pain/solution mapping for creating Aha! moments.

8. Remember new users are not customers

When new users first log into the product, don’t overload them with information about all the functionality.

At this stage, we’re not trying to convince them to upgrade so this isn’t necessary. Instead, give them the initial experience of your product to show them that it can satisfy their needs.

“Users don’t need to see your entire product in the first session. Give your users a small win which proves to them that your product has what it needs.”

Only once you have the initial traction, introduce more complex features. When you deliver the first little win, you have their attention and they’re more willing to explore the product further.

Audience questions about user onboarding

Let’s now check out a few questions about implementing Yaakov’s user onboarding best practices from the webinar attendees.

1. Shall I focus on acquiring new customers or providing the best experience to the existing ones?

This depends on the company’s goals and the infrastructure they have in place.

If the focus is on acquisition and getting users into the product quickly, then optimizing the sign-up process is crucial.

If your focus is on product adoption and product expansion, shift focus to guiding them through the user journey to experience value.

2. What is the average rate of usage for onboarding flows? What percentage of users use flows and what percentage of them actually complete the flows? What should we be aiming for?

There is no specific average rate of usage or completion of flows that applies universally. The success metrics will vary depending on the product, industry, complexity, and target audience.

Start goal-setting by looking at industry benchmarks to get an idea of what you should be aiming for.

Next, study the existing data and set short-term goals. Experiment by introducing changes in small increments, test and adjust goals accordingly, the agile way.

3. How many steps should the survey at the beginning of the trial contain? In your experience, what percentage of users bounce back from completing the entire survey?

There’s no specific or magic number of steps. The shorter the better, but ultimately this depends on the product. More complex products require more steps.

As to the second part of the question, there’s no exact percentage of users bouncing back. But bear in mind that the fact that users complete the survey doesn’t mean they’re going to stay.

For example, a user may be able to complete a 20-question survey, but they’re going to be absolutely exhausted and insensitive to everything else you offer, and they will churn.

4. When does onboarding end and implementation start?

In complex products, the line between onboarding and implementation is often blurred. Instead of trying to define the borderline where one finishes and the other starts, focus on the goals you want to achieve and the next few steps.

Bear in mind also that onboarding is an iterative process that never ends. There’s primary onboarding, secondary onboarding, tertiary onboarding, and so on.

5. How to help users without ruining the experience with too many pop-ups?

Avoid excessive pop-ups and flows that may overwhelm users.

Instead, focus on making use of non-intrusive methods, such as tooltips, empty states, and checklists with strong CTAs to guide users effectively. And always make them optional.

Providing self-service resources like a knowledge base or tutorial videos can also help users learn about the product at their own pace without interrupting their experience.

6. How to avoid overloading customers at the beginning of the journey?

Ask users about their objectives to personalize the onboarding experience and focus on their specific goals to tailor the onboarding flow to what they need most. This will make the process more relevant and engaging.

Why not spell it out to users as “We’re going to use your answers to personalize your experience” like some companies already do?

7. How do you remove friction from complex tasks, like verifying customer ID in banking apps?

First, map out the onboarding journey and evaluate each step to eliminate the redundant ones.

Once you have the essential steps left, think of a way to simplify them as much as you can. You can’t remove the friction by eliminating the steps, so try doing it by helping users to complete each task.

How to use Userpilot for user onboarding?

Userpilot is a product growth platform. If you want to implement Yaakov’s user onboarding best practices for your SaaS product, this could be a solution for you!

What exactly can you do with Userpilot?

  • Collect customer data with welcome surveys – Userpilot allows you to collect basic user information so that you can personalize their onboarding experience.
A welcome survey
A welcome survey created in Userpilot.
  • Drive action from occupying empty states – with Userpilot, you can populate your empty states with welcome screens and checklists that will set users on their onboarding journey.
Onboarding checklist
Onboarding checklist.
  • Target user personas with personalized interactive walkthroughs – thanks to Userpilot, you can design interactive walkthroughs tailored to the needs of each user segment. This helps them experience value in less time.
Interactive walkthrough
Interactive walkthrough created with Userpilot.
  • Trigger contextual in-app guidance – tooltips, modals, banners, slideouts… you name it. Userpilot allows you to trigger them at the exact moment when they’re needed, for example, to prompt the user to engage with a valuable feature.
Trigger messages contextually
Trigger messages contextually.
Resource center
Resource center built in Userpilot.


User onboarding is a key ingredient of product-led growth. It helps users discover the product functionality, learn how to use it, and experience its value which is essential for growing a satisfied user population.

If you want to see how Userpilot can help you follow the user onboarding best practices we’ve covered, book the demo!

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