User Onboarding Process 101: Steps for Creating a Great User Onboarding Experience

User Onboarding Process 101: Steps for Creating a Great User Onboarding Experience
The ideal user onboarding process is centered around customer needs. It’s designed to address their pain points, reduce the time to value, and increase product adoption.
This article holds your hand and shows you practical steps to deliver engaging onboarding experiences that drive growth.


  • Why is user onboarding important? Because it aims to guide users toward getting repeated value from your product throughout the customer journey.
  • User onboarding is a continuous process that never really ends because you’ll keep updating your product and will have to onboard existing users.
A step-by-step guide to building a successful user onboarding process:
  1. Understand your user personas.
  2. Define activation points for each JTBD (key features they should engage with).
  3. Map the onboarding path to value.
  4. Design a contextual onboarding experience for each JTBD.
  5. Use the right onboarding elements at each stage (checklists, tooltips, hotspots, interactive walkthroughs, etc.).
  6. Collect JTBD data during the signup flow.
  7. Implement your contextual onboarding process for each use case.
  8. Track the success of your onboarding process.
  9. Collect user feedback when onboarding users. Use the insights to improve.
  10. A/B test your in-app onboarding to optimize results.
User onboarding flow examples to get you inspired:
  • Notion—onboarding signup form survey to identify user JTBD, then checklists and templates to help users understand the tool quickly.
  • Figma—branched onboarding for their two use cases. They also use welcome video and demo content to replace empty states.
  • ProdPad—gamified signup flow and checklists to keep users hooked.
With Userpilot, you can:
  • Track user onboarding experiences across the entire journey.
  • Use segmentation to build and personalize a progressive onboarding process.
  • Collect and analyze feedback to improve your process.

What is the goal of user onboarding?

The goal of user onboarding is to guide customers toward getting repeated value from your product throughout the customer journey.
Proper onboarding plays a major role in driving engagement and retention because users won’t struggle to use your platform.

Does user onboarding ever stop?

Short answer: User onboarding is a continuous process that never really stops.
When it comes to onboarding, some people only think about new user onboarding and building an onboarding process to guide users to activation, but there’s more to it.
Even after activation, you need to ensure customers engage with your product, consistently derive value from it, and become sticky users. For that to happen, you’ll have to trigger different user onboarding processes at every user journey stage.
We sometimes refer to onboarding processes after activation as product onboarding, but no matter what you call it, it’s all about guiding users and increasing customer satisfaction.

A step-by-step guide to building your first onboarding process

If you’re just starting or want to refine your process, here are the main steps you should follow.

1. Understand your users

This is where it all begins. Your onboarding process is effective to the level that you understand your user needs, preferences, jobs-to-be-done and tailor the onboarding flows accordingly.
Conduct user interviews and gather feedback from existing customers to gain valuable insights. You could also track product usage or watch session recordings to understand how different user segments engage with your tool.
Once done with that, you’re ready for the next step.

2. Define activation points for each JTBD

The activation point is the specific milestone or action indicating a user is deriving value from your product during onboarding.
Activation events might overlap but could also be slightly different for different JTBDs if your product caters to varying use cases. For example, possible activation events for B2B CRM software include:
  • Importing customer data
  • Adding leads and creating a sales pipeline
  • Setting up a customer support ticket system and integrating it with communication channels
Users who signed up to increase their sales efficiency, conversion rates, and team collaboration will be more interested in adding leads and creating a sales pipeline.
However, the activation event will differ for the user group more interested in improved customer satisfaction and faster response times. The critical activation point for these customers is setting up a support ticket system and integrating it with communication channels.
Of course, it doesn’t mean both user groups may not eventually explore all features of the CRM tool. Exploring every feature is how they unlock the product’s full potential.
However, starting with key feature activation is necessary to convince them that the product can solve their needs.
User activation happens at different phases in the user journey.

3. Map the onboarding path to value

After identifying the key activation point for each user group, it’s time to map out the activation paths. Doing this helps you streamline the path and easily spot and remove friction.
How to go about it?
Create a visual map that breaks down the steps users must take from signup until they reach the activation point. You can use a physical whiteboard, sticky notes, or visualization tools like Miro.
Once you’re done, go over the map again and remove any unnecessary steps. Prioritize the flow based on what’s essential for users to get started and experience value quickly.
For example, you might find that it’s more beneficial to eliminate unnecessary forms on your signup page, making it easy for users to get in ASAP.
Tinder’s simple golden path.

4. Design a contextual onboarding experience for each JTBD

Create a playbook that details how you’ll drive users to their activation points in a contextual way.
The playbook should cover:
  • Onboarding content: The information that you will provide during the user onboarding process. This could include text, images, videos, checkliststooltips, or interactive elements (more on those shortly).
  • Onboarding activities: The tasks users will need to complete during the onboarding process. These could include things like setting up their account, importing data, or creating a new project.
Keep the onboarding process simple and tailored to each user’s JTBD. Avoid using jargon or confusing instructions.
Customer onboarding playbook.

5. Onboarding elements you can use for the onboarding process

Onboarding elements make the onboarding process easy. They help you prompt the right action and drive users to activate quickly.
It’s almost impossible to conduct self-serve onboarding without using these elements:
SaaS onboarding elements.
  • User onboarding checklists with progress bars: Checklists are visual lists of tasks or actions users need to take to experience value. Adding a progress bar to your checklist gives users a sense of progress, motivating them to tick off every item on the list.
  • Tooltips and hotspot for short tips: Tooltips are small, text-based boxes that appear when a user hovers over a specific element of the interface. Hotspots are larger, more interactive elements that users can click to reveal additional information. Both tooltips and hotspots are perfect for offering just-in-time assistance to users.
  • Banners: These are prominent messages or notifications that appear at the top or bottom of the screen. They are used to remind users about important actions or updates during the onboarding process.
  • In-app step-by-step guides: These are interactive walkthroughs that lead users through specific tasks or processes within your app. They offer detailed guidance and often include buttons for users to advance to the next step.
  • Onboarding videos: Short, engaging videos that explain key concepts or demonstrate how to use specific features. They can be highly effective in conveying information.
  • Self-service resources: This could include things like help articles, FAQs, etc., arranged in a resource center to help users find information when stranded.
  • Onboarding emails: Automated messages sent to users’ email addresses to guide them through the onboarding process, prompt account upgrades, or deliver any relevant information.

6. Collect JTBD data during the signup flow

Collecting JTBD data during the signup flow is a strategic move to understand your users from the start.
You have two options:
  • Collect this data as part of the signup process
  • Or wait for new users to get into the product, then trigger a survey asking basic questions
For example, Loom triggers the survey below to allow users to self-identify their primary use case:
Loom’s signup survey for new users.
Once you’ve collected JTBD data during signup, use this information to personalize the user onboarding flows. Direct users to onboarding paths and content that align with their chosen job and goals.

7. Implement your contextual onboarding process for each use case

Now that you’ve laid the groundwork by following steps 1-6, it’s time to put your onboarding plan into action. You can implement your onboarding process in-house or use specialized onboarding tools.
Doing it in-house gives you complete control over the design and execution of the onboarding process. However, it’s resource-intensive.
A better alternative is to find an onboarding tool that gives you the same level of control and customization but lets you implement onboarding quickly, test and iterate faster, and track performance with ease.
Userpilot makes creating onboarding flows a walk in the park.

8. Track the success of your onboarding process

Once your contextual onboarding process is live, it’s crucial to continuously monitor and evaluate its performance.
Use your onboarding tool to study how users progress through the onboarding journey. Aim to find what makes the journey smooth and friction points that limit users.
Continuously gauge engagement levels so you can proactively respond when issues arise. This reduces churn and ensures more users complete the onboarding process.
User path analysis with Userpilot.

9. Collect user feedback during the onboarding process

Analytics has its place, but sometimes, nothing beats feedback from users.
Trigger in-app surveys to understand user reactions to your onboarding flows. Analyze the feedback and make changes to improve your onboarding experience.
In-app survey templates in Userpilot.

10. A/B test your in-app onboarding flows to optimize results

A/B testing is a critical practice that allows you to systematically refine and improve the onboarding experience.
No matter how perfect you think your onboarding process is, there will always be room for improvement.
By following steps 8 and 9 above to analyze user behavior and feedback, you can come up with hypotheses for making the flows better. Use A/B testing to confirm or dismiss your hypotheses and iterate.
For instance, when you have a low engagement rate, you could A/B test the best way to educate users about your features—short videos, text, walkthroughs, etc.
Userpilot allows you to perform A/B and multivariate tests.

User onboarding examples to get you inspired

An effective onboarding process blends technical finesse with creative flair.
While you’ve learned the steps to create one, let’s dive into real-life examples from top companies to spark your inspiration. Below, you’ll find three selected examples:

1. Notion user onboarding example

Similar to the Loom example we saw earlier, Notion uses a quick JTBD survey to understand users and tailor their experience.
Adding a small subheading that explains why Notion is collecting the information is an added motivation to ensure users click the right answer:
Notion’s JTBD survey.
For example, when you select “For personal use”, Notion uses templates to get users started.
Notion’s onboarding checklist.
Notice the checklist was designed to showcase how a Notion page works. With this approach, it’s hard for new users to not understand the tool after checking off every item on the list.

2. Figma user onboarding experience

Figma has two primary use cases: design and whiteboarding.
Based on these use cases, they use branched onboarding paths to ensure users jump right to what they came for. This approach increases onboarding engagement and activation rate.
Figma’s branched onboarding.
Figma also uses onboarding welcome videos and demo content to replace empty states.
Instead of facing an intimidating empty canvas, users are greeted with a friendly introduction that guides them through the basics:
Figma uses interactive walkthroughs, demo content, and welcome videos to guide users.

3. ProdPad user onboarding experience

ProdPad uses a gamified onboarding flow to keep the ideal users engaged.
How they do it: New users see a modal like the one below offering a trial extension for completing three tasks.
ProdPad’s gamified onboarding.
This approach does three things:
  • Completing the tasks provides a quick ‘Aha!’ moment for users.
  • It increases engagement during the trial period.
  • The tasks help ProdPad collect data about the user’s project and further tailor their experience.
ProdPad also uses a getting started checklist to drive onboarding completion:
ProdPad’s onboarding checklist.

How Userpilot can help you launch and improve your user onboarding process

Track user onboarding across the entire journey

Userpilot provides robust analytics features to enable you to see how new users interact with your tool.
Wondering how many users are using a key feature and for how long?
Use feature tags to select the feature you need to track:
Feature tags to track engagement.
You can use our Trends and Funnels features to track user behavior, analyze conversion rates, and track key user onboarding metrics.
For example, with Trends, you can see the number of new users that interacted with specific features over time. The data will help you decide which features are more utilized than others.
Funnels help you visualize and analyze the steps users go through to reach activation. You can conduct funnel analysis to identify drop-offs and conversion bottlenecks.
Funnel analysis on Userpilot.

Use segmentation to personalize user onboarding flows

With Userpilot, you can segment users based on JTBD, user behavior, or features adopted.
This allows you to trigger personalized experiences, improving user engagement and conversion.
Segmenting customers with Userpilot.
Additionally, you have access to different user interface patterns for onboarding the users you segmented:
  • Modals
  • Tooltips
  • Hotspots
  • Banners
  • Checklists with progress bars
  • Etc

Collect and analyze feedback to improve

Want to gather user feedback about the onboarding process?
Userpilot has got you covered. You can choose to build from scratch or quickly use our survey templates.
Userpilot has built-in survey analytics that let you easily measure survey results. For example, here’s what your NPS dashboard will look like:
Userpilot’s dedicated NPS dashboard.


Your onboarding flow is the first real interaction customers have with your product. As the saying goes, first impressions can either make or break the entire user experience.
Therefore, it’s crucial to invest in understanding your users and tailoring flows to their needs as much as possible.
Userpilot can help. Book a demo now to see how our platform can help you analyze user behavior, trigger personalized in-app experiences, and conduct surveys to refine your user onboarding process.
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