Basic elements of a successful user onboarding

People say that good first impression is of utmost importance. An application may be treated similarly, if not the same way. Make a bad first impression and your newly-released app is dead right away.

When we talk about apps, the ‘first impression’ is referred to as user onboarding and it covers all design elements corresponding to the conversion of a new user to a regular customer of your product. You don’t want your app to die on launch day, right?

What the user onboarding is exactly?

As mentioned before, it is a number of design traits and solutions that can help you change almost any fresh user into a regular. User onboarding consists of things such as sign-up form, tutorial policy and regular, clear feedback from the application and it covers both macroelements (whole screens and modules) and microelements (design of the ‘next’ button). To be plain and simple – user onboarding is the first couple minutes a user will spend on your application. Making it worthwhile for the user will make it worthwhile for you.

I’ll be talking about three main areas in which you can boost the user onboarding ideas – landing page,and. Paying attention to these three elements can easily raise the successfulness of your user onboarding.

Landing page – the first impression of ‘the first impression’

Let’s start at the beginning. A landing page is the first contact of a new user with you and your product.

  • A standard procedure is to throw in some inspiring, stylish banner with a nice slogan speaking directly to your user.

  • Show your user what she/he can do with your app rather than what the app can do. Try not to advertise your product on your landing page. Instead, give a social proof. You can throw some good quotes and third parties’ opinions about your products.

Kickstarter does a great job with their landing page. You are constantly reminded why you came here in the first place. Also, you take a look at our homepage to see what I mean exactly. Of course, you can get creative with your landing page. Check out these 15 best landing pages .

Sign up

I can safely say that almost all apps and platforms require sign ups to use them. And this is the first element that can go tragically wrong. No one likes to be asked too many questions and be spied on before they even know that they want to use your app for sure. And the feeling of being inspected doesn’t help.

It may be a good idea to require e-mail and password at the start. If the user wants to fill in all the details about his company, location, his dog’s name and favorite food she will fill it in later. It is almost mandatory to offer sign-ups with social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter or Google+ accounts. This doesn’t force a user to make a new, separate account for your app. It makes the sign-up process as short and easy as it is possible while offering you (the app owner) good insight into user’s profile. I’d say it is a win-win situation.

You may take Gmail as an example of too complicated and intrusive sign up form. The fact that people sign up for Gmail anyway is not a valid argument. Though, it can explain why it still so complicated.

On the other hand, Dropbox offers some really good sing up form . Everything is clear. Dropbox offers a sign up with Google account and does not require too much information.


Now, this is an extremely important element for a successful user onboarding. To make an easy to follow, clear and not intrusive tutorial for your app is truly a challenge. You may want to consider the things mentioned below:

• Make tutorial in such a way that it will remind your user why he really wants to use your app. Don’t write about what the app can do, but rather what the user can do with the app. A small but a big difference.

• Incorporate progress marker to your tutorial. I personally think that it is nice to know which step I am at and how much knowledge I still have to absorb before I can use the app.

• Even if your app is rather complicated in use (which I will not comment on here), make it possible for the first time user to skip the tutorial. There are some of those are allergic to the tutorials.

• Thank your user for doing things and cheer on his success. A simple, yet rewarding element for both user and you. Psychologically speaking, when you reward your user with messages like ‘Good job!’ and ‘Perfect’ you give them a positive response corresponding with the correct use of your app. This gives off a good vibe and makes your user remember things faster.

• Refrain from communicating (by messages, design of the tutorial etc.) with you user like he’s 10 years old. You know that people aren’t dummies, right? Especially the people using your app shouldn’t feel like that.

Below you can see an example of a well-designed tutorial. Google tells you at which point of the tutorial you are when you personalize your Google+ account (the right side of the screen).

They tell you what can you do with the app (not what app can do)!

They also inform you why you may want to do as they advise you and what will be the outcome of your action.

They refer directly to the user changing a simple tutorial into a more private relationship with the user.

Paying attention to the details

Pay attention to the details. Make sure that the buttons responsible for the actions you, the app owner, desire from the user are somehow highlighted. Nothing too forceful, though. Just make it clear what your user has to do to make his contact with your app successful.

Make sure you personally talk to your user through informational windows and advice bubbles. If you cannot decide between ‘Create an Account’ and ‘Account Creation’ on the head title of sign up page, go with the former. You basically communicate thing to each user separately, not all of them at once – each user will fill more special.

Finally, remember that these are just some general remarks – even if not very original they may help you identify some issues much sooner and prevent a disaster.

Comments and afterthoughts

User onboarding is a very important issue of any newly launched app or product. If you manage to create a great first impression you will feel it, trust me. The conversion rate of new users to regular users will surely go up. Additionally, the people responsible for marketing campaigns won’t have to work too hard to fill in for the user onboarding mistakes.

For further reference, you may want to check out the teardowns made by Samuel Hulick , a designer and an expert on the topic of user onboarding from .

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