Creating a great product onboarding experience - Mixpanel
Creating a great product onboarding experience
Product Foundations

Creating a great product onboarding experience

Last edited: Aug 16, 2022

Good user onboarding helps your users and reduces friction, thus increasing your product’s value. Learn how to optimize your user onboarding process here.

Tristan Jung Editor @ Mixpanel

First impressions are critical for a successful product. The moments after someone opens a new app influence future retention and usage. A good product onboarding experience can help achieve product-market fit and drive revenue, while a poor experience can drive customers away. 

We use the terms “product onboarding” and “user onboarding” interchangeably; you can read more about these concepts in our user onboarding explainer blog.

Understand your users

While it may sound trite, knowing your customers is the most important part of a product onboarding experience. The first step is to develop user personas to understand how and why customers interact with a product. Rather than assuming what customers want, companies should collect data (qualitative and quantitative) to create personas. Once companies understand and define their users, they can create a successful product onboarding experience. 

A product onboarding experience should guide users to an “aha” moment (or a value moment) where the app runs smoothly and the user recognizes how it can be useful. 

Quantitative data can help you with everything around the ‘aha’ moments, including improving user flows to get them to these moments faster,” Pulkit Agrawal, the CEO and co-founder of user onboarding assistance platform Chameleon, a Mixpanel partner, explained in a recent interview. “But qualitative data helps you define what the ‘aha’ moments are [for the persona you’re aiming for].” 

The quicker a company can find these insights and better understand how its users behave and what they want out of a product, the quicker they will find success. By understanding in-product experiences, companies can enable product-led growth and increase customer retention.

Simplify signups and logins

Most successful digital products are designed to be self-service. However, any self-service product needs to be outfitted with clear and intuitive workflows for customer onboarding. If the goal is to get the customer to an “aha” moment as efficiently as possible, it’s important to realize that very few people have “aha” moments while stuck filling out endless form responses. 

That means improving one of the most common sources of frustration: signup and login flows. Signing up for a product should have as little friction as possible. Too often, product onboarding misleads or distracts customers, either unintentionally or intentionally, leading to high abandon rates and reduced effectiveness. Something as simple as adding a progress bar or a clear FAQ section can markedly improve user experience. We’ve put together a list of best practices to get started.

If the signup process involves sending an email, the “call to action” and subject lines should be brief and to the point. The first interactions after account creation should also continue to clearly communicate with customers and give them tangible benefits upfront, even if it’s as simple as congratulating a user for clicking a button. 

Fine-tune your messaging

More on that last point: Product designers spend inordinate amounts of time communicating with users. However, companies are often “checking the boxes” and offering uninteresting email, push notification, and text messaging—sometimes through a limited selection of those channels—that leaves users stranded, bored, or confused during onboarding. 

“Brands who choose to drive all customers down the same path or don’t build a strategy around personalization risk alienating a portion of their audience,” said Joshua Hollander, a Client Success leader at product messaging platform OneSignal, a Mixpanel partner. “In today’s world, the different generations have grown up with a sense of individuality and control. It’s key to give these customers options in the way they communicate to you as well as how you communicate to them.”

In the product onboarding process, simply allowing users to select preferences for messaging channels they like and will be most responsive to can go a long way to ensuring that no potential customer gets left behind. Each method of communication has a different style and substance. Instead of wondering why customers aren’t “getting it,” companies can proactively improve their messaging by providing this simple customization.

This also sets a great foundation for companies to, after gathering more data about what their customers want, further tailor messaging content across their various groups of users moving forward, something that’s been shown to boost conversion rates by over 200%

Give users the support they need

There is no such thing as a stupid question during the product onboarding process. Product managers and engineers often overlook accessible customer support and assistance during the onboarding process, to their detriment. Wherever they are, users should have ready access to FAQs, help pages, and customer support.

Offering reliable and effective customer support gets users to the “aha” moment faster. As Pulkit Agrawal notes, “If the biker is a user and the hill is a product or service, the job is to help get them to the top.” If a user requires assistance or explanation to reach that moment, that’s where development focus needs to go.

Available support also helps “power users” discover more reasons to like a given product. If a product has a number of excellent features that are not properly explained, users will lose interest without ever getting to an “aha” moment. 

Product analytics leads to superior experiences

Throughout the design process, tracking user behavior is integral to success. If a company doesn’t know where users are experiencing pain, they cannot make adjustments. 

Product analytics tools like Mixpanel give businesses actionable and data-driven insights for product onboarding. These metrics allow you to boost adoption, increase retention, and enable product-led growth. 

How to use product analytics to improve user onboarding

Product analytics tools like Mixpanel can tell you where users are experiencing issues in high detail. Companies often can’t see this granular information and pay the price in high churn rates and dropoffs. With a product analytics tool, you can find where problems are occurring and break it down by demographic or device.  

Improving your product

At a retail location, it’s easy to find where customers lose interest when experiencing a product for the first time. In a digital experience, learning where customers are going is much harder. A modern product analytics tool can track user interactions and identify key areas where your product can use improvements. In addition, gaining access to specific metrics can focus product development and save your team valuable time and resources. 

Accommodating cohorts

Product managers are constantly trying to put themselves in their customers’ shoes. Using cohort functions, you can find where specific personas and demographics are finding success and where they are encountering roadblocks during onboarding. Mixpanel, for instance, allows you to easily sort groups along a number of categories, including user activity, characteristics, and device. These insights can help directly drive product changes and updates to improve product performance. 

Refining your self-service model  

Making changes to your user onboarding process without precise data is like swimming with your eyes closed. With product analytics like Mixpanel, you can measure results from experiments and tests to ensure what you’re doing actually improves on your key metrics. After discovering a pattern of behavior, you can refine the user journey, funnel, or self-service area and glean real-time insights on if it worked. These insights can also be easily shared to other parts of your organization to ensure everyone touching the product has the insights needed to help create a winning product onboarding experience.


Gain insights into how best to convert, engage, and retain your users with Mixpanel’s powerful product analytics. Try it free.

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