How to build a user onboarding flow

A strong user onboarding process leads to more engaged, more retained users, and reduces customer churn. In this article, we'll walk through the user onboarding best practices.

What are user onboarding best practices?

It’s pretty alarming that after a month, almost all new app users have split or lost interest in the product. To make sure your retention numbers stay high and churn stays low, keep in mind some general customer onboarding best practices.

  • Create an onboarding summary. Our list of general onboarding best practices is all well and good, but a one-size-fits-all onboarding process is No. 1 on the list of onboarding worst practices.
  • Know your customer. This is non-negotiable. Onboarding must be geared toward the user – not the other way around. It’s easy to fall into the trap of making onboarding about your amazing product. Instead, create a user experience based on the customer’s persona.

EasyPark, a mobile app that helps users find parking, use Mixpanel to optimize its onboarding process. A Funnels report revealed that EasyPark was one of those apps that experience a high rate of customer churn very early after users download the tool. So they simplified their onboarding steps and found they could remove an entire stage of the registration process. Following the onboarding upgrade, registration numbers soared 20%.

  • Hook new users by letting them discover and experience “wow” moments. Rather than telling customers how your product will be beneficial, allow them to experience it. Start by prompting them to begin a new task. With Slack, the hook occurs as soon as the new user sends an invitation to colleagues. And once the colleagues accept the invite, the new team can start trading messages, files, and gifs in the same Slack channel or in a private direct-message conversation.
  • Review customer onboarding progress. If you notice a step that tends to lose users, you’ve identified a problem that needs a remedy ASAP.

DashThis is a cloud-based marketing solutions system. Product managers noticed a user-drop off spot in their onboarding process and turned to Mixpanel for help. “[DashThis] made some UX modifications, deleted and added steps, added some pop-ups to guide users along, and more.” As a result,  DashThis had a 50% increase in their free-to-paid funnel completion rate.

  • Provide tooltips.  These interface elements can be helpful for products and apps that have a learning curve and a lot of features. They offer additional assistance and help describe terms and functions. Tooltips should be non-invasive. Allow users the option to hide tips, advance to a new tip, or even end the tour or dialogue altogether.
  • Use progress bars or checklists so users can see how far they have to go. People don’t like unfinished tasks and will hold on to the memory of that task until it’s finished. It’s known as the Zeigarnik effect and you can use it to your advantage. First, the user has to see how much of the task there is left to do. For many people, the image of the nearly-completed task bar will sear into their memories. Once they finish the task, the nagging thought magically dissipates.

Product managers at HoneyBook (a client management software company) noted a 15% spike in new customer conversions when they added a progress bar in the event-creation pipeline.

  • Analyze your results. There’s always room for improvement, right? Find out what steps have the most churn and fix them. See if there are any tools that new customers don’t use. Maybe your tooltips or tutorials are too confusing. Does your product have a learning curve? If so, A/B testing can help you understand where customers get stuck.

Sunrun provides residential solar electricity. Their customers are concerned with understanding their energy consumption, which they can see on their mySunrun app. But surprisingly, the number of app users was dismally low. To find out why, the team created “an installation tracker to make onboarding as seamless and easy as possible … [and to] test which metrics and milestones it exposes to consumers within the app, and analyze the results.” In response to the high number of time-consuming inbound calls to customer service, the Sunrun team realized they needed to better design their educational onboarding content. “By giving customers a clear view of what they wanted to learn, the team drove [app] adoption [users] by over 50%.