In a product-led growth environment, your SaaS product speaks for itself. User acquisition, conversion, expansion, and retention are all driven by how much users love your product.
The first step to this, of course, is to ensure users do love your product. How can you do this? Simple—make sure they know exactly how to use it to make their job-to-be-done easier.
User onboarding is one of the key pillars of a strong product-led growth strategy—it’s how you get users to fall in love and stay with your product.
Remember, you’re always onboarding users—whether it’s during their first steps and actions within your product, or nudging them to try a new feature they haven’t discovered yet.
If you're chasing onboarding success, take a look at our eight best SaaS onboarding examples to inspire your onboarding flow. Let’s get going.
What makes user onboarding successful? #
There’s an art to user onboarding—it’s not as simple as a quick product guide to get users on their way. You don’t want to do too little, but you also don’t want to do too much. Product tours need to strike the right balance of product guidance and user discovery and friction.
How? By ensuring your onboarding experience is user-centric.
Ask your product team:
What does the user want to do with your product?
How can you guide them to important features that help them with their day-to-day tasks?
How do we get them to their ”aha!” moment as seamlessly as possible?
What features are going to be most beneficial to your users?
Answering these questions reveals some key considerations for your user onboarding experience that can be turned into best practices. Let’s take a look at some of the key best practices for successful onboarding.
Separate your onboarding flows by user persona #
How do you expect to create a personalized, user-centric, onboarding experience if you don’t know your users? User personas are key for identifying the types of users that need your product.
This helps you ensure you can build a tailored onboarding experience. A quick onboarding questionnaire gets you the answers you need to create a user-specific onboarding flow.
For example, let’s say you’ve created the next big online graphic design studio. It’s got all the bells and whistles, without the in-depth knowledge required to use traditional digital design studios—think Canva meets Adobe Photoshop.
How users engage with your product depends on their jobs to be done—the marketing interns aren’t using it to complete the same tasks as the finance team. Identifying your users, and creating flows that highlight the main features that help them, ensures you’re giving users a personalized experience right from the get-go.
This is also key for guiding them to their ”aha!” moment as smoothly as possible.
Guide users to their “aha!” moment quickly #
The “aha!” moment is an essential part of user onboarding—it’s the moment your users encounter a feature that highlights exactly why they need your product.
Helping guide users towards their “aha!” moment is a key step in your onboarding process, and you need to do it fast. Onboarding tour completion drops below 50% for any tour under or over three steps in length. A three-step tour is your sweet spot with a 72% completion rate.
So, you’ve got three steps to get users to their “aha!” moment—you need to make them count. Keep UX principles of design in mind when designing your onboarding steps, and ensure you build your steps following onboarding UI patterns.
Keep it short and sweet #
We just spoke about tour length—now, we’re talking about tour step length. Are you with us?
User onboarding tours should be straight to the point—your users don’t want to spend ages reading your copy. They want snappy copy that gives them the info they need to take their next steps. Here’s an example, and you can find more info about the importance of copy for product tours in our Benchmark Report.
Never stop onboarding users #
User onboarding is an ongoing process that enables you to continually highlight and deliver value to users—whether they’re new or old.
You’ll likely introduce new features as your product evolves—meaning you’ll require new feature onboarding for users. An awesome user onboarding experience doesn’t stop after the first steps—it continues to guide users throughout their time using your product.
Now, we’ll have a look at some of the best user onboarding examples that put these practices to use.
8 best onboarding examples #
No two onboarding strategies are the same, because no two products are the same. Your onboarding experience should highlight the uniqueness of your product, and why users can’t do without it.
Let’s take a look at eight brands getting SaaS onboarding right.
Example #1: Duolingo sets users up for success #
Duolingo offers a modern approach to learning another language, and their onboarding process encourages you to get started straight away.
Duolingo’s onboarding flow starts when you select a language to learn. It then guides you through a simple onboarding questionnaire to gather details on why you're learning a language and how you plan to go about it.
For example, it gives you the option to select a daily goal for time spent practicing your chosen language.
This onboarding flow sets you up for success by asking all the right questions and nudging you towards your first lesson.
The onboarding questionnaire finds out why you’re learning a language, how committed you are to learning it, and what level you’re starting at. It even enables you to set up reminders for your daily lessons—keeping you engaged from the get-go.
Example #2: Twitter offers quick and easy set-up #
Signing up for a Twitter account couldn’t be easier, the onboarding flow is super simple. It’s a brilliant example of making life easy for your users.
If that wasn’t enough, it’s also entirely skippable—ensuring users aren’t forced to make big profile decisions all at once. The only mandatory step in the entire onboarding process is following another account—be that your bestie or Beyoncé.
Twitter knows their product is easy to use, so they don’t waste time running you through the details. Instead, they provide a simple flow with minimal copy that encourages users to take the steps necessary to enjoy the platform.
Example #3: Canva guides users to their “aha!” moment #
Canva’s onboarding flow does a great job of getting users to their “aha!” moment, which—in the case of Canva—is the realization that anyone can create dazzling designs.
It’s a great mix of showing and doing. It shows users how easy Canva is to navigate and how expansive the collection of design tools is. It then enables the user to have a go at it themselves—this is the do.
The final step in their onboarding process encourages users to try a variety of tools and resources to create a design alongside one that’s already been made.
This enables them to put everything they’ve learned into practice, without feeling like they’re swimming in the deep with no floaties. It’s a great example of an interactive onboarding flow that encourages users to keep going.
Example #4: Ecosia keeps users motivated #
Ecosia is an environmentally-conscious way to search the web. Unlike other search engines, Ecosia uses its profits from ad revenue to plant trees all over the world.
This is something they highlight throughout their onboarding process. Most people who start using Ecosia do so in an attempt to contribute to a greener world—Ecosia knows this.
After downloading the Ecosia search extension, you’re met with congratulations and reassurance that you’ve made an environmentally conscious decision. This is continually reinforced by the constantly increasing tree count that’s featured on the search page.
Ecosia knows what you love about their product—and they drive it home at all stages of the onboarding process.
Example #5: Airtable offers a comprehensive onboarding #
Airtable walks users through the core features with well-placed modals that explain how the tool can help your organization. In-app messaging—such as tooltips, launchers, and more—is used to ensure new users get a full understanding of the tool’s functionalities and empowers them to learn as they go.
Following this, users are encouraged to watch an onboarding video that goes into even more depth. This is optional—not all users will want to watch the onboarding video. Giving options is key.
Finally, their onboarding is always accessible via the Help? button—which brings up a complete set of self-serve support options via a knowledge base. There, users can retake the onboarding tour, watch in-app tutorials and GIFs, and find more in-depth support articles.
Airtable’s onboarding experience ensures users always have access to onboarding materials that enable them to better use the tool. It’s simple, intuitive, and full to the gunnels with important information.
🦎 Tip: Find out how to use tooltips the right way to make better onboarding flows with tooltips.
Example #6: Carrot highlights value from the get-go #
Carrot does a great job of showing you exactly why you need it by starting the onboarding flow with a flex.
The first thing Carrot shows you is its ability to find all your abandoned shopping carts ever. That’s likely quite a shocking introduction and one that shows you the problem you didn’t know you had—a brilliant contextual onboarding experience.
The onboarding process then continues by showing you how easy it is to add items to your Carrot basket. It then summarizes the tool's key offerings to remind users about the value of the product.
The entire onboarding process is about highlighting Carrot’s value to users during their first-time user experience and helping to guide them towards their “aha!” moment.
Example #7: Levity provides high- and low-touch onboarding #
Levity is an AI solution that enables users to build their AI flows without the need for coding knowledge or expertise. For many users, AI can be a confusing concept—Levity does a great job of taking things step by step.
Alongside a useful onboarding tour, upon a user's first steps within the product, Levity also provides plenty of video tutorials and demos to help guide users through the process. Users aren’t made to sit through onboarding videos, but they’re available whenever they encounter an issue within the product.
Ensuring users know how to make the most of your product is an essential part of user onboarding—but they don’t have to take every step at once. Providing optional onboarding resources that dive deeper into the specifics of your product helps users take control of the learning experience.
Plus, a friendly face never hurts! In fact, using real-life humans in your onboarding videos helps increase familiarity and build stronger connections with your users from the get-go.
Example #8: Apple Music personalizes the onboarding UX #
Last but not least on our onboarding example’s list is Apple Music. It’s no surprise that an Apple product has ended up here—they’re known for sleek design and intuitive products. Their onboarding is no exception—it’s very on-brand.
Following the sign-up form and payment page, Apple Music walks users through an onboarding flow that gathers insights on what sort of music they’re into. This data then fuels recommendations and ensures users are shown relevant suggestions and releases.
Personalizing your onboarding flow enables you to provide a better product experience. It shows users you care about their unique interactions with your product.
The learnings: How these examples can help fuel your user onboarding strategy #
User onboarding has a lot to do with user psychology—understanding your users and their needs enables you to best serve them. First impressions count, and you want your user onboarding flow to make users excited to use your product.
It doesn’t end there though—you're continually supporting and guiding users through your product. Whether it’s videos, tours, self-serve onboarding, or more—make sure there’s always a safety net in place to catch confused users.
Consider these key takeaways from our top eight onboarding examples when creating your next onboarding flow:
Set users up for success by showing instead of telling
Ask users questions throughout the onboarding experience to gather better user insights
Highlight your product's key value as soon as possible, and remember this could be different for your different user personas
Provide comprehensive self-serve support options to help guide users when they’re stuck
Make user onboarding interactive with launchers, tooltips, microsurveys, and more
🦎 Tip: Check out our user onboarding checklist to ensure you’re hitting all the key points with your onboarding flow.
Off to your user onboarding success #
Consider yourself onboarded to the world of onboarding examples—you now know all the tips and tricks for creating a great onboarding experience that meets user expectations.
From keeping it short—both in terms of copy and content—to using user personas to deliver personalized experiences, user onboarding enables you to increase product adoption and retain customers.