4 Practical Ways to Enhance the User Onboarding Experience with UX/UI patterns

User onboarding is a make-or-break for customer retention. Make it count by applying these UX/UI patterns to the start of your user journey.

Ray Slater Berry
8 min read
4 Practical Ways to Enhance the User Onboarding Experience with UX/UI patterns

Most product managers know the importance of user onboarding and how critical it is to retain customers or convert customers from a free trial to a paid plan. However, just how important is UX when it comes to onboarding? 

This article will highlight just how heavily UX design can influence your onboarding processes and affect the overall user journey. We’ll also look at the best UX/UI design practices and examples and how you can apply UX/UI patterns to new feature releases.

What is onboarding user experience (UX) #

User onboarding UX is the first experience someone goes through when they start using your app or service. The onboarding experience is crucial in making sure a first-time user continues to use your tool and often guides them to their “Aha! moment” as quickly as possible to ensure continued use. 

Onboarding UX/UI design is every experience the user has in their onboarding process. It determines the relationship they develop with your business, the length of their user journey, and their sentiment towards your tool.

The importance of a delightful user onboarding flow #

It’s critical you provide a delightful in-product onboarding flow for newcomers. Your onboarding UX flow is the first time a user has ever really been alone with your tool. It’s the moment when your marketing and sales team step aside, remove the bells and whistles, and say: this is it. 

Therefore, it’s crucial that you continue to make a good impression and live up to expectations. 

The benefits of a smooth onboarding flow are: 

  • Higher retention rates

  • Lower churn rates

  • Higher free trial to conversion rates

  • Higher referral rates

  • Higher engagement rates 

  • Increase in CLTV 

  • Higher NPS 

Many of these metrics will determine the overall success of your business and will be a KPI for year-on-year revenue growth.

Designing the onboarding experience: How to recognize UX/UI patterns and choose the best fit for your product #

Recognizing UX patterns can help you build delightful onboarding experiences and drastically reduce the users’ time to value. There are a few UX and UI patterns that you can pick from that will help to build the perfect user experience for newcomers.

A few common UX patterns you may be familiar with are: 

  • Welcome messages: say hello and give your product personality

  • Progress bars: let a user know how close they are to completion and keep them around 

  • Product tours: show users around their new tool and showcase what it can do

  • Profile builds: give users an easy way to build their profile 

  • Checklists: let users know what’s left for their onboarding and give them a self-serve mentality 

  • Onboarding surveys: get to know users to tailor their in-product experience

The onboarding patterns we’ve mentioned above are just a few to consider within your onboarding flows and the beginning of the user journey. These patterns are consistently seen among SaaS brands that are leading the market. 

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4 inspirational onboarding user experience best practices and examples #

Ready to dive into some UX best practices and to see these patterns in action?

Let’s look at some brands that are doing UX onboarding the right way and setting UX best practices you can use to inspire your in-app messaging, interactive walkthroughs, account creation processes, and more.

1. Persona-based onboarding with Trello #

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Trello does a fantastic job at getting to know their first-time users throughout their onboarding journey. Trello doesn’t stop at getting and using someone’s name; they understand why someone is using the platform and what they hope to get out of it. 

As mentioned in Trello’s onboarding case study from Growth.Design, Trello reported a 36% lift in activation using a mix of personalization tactics in onboarding.  By getting to know someone better, Trello is building a relationship with the user and tailoring the onboarding experience.

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As you can see in the screenshot above, the example board name is what Trello suggests after users say they intend to use Trello for marketing. It’s a small touch that makes the app more relevant to the user and encourages a longer customer lifespan. 

Trello also manages to add a touch of personality, a playful way to introduce their user interface, and incorporate a completion bar on the left-hand side of this onboarding screen—all of these are great UX features to create happy users.

2. Onboarding checklists with Zendesk #

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Zendesk utilizes checklists to give users a better overview of the experience they’re about to have and create an interactive walkthrough. 

They don’t stop there; Zendesk takes things a step further by providing checklists tailored to customer needs. Their ‘get started’ checklist is a fantastic example of managing expectations and ensuring onboarding completion.

3. Greetings from Datacamp #

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Datacamp keeps things simple with their onboarding UX and starts with a “hello”. They manage expectations and introduce the onboarding process and product walkthrough in a single sentence. At the same time, they manage to deliver a dose of their brand personality too. 

What's more, Datacamp offers users the option to skip their onboarding tour altogether. Perhaps a user doesn’t feel like they need to take it—kudos to your marketing and sales team. 

Just know if you do offer the option to skip an onboarding tour, give users the option to pick it up later. You can do this via a pop-up the next time they log in or an email reminder. 

Lastly, cover anything essential with tooltips, so users can self-learn as they explore your product. Talking of tooltips…

4. Tooltips with Slack #

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Slack is famous for keeping the user front and center in its communication tool. 

Despite their product needing little to no introduction, they still need to educate users to ensure they hang around. Especially considering users need to decide after their free trial ends whether they’re going to continue using the tool or not—product guidance is critical for retention. 

Slack uses tooltips as a UX onboarding feature, guiding a user through their product and educating them as they do. Many of their tooltips focus on typical jobs-to-be-done. You’ll notice they try to get new users to achieve their jobs as quickly as possible.

Onboarding doesn’t stop in product #

Remember, onboarding UX doesn’t need to stop with in-app messaging. You can add barriers around your onboarding flows to keep users engaged when they’re out of your product. 

Consider extending your onboarding flow to customer life cycle emails, a customer-only social media group, or any other platform where you have communication set up with your customers. 

Onboarding also doesn’t stop with new users. You can borrow certain methods and some new UX/UI patterns to onboard existing users to new features.

How to efficiently introduce new features and keep users engaged throughout the product lifecycle #

New features keep users around. Suppose your product team is operating with an MVP strategy. In that case, there’s a high chance you’re likely to be listening to user feedback and continually evolving your product or fake door testing new feature ideas. 

When that new feature is ready to go to market, no matter how popular the fake door tests were or how much qualitative user research suggested this feature is a good idea, you need to onboard current users well. 

Here are five ways to increase new feature adoption using onboarding UX best practices.

1. Drive attention to new features with launchers #

Chameleon’s Launchers are a great way for you to grab user’s attention upon entering your app. You can use launchers to draw attention to a new feature button that could otherwise be overlooked, or you can present release notes as a checklist for users to learn more.

2. Show people around with tours #

Chameleon’s Tours can show a user around a new feature efficiently, so they can continue to go about their job to be done. We analyzed 214+ million end-user interactions and found that three-step product tours are the most likely to be completed with a 66% completion rate.

3. Introduce new features with release notes #

Release notes are critical in announcing new features and getting people excited to use them. They can even serve as a product re-engagement tool if you meet users in their inboxes. 

Building on this, release notes don’t need to be solely for current users. They can be the instigator for lead acquisition or even support a lead conversion—perhaps your feature is just the ticket someone was looking for to become a paying customer. 

What’s important is that you deliver them with the user experience in mind and tailor them depending on the channel you’re delivering them. For example, release notes published on social media or within your app will look a lot shorter and more dynamic than a release notes article.

4. Get back to beta with fake door tests #

If you ran fake door tests to build your new feature, then there’s a high chance you already have a cohort of users that expressed interest in the feature or even became beta testers. 

Reach out to these people and let them know the feature is now available to them. You can use in-app Microsurveys to ask for user feedback on the feature and get users responsible for its use and success.

5. Show feature value with product videos #

Lastly, show the value of your new feature with a product feature video. What does a user need to read, and what are they better off seeing and listening to? Make your video short, sweet, and educational. You want to spark curiosity to use the feature while ensuring users know what to do when they get there. 

There are some great user onboarding tools that you can use to increase new feature adoption and the user experience. Video tools like Demio or Loom, Segment for customer profiling, and Chameleon for in-app feature onboarding.

Closing this UX journey, for now #

Successful user onboarding starts and ends with user experience. Remember, your product onboarding is the first time the user is truly alone with your tool. It’s critical to make a good impression (again) and give them the knowledge and experience they need to succeed with your tool. 

No matter how long—or short—your onboarding is, this process essentially dictates if a user hangs around or not. It’s the first introduction someone has to a product journey. Catch them while you have the majority of their attention and give them exactly what they need to get to their “Aha! moment” quickly.

Create in-app bumpers with Chameleon

Increase activation with product tours, boost adoption with tooltips, get user feedback with surveys, and offer guidance with checklists.

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