Jul 17

The Perfect Digital Product Onboarding Experience: Short, Sweet, & Customized


Estimated Reading Time:



Trust us when we say your digital product’s onboarding experience WILL make or break the customer’s perception of your business.

Getting your target audience interested in the product is the hard part. But if your onboarding flow isn’t equally engaging and efficient, you risk confusing your user or (even worse) boring them into indifference.

Interactivity is the name of the game when it comes to your digital product onboarding experience. It’s about familiarizing the user with the product while giving them hands-on experience with the features designed to make their lives easier.

What Goes Into A User-Friendly Onboarding Experience?

As with most things in UX design, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution that works for every kind of product. Your onboarding checklist can and will change depending on the type of product you’re creating, the end user, and the industry you’re designing for.

For example, a SaaS system may need an in-depth walkthrough of different flows so the user understands how to execute tasks. In contrast, a healthcare app may have certain restrictions for HIPPA compliance and need robust customization depending on the user’s condition.

There's no strict rulebook that every product onboarding should follow, but you should always consider these factors when defining the structure of your onboarding process:

  • Benefit-Forward: The user needs to understand the value of the product. Show them how they can accomplish a goal and the impact it creates.
  • User-Centric: Focus less on showing off the product and more on how the product fits into the user’s everyday life.
  • Functionality: Point out key elements and flows and show the user how to navigate them.
  • Action-Oriented: Give the user a simple task to perform so they can see how everything clicks.
  • Ever-Evolving: Your product will change as your business grows, creating opportunities to simplify and sharpen your onboarding process.

Even if your onboarding flow checks all these boxes, users may still speed-run the process and quickly click through each screen to start using the product. No harm, no foul. Just ensure they can access it whenever in case they get lost.

Chegg onboarding flow access

Best Practices For Creating a Better Digital Product Onboarding Experience

You’ve convinced the user to see what your product can do for them, now it’s time to deliver on that promise.

As a UX designer or a stakeholder bringing the product to life with one, you probably have a lot to say about your platform. The trouble is that you don’t have the time or space to tell the entire story within a few screens. 

So, how can you give the user the gist of your product before they start interacting with it themselves? And how can you keep them invested until they land on their dashboard?

Take Your Audience On A Quick Product Tour

If you’ve ever downloaded an app before (come on, it’s 2023), then you’ve probably swiped through a few informational screens before beginning the official onboarding process. They usually have some value props and point out key features to help users understand everything they can do with an app.

App designers do this to give users a preview of coming attractions. Whether you want to give the user a rundown of the end-to-end experience or educate them about a feature they didn’t know about beforehand, a quick product tour will help your audience grasp your platform’s full capabilities.

Plus, you can cut down on the average onboarding time by briefly touching on less important features or doing a quick tutorial on how the product behaves.

SchoolMessenger product preview

Go For The Guided Approach

Some product experiences are more involved than others. By that, we mean it’s much easier to swipe through a line-up of potential dates than fully automating a software database.

Where a quick product tour is useful for something entertainment or lifestyle focused, a SaaS system has more important ground to cover. It’s absolutely imperative that the user feels supported — but even then, you can’t overwhelm them with a wall of information.

A guided digital product onboarding experience allows users to learn as they go (not too slow or rushed). With informational call-outs, tips, and coaching, the user gets hands-on experience with your product while eliminating ambiguity around finding the content or features they need.

Formation digital product onboarding experience

Cater To Each User’s Unique Pain Points

If you have one of those multipurpose products, chances are that some features will be lower on the priority list depending on the type of user. Your onboarding flow helps you better understand each user's priorities and present content relevant to their needs. 

Keep in mind that you will have to collect some information from the user to know why they sought out your product. But that doesn’t mean they have to answer a million questions. 70% of customers are likely to abandon an onboarding process that takes over 20 minutes. Considering our online attention spans, a good portion of that percentage probably drops off earlier.

This is one of those scenarios where a little generalization won’t hurt. During your UX research, you probably grouped your target audience into personas. Use those previously defined personas to let users self-identify and tell you what they want from your product or service.

American Lash Association onboarding personas

Tailor The Experience To The User’s Preferences

Your onboarding flow allows you to learn a little more about your user. But with a few simple questions about the user’s tastes, you can show them how the product will personalize their experience.

Spotify’s onboarding process is an excellent example of how to gauge preferences before they start interacting with your product. By collecting data about the user’s favorite artists and podcasts during onboarding, Spotify provides a high level of personalization and recommends similar content to discover new music every time the user logs in.

Spotify onboarding experience
Source: Spotify (Via Leanplum)

Walk The User Through A Sample Task

What you don’t know is what you don’t know, especially when you’re using a new digital product for the first time. Sure, we can logically connect some dots about where to find settings or where certain buttons go — but for the most essential user flows, it’s best to show, not tell.

A sample task gives the user clear step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish a goal. By walking through each screen at their own pace, users can absorb more information actively. 

Plus, with tooltips or AI assistance, you can boost the user’s confidence while interacting with your product by addressing potential hurdles early on.

Grammarly demo document
Source: Grammarly (via GoodUX)

And Above All, Keep It Brief

Once the user creates their account, they’re too antsy to go through a drawn-out onboarding process.

There are a few different approaches you can take when you have a lot of ground to cover. For a more impatient user, you can enable a full product experience with a delayed sign-up. Let the user get the lay of the land and explore the features before they create an account (like Duolingo).

Onboarding should typically be anywhere from 5-10 steps, but if you need to collect more data, try breaking up your onboarding into distinct sections (basic info, plan selection, product tour, and so on). By segmenting everything into separate phases (and implementing a checklist or progress bar), the user will feel much less overwhelmed by everything they need to do.

Turn A First-Time Visitor Into A Product Loyalist With Your Onboarding Experience

Your digital product onboarding experience has the power to either wow users or drive them away. It should never (and we repeat, NEVER) be treated as an afterthought. 

While you’re designing, put yourself into the users' shoes and consider how you can help them fully immerse themselves in the product with your onboarding experience. Use your best judgment (along with the best practices listed above) to parse out what the first-time user needs to know and wants to see.

With a little UX strategy, testing, and ongoing iteration, you can create an onboarding experience that inspires confidence in your target audience and sparks long-term customer loyalty.

First impressions are everything in today’s market, and CreateApe is here to help you put your best foot forward. If you need a hand in shaping the perfect onboarding flow for your digital product, start a project with us today!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Latest Post
Subscribe to our Newsletter
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.


Related Articles

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Let’s Work Together!

It’s a jungle out there — let the Create Ape experts help you traverse the wilds as we take your project to new heights.