User Onboarding Experience: How to Make an Unforgettable First Impression

First impressions can be everything! Create a unique onboarding experience and empower your users to make the most out of your product or service.

Gabriela Ross

Do you remember that time when Harry Potter had no idea of how magic worked? Well, sometimes using an app or site for the first time feels like that. You’re there waiting for the magic to happen, but are not sure if it’s going to work ーor maybe your wand is broken!

This is why user onboarding is so important. It’s the moment when you see how the magic happens. It’s when new users get to see the value your product or service is adding to their lives ーor not.

For example, have you abandoned an app after just one use? Don’t feel bad if you did! 25% of users do it. According to these statistics, onboarding is one of the main reasons for increased abandonment.

What’s user onboarding?

User onboarding is the process of introducing the user to your product or service through a series of onboarding screens, with three objectives in mind:

  1. Welcome the user with the benefits and functions of your product or service.
  2. Help the user set preferences and profile settings.
  3. Collect information to tailor the experience with specific types of content.

The user onboarding process is like meeting someone for the first time. It’s your opportunity to show the user the value of your app, website, and features. And it’s the first moment you get to ask and collect important information from new users, that you may need for further registration.

Three onboarding screens with illustrations and welcome message
Onboarding Screens Template.

Types of user onboarding

As you may have already experienced, there are different types of user onboarding. We’ll focus on the most common three.

  1. Benefit-focused: This type of onboarding demonstrates the benefits or the value for the user. It’s explanatory and shows them how to use the app.
  2. Function-focused: Explains core functions and how to use them.
  3. Progressive onboarding: This approach shows information progressively and only when it is relevant.

There are more options on how to showcase your value proposition and empower the users. No matter which one you choose, focus on simplicity. Remember, this is the first time someone is interacting with your product or service. You’re going for the “Aha!” moment not the “Ugh!” frustration feeling.

Tips for your onboarding design

We’ve covered the basics of the user onboarding process, so now it’s time to review the onboarding design. Let’s make sure your interface is crystal clear and drives users to perform specific actions, but most importantly, come back!

Increase retention by motivating your users in each part of their journey. It’s not just about a warm welcome. Your goal is to help them and set them all up for long-term success.

We listed these 5 tips you can put to practice, for the next time you’re working on your onboarding design.

1. Have a plan

Set your plan before you start designing your onboarding flow. Make the user experience as intuitive as possible. Be flexible with the process and especially, with your users. Make sure you know your target and be specific. Are they tech-savvy or not? What’s the problem they’re trying to solve?

2. Communicate effectively

If your users don’t understand how ーor why to use your product or service, they won’t use it. And just like in real life, personality matters. Make sure you speak your audience’s language and show them why you’re SO cool.

3. Fast & easy

Keep it simple. Create a smooth transition for your users. Encourage them to the next steps and not backward. Avoid having too many instructions on one screen.

Pro tip: If you want to save time in a collaborative design process, check these Figma Plugins to improve your creations.

Four onboarding screens featuring illustrations from the collection Nomads.
User onboarding experience featuring Nomads

4. More illustrations, less words

Customizable illustrations are a great way to reduce words and catch the attention of your new users. Adding doodles helps you connect with your users and keep them engaged. There’s no need to have a screen full of text all the time.

With Blush, you can access free illustrations to customize, and even if you’re not a designer, you can select any artist collection to make your onboarding design stand out. You can also adapt your illustrations according to your brand’s color palette.

5. Personalization matters

Let your creativity flow! Use animations or gamification in your UX strategy. Simple expressions like “That was fast” or “Awesome!” can come a long way when interacting. People want to talk to people, not brands, so just keep it real.

Every product onboarding experience is different, and it is a continuous process. Make sure you’re transparent with your users and don’t forget they are people looking for a solution. If you can make it useful and fun at the same time, it’ll be better perceived. You’ll get to see that positive impact reflected in your analytics and retention rates.

Examples of creative onboarding designs

These are some essential onboarding designs you can choose.

  1. Progress bar: It can be designed with colors, numbers, or checkmarks. A progress bar shows how long the onboarding experience is.
  2. Checklist: This is the list of tasks the user needs to complete during the onboarding process.
  3. Welcome message: Hello there! This is the friendly message the user gets while interacting with the product or service for the first time.
  4. Product tour: Explains the features and takes the user by the hand to understand the product or service.
  5. Persona-based: The user answers a survey with certain details to get a personalized experience.

Let’s see how these brands found a way with their magic for onboarding:

1. Duolingo

Duolingo is an education app where you get to learn and practice different languages. They’ve created a seamless onboarding experience. Their onboarding screens are just one tap per each, making it easier to find your way. Plus, you get to try the app and start a lesson immediately.

Duolingo takes advantage of different onboarding designs, like progress bars and persona-based. Duolingo uses illustrations not only for their onboarding experience but for all the learning process. It engages the users in a unique and fun way. You can even dress up their mascot, Duo!

Onboarding screens setting profile preferences on Duolingo learning app

2. Slack

Slack is a messaging app for business and team communication. They’ve created an onboarding experience that’s fast, easy, and simple. They provide just the right amount of information so you can get started in no time.

Slack engages with the user, letting them learn the product by using it. Making the process interactive from start to end. They guide you through a product tour that you can end at any point. It’s highlighted with brief key messages in bright colors.

Slack's onboarding screen with informative pop up message

3. Notion

Remember that your onboarding experience doesn’t have to follow the same path other products or services choose.

That’s the case for Notion, the all-in-one workspace for you or your team. Notion has a couple more steps in the onboarding process since it is focused on personalization. This allows you to get different templates that fit the size of your company and segment.

Notion takes customer roles as a base, to show relevant data for the users. Their design minimizes distractions through visual hierarchy, diversification, and spacing. This makes their onboarding experience interactive and focused on productivity.

Notion's onboarding screen with questions based on customer roles

4. Evernote

Evernote is a notes organizer app. Evernote onboarding experience focuses on functionalities and benefits. Their eye-catching design is a bright green that stands out with animations. Evernote’s progressive onboarding simplifies a complex workflow. Helping users learn how to best use the app.

Evernote's onboarding screens with product tour

5. My Fitness Pal

Fitness Pal is an app that helps you track your diet and exercise. Fitness Pal has created a clear onboarding for their new users. It is short and non-intrusive. Fitness Pal only asks the essential questions. You can discover the great number of features available at your own rhythm. They try to convince the users to get started and motivate them to keep going and achieve their weight goals.

Three onboarding screens from fitness app

Ready to create the best onboarding experience?

Now it’s your turn to make this world a better place with your awesome designs! This is your chance to create the best onboarding experience. Remember, it’s like meeting someone for the first time, so you want to make a good first impression.

Get our Onboarding Screens Template to start your magical creations. We’ll love to see what you’re up to. Tag your creations with #madewithblush or drop us a line on social!

Banner with illustrations and link to onboarding screens template