12 Examples of UX Onboarding Patterns to Make Your Users Fall in Love with Your Product

Kosta Tiodorovic
January 20, 2023
10-minute read

Did you know that one out of four users will delete the app after the first use? Filling out the signup form is already a quest for a user. Right after it, a newcomer faces a new challenge – actually using the service. Even the most aesthetically pleasing and intuitive design can be confusing and unclear for some users at first.

This early challenge might scare away some of your customers and make them abandon the digital experience. So it is crucial to communicate the value of your solution to a newcomer as quickly as possible. Here is when UX onboarding comes into play.

Asa design agency helping businesses to create digital products, we have learned user behaviors and know that a welcome scenario designed in a pleasant onboarding will surely pay off in the long run. In this article, you will learn what UX onboarding is and how to design the experience that will convert newcomers into happy users. Let us dive right in and start with a definition.

What is the onboarding user experience?

UX onboarding is the first experience the user gets within the digital product. UX onboarding familiarizes the new customer with a product or service and guides them to reach their goals with your solution. Another core purpose of onboarding is to teach a newcomer how to navigate inside your platform.

The trick is to let your user feel like they are onboarding them self, without realizing they are studying at all. It is essential to make this journey as engaging and easy as possible. A proper UX onboarding is designed with a mission to anticipate the mindset of your user and tailor their experience to their needs.

Why UX onboarding is so important?

UX onboarding is not only a great way to show that you care about your users but also a chance to teach them how to use your product.

UX onboarding can steer your user straight to the "aha" moment – when they realize the value of your solution for the first time or feel little pleasant discoveries when interacting with the product.

The first impression given by onboarding is a very impactful factor for users to convert from a free trial to a version with a paid subscription. Confusion or frustration at this point will easily scare your potential customers away.

Now that you know what UX onboarding experience is and why it is important, let’s explore what UX onboarding patterns are there.

Examples of the most common user onboarding patterns

UX onboarding patterns are standardized scenarios designers can use to create a user's experience according to a specific context. These patterns serve designers well, saving time and giving the solid base for creative design decisions. UX onboarding patterns are also important for users. When users interact with anew digital product for the first time, it’s easier for them to get comfortable with it if they see a familiar scenario.

Now, let us introduce you to the most commonly used UX onboarding examples:

1. Welcome screens

The starting point of any onboarding journey is a screen with a welcoming message to a user. This part is very important for making the first impression on a newcomer. Sometimes well-designed welcome screens are just enough to onboard users.

Trello first impression for newcomers
Imagesource: Trello web application

2. First-look tour

This series of screens is used to welcome a new user in a more expanded way than a welcome screen. First-look tours introduce your product to new customers and communicate the value of a product to a customer, often with a dash of humor or entertainment.

increasing value of the product to a customer with humor
Imagesource: Notion mobile app

3. Walk through tour

This onboarding UX pattern aims to instruct users about specifics of your platform and introduces them to the core futures. Screen by screen the tour explains how the newcomer can use the solution and what they will achieve.

walk trough tour for ux onboarding ux pattern
Imagesource: Seek mobile app

4. Checklists

You can design your product onboarding as a list of actions that you want your user to take.

Onboarding checklist for users to click
Image source: Quip web application

No doubt, it is very satisfying to check things off! Such a simple trick makes whole onboarding easier.  

5. Tooltips

This type of onboarding is one of the most common. Designed to deliver specific advice or tip regarding a certain feature your user is pointing at, tooltips are easy to digest and informative. It is a very useful pattern to let your users educate themselves without much effort.

onboarding tooltips for user education

6. Hotspots

Hotspots are brightly colored dots that appear on the screen similar to a tooltip. Unlike tooltips, this UX pattern can be used to teach additional product functionality as they are less noticeable to a user.

ux teaching less noticeable functionality

7. Progress bar

Hands down, the most common onboarding pattern among all! However there’s a good reason for it. This pattern works as a simple visualization of a user's progress in the onboarding process.

progress bar for user onboarding process
Image source: Busuu web application

And it does motivate users to complete an activation process.

8. Blank slate tips

This clever UX onboarding pattern transforms a blank section of your product into a space that educates and encourages users to begin with their project. A small guide, that exists until replaced with content, makes a blank canvas less intimidating for users, like in the Grammarly example below.

empty space drives user to start a project

or Hemingway app:

App helping user to see what can be done better

9. Demo content

This pattern with the help of a fictional example demonstrates how the user's input can be created. It comes in handy to ease the first user experience with complex types of products, nudging a newcomer to start with their process based on onboarding examples.  

10. Touchable video

A type of video content that contains engineered pause points. To continue watching, the user must interact with the video, which keeps them engaged. The video format is very well suited for easy absorption of information, while the touchable aspect keep the user from getting bored and let them learn at their own pace.

user understand better by watching a video of product or service
Imagesource: Wyzowl https://www.wyzowl.com/video-marketing-statistics/

And as statistics show, video increases the understanding of the product, so it’s a good choice for onboarding.

11. Simulation

In some cases, simulation is what a user needs to comprehend the value of your product. A conversation with an AI assistant can help a customer to feel more secure and confident while getting to know your solution.

Video source:

https://dribbble.com/shots/19560918-Jarvis-App-with-AI-voice-assistant-for-recruitment-services
With this UX onboarding pattern, your design team can create an excellent human-like interaction to educate your users in a “show don’t tell” manner.

12. Contextual onboarding

This pattern is the most personalized, it adjusts and interacts with a user, targeting their needs. Learning about your customer and implementing this knowledge, adds a personal touch to onboarding and makes your user feel important.

user adding personal touch for brand onboarding

UX onboarding design challenges

As you already know, the process of acclimating someone new to a product or service is a complex one. And sometimes impossible to create a consistent and complete onboarding experience using just one of these patterns. Here comes a new challenge of combining them. Rather, think about onboarding as a flow that takes users from a welcome screen to a fully personalized experience.

The patterns we mentioned above are rather universal scenarios and in real life it requires a great skill to apply them. For example, there are onboarding methods suitable for a particular stage of a user's journey. A newcomer who needs to catch up with the basics will require a different approach than a user who wants to learn a specific feature and so on. So how to not get lost among the ready patterns and design a great user onboarding journey?

How to design a great UX onboarding?

Our design team has designed multiple user onboardings and today we want to share some dos and don'ts on this matter.

To create a good user onboarding follow this advice:

  • Base onboarding design on user research. To pick the right onboarding pattern and design a perfect experience is impossible without knowing who you design for. To engage users and design a great onboarding UX, you need to base your design decisions on solid user research. Study your users and their pains, empathize with them and create an onboarding experience that will win their heart.
  • Keep it short and prioritize. A user can be easily overwhelmed and lost if given too much information at once. Though it might be tempting to introduce a newcomer to all the cool features that your product has, try to keep the onboarding brief enough to spark an interest and communicate the value of your product.
  • Remind your users the core value. In most cases, users download your product with a specific goal in mind. They have a need and expect you to solve it. Reminding them the core value of your solution in the first couple minutes of product experience sets their expectations and communicates to customers that they are in the right place.
  • Reduce UX friction. The only way to create a successful onboarding flow is to prevent all the friction a first-time user might bump into. Not to ruin the first impression with your product, pay extra attention to the user journey and keep it as logical as possible.
  • Personalize onboarding journey to user's needs. If your solution targets a wide variety of users, make sure to customize their first experience with your app. Keep in mind that people do not have the same job roles and purposes, therefore, will engage with a product differently. Collecting more information about customers during the sign-up phase will be helpful in segmenting your users and adapting onboarding scenarios to their persona.

Following the advice above will help you create a good product. But there are also pitfalls to avoid. Users often get frustrated during onboarding. We have collected the most common UX onboarding mistakes that can make your customers churn:

  • Overpromise. Some products try to trick the users, promising one thing but delivering something less cool. Users are smart, they usually notice such twists and it only causes frustration. Stick to your promises and your users will appreciate it.
  • Unclear copy. Vague wording is one of the common mistakes in onboarding. What is obvious to you is not always the same for your users. Confusion during onboarding leads straight to churn. Make sure you communicate the value of your product precise, clear and early on.
  • Using dark UX patterns. Using psychology to push users towards what is more beneficial to the company or stealing their private data is called dark patterns. It is unethical and often illegal. In your onboarding and overall in design do not cross line between helping your users to navigate through your product and steering them right where it benefits your company most. Put your users interest first and it will pay off in the future.
  • Pushing sales or asking for input too early. Many apps ask users to turn on notifications, fill in long questionnaires, or upscaling their features during the onboarding. Remember the trust principle we mentioned before. Offer value first and then ask for some action from your users.

We listed the most common onboarding types. There are also numerous strategies on how to make your product onboarding as effective and as interactive as possible. It’s for your design team to find out which pattern will fit best to your user's need sand your product specifics.

UX onboarding influences business metrics

Designing solutions for enterprises, we at Tenscope know that user onboarding directly influences business metrics. It can reduce early churn and can increase conversions to the upgrade plans.
As you already know any friction or trigger during the couple first minutes of experience with digital product can ruin the first impression.

To help our clients improve metrics, we always take psychology insights into account when designing user on boardings. Knowing how humans react, what triggers them and how to make the whole experience more appealing to target audience helps us create outstanding digital products.

Your product has only one shot to hook a user with a perfect welcome experience. If that moment is lost – a customer might be gone for good. You do not want to lose this moment with poor UX onboarding!

Contact us if you are looking for experienced UX professionals to design your product and get your customers onboard!

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