6 Underrated Strategies for Onboarding New Users

Onboarding new users is key. Here are some steps to make it the best.

Zight | December 21, 2020 | 13 min read time

Article Last Updated: July 13, 2023

6 Underrated Strategies for Onboarding New Users

Onboarding new users shouldn’t be hard.

It should be a creative, fun, and well-organized process that makes the user want to stay with the company for a long time.

In this post, we’ll be taking you through six strategies with examples for onboarding new users.

More specifically, we’re discussing the following:

  • How Slack educates new users
  • How HubSpot uses timelines to highlight important steps and actions
  • How Headspace gives users control of their journey
  • How Zight (formerly CloudApp) uses video user guides for faster and more effective onboarding.

Without further ado, let’s dive right in.

6 Underrated Strategies for Onboarding New Users

Strategy #1: Provide User Education

Strategy #2: Use Timelines to Highlight Important Actions

Strategy #3: Allow Users to Control Their Journey

Strategy #4: Share User Guides In Video Format

Strategy #5: Offer a Personalized Experience

Strategy #6: Employ Gamification

Strategy #1: Share User Guides In Video Format

A great strategy when onboarding new users is to use alternative types of user guides, like video user guides.

As you can see, videos have proven to be the most effective and engaging type of content shared on social media.‍

More specifically, 63% of engagement with social media content is attributed to videos.

This basically means that online users are more likely to be influenced by visual content like video and, in fact, they’re more likely to engage more with this type of content.

Why not use it to onboard your users in a fun way that’ll make them feel happy and actually motivated to engage with your product?

In simple terms, video guides are interactive and truly engaging.

Additionally, they usually use simple language and make it really easy for the user to follow the guide’s pace and start using the product hassle free.

Our example here is Zight (formerly CloudApp).

Example: Zight (formerly CloudApp)

Performing screen recording tasks might be slightly tricky for some users.

For that reason, Zight (formerly CloudApp) makes it easy; from the very beginning of user onboarding, users have all the resources they need, and know all the tips and tricks they need to make the most of such a powerful and handy tool.

Is there any way to explain the capabilities of a screen recording software better than showing it with a screen recorded video guide?

The users that sign up to use the tool also get an email, right after they’ve signed up with a video guide included.

The video guide takes users through the process of performing screen recording tasks, how to leave feedback, how to deal with pop up editor windows for screenshots they’ve taken, and so on and so forth.

In a few words, ‘how to’ videos are one of the most handy and comprehensive ways to give valuable information on how to use your tool’s different features to new users.

Put another way, using a tool like Zight (formerly CloudApp) in your user onboarding process allows you to show users how they can use your product correctly and efficiently, so they get the best experience and the most out of your product.

Moving to our next strategy for new users onboarding.

Strategy #2: Use Timelines to Highlight Important Actions

The second strategy we have for you is to use timelines to highlight important actions in the onboarding process.

Using timelines or other graphics is a great way to show the user where they are in terms of their onboarding.

Put another way, a timeline allows users to keep track of their onboarding journey with you.

The following example will help illustrate this strategy.

Example: HubSpot

HubSpot — which needs no introduction in the SaaS world — successfully tailors a smooth onboarding process and tasks for their new users.

They’re doing so by using a progress bar that highlights how much of the process has been completed already and how much is still left to go.

The progress bar follows the user during their onboarding process, thus making it easier for them to know how many steps are left to be completed.
Additionally, a progress bar might also work as a reminder to the user so they can finish up their onboarding process.

Using a progress bar, a timeline, or any type of graphic that reminds the user how much is left in the process basically gives them the opportunity to control part of their onboarding.

Moreover, such graphs help to avoid users dropping off because they lost their patience or they’ve no more time to dedicate to the onboarding.

To cut a long story short, you can definitely consider using a timeline creator to experiment with the look of the timeline that’ll accompany your new users in their onboarding process.

Here’s a few editable timeline templates:‍

The shapes, colors, and other visual elements you choose to use is entirely up to you.

Here’s a timeline by B2B SEO agency MINUTTIA that’s used to explain the growth framework of the agency to potential prospects.‍

The reason I’m showing you this, although it’s not part of the user onboarding process, is to show you that timelines and other types of graphics can be as diverse and imaginative as you want them to be.

In almost all cases, they’ll be representing a process visually, like your user onboarding process, which means that you want them to be as eye-catching and well made as possible.

Put simply, for a successful and efficient onboarding it’s essential to have a clear path as to what users need to do in order to complete the onboarding.

In cases where the steps aren’t clear, chances are that users aren’t going to follow them and they’re also less likely to continue using a tool or service they can’t use properly.

Visualization and presenting a clear path makes it easier for users to understand what they need to do.

Let’s now move on to the next strategy.

Strategy #3: Allow Users to Control Their Journey

The third strategy is to allow users to control their journey.

To allow users control their journey basically means that you incorporate elements throughout the onboarding process that gives them the opportunity to choose between various options.

This helps create a personal journey that represents their needs and helps fulfill their expectations from using your product.

Put another way, allowing users to control their journey can really make a difference and help them have an one-of-a-kind experience.

One-of-a-kind experiences make users want to come back and use your products/ services again and again.

Example: Headspace

Headspace is a wellness and meditation app.

From the very first onboarding steps, the user is the one controlling their journey by making choices based on what they need to use the app for.

To do so, the app gives new users a number of options.

Depending on the option one choses, they get different types of routes within the app.

In other words, the user’s journey is formed based on what they choose to do and the route is not predetermined by the app.

After having established what’s on one’s mind, the app offers options that are relevant to the user’s previous choices.

More specifically, we’ve selected the ‘staying focused’ option and now we’re getting information on how this is going to be achieved by using the app.

The solution in this instance is through meditation courses and soundscapes that’ll help clear the mind.

That’s how you can give your users absolute control of using your product the way they want and need to.

To give that kind of control to users makes it more likely that they’ll find your product useful and continue to engage with it in the future.

Moving on to the next strategy.

Strategy #4: Provide User Education

The first strategy we suggest is to use the power of user education when bringing in new users.

To educate your users on how to use your app and software basically means that you give them all the necessary information so they can start using it correctly and efficiently from the first moment after they sign up.

In other words, user education includes sharing tips and tricks to users so that they can get the most out of your product.

Let’s use an example to make this a bit more clear.

Example #1: Slack

Slack is a business communication and team messaging app.

When signing up for Slack, the onboarding process is smooth and all steps are highlighted clearly.

The following screenshots will give you a clear idea of how Slack welcomes its new users into the onboarding process.

First things first, the process is easy to get from the very beginning.

After having signed up, you get personalization options that’ll help the software tailor your workspace and make it easier for you to use it.

The user is asked to add their company’s name and what their team is working on as part of the registration process.

Once in the workspace, the user is introduced to its capabilities.

What we think is great about it is the fact that the app gives the user immediate access to informational content, with ‘get help’ and ‘quick start guide’ links.

For the sake of example, we’re following the quick start guide link.

Where does it take us?

Into a detailed, concise, and comprehensive guide about how to use the app.

Have a look:

In addition to all these, the app uses tool tips along the way to facilitate the process.

A nice way to do this, in terms of onboarding new users, would be to use a friendly chatbot that’ll give your new users vital information so they can go on having a positive experience with you.

Keep in mind that bots and AI will most probably play an important role in the future workplace, and in the way we onboard our new users.

Let’s take a look at another interesting example of user education as a way to onboard new users and teach them how to get the most out of your product.

Example #2: Respona

Our second example here comes from link building software Respona.

Respona uses video tutorials to give users information about how to perform certain tasks within the tool.

For example, let’s assume that you want to set up a new opportunity inside Respona — to get automated HARO and link building opportunities.

First, you’re going to click on “Opportunities”.

Next, you’re going to click on HARO, since this is the type of opportunity you want to create.

After having selected this, you can go on and set up your HARO opportunity.

The question though, is:

What if you don’t know how to do it?

What if you don’t know how to set it up properly?

Well, all you have to do is click on “Tutorial”.

Once you do, you’ll be able to watch a nice video tutorial on YouTube about how to perform that exact action.

We therefore understand that user education is very important, whether it’s for onboarding new users or existing users performing new tasks within your tool.

Moving on to our second strategy.

Strategy #5: Offer a Personalized Experience

Another great strategy when bringing on new users is to offer a personalized experience.

The following Forbes headline says it all:
In fact, personalized experiences have been reported to help create positive brand experiences for users.

Positive experiences can bring all sorts of amazing things, including customer loyalty.

Have a look at the charts below:

According to the graph, 77% of consumers have bought, paid for, or recommended a brand that has given them a personalized experience.

We therefore understand that personalization can play a significant role in creating strong user-company relationships that are based on truly giving the users exactly what they need.

In simple terms, personalization can make users feel that the company cares for their individual needs as well having created a product that’s addressed to human beings that are different from each other and probably need different things.

Personalization also helps a company show how inclusive and adaptable a product can be.

Why not bring in personalization from the very first moments users engage with a brand, which is during onboarding?

Let’s see how Grammarly deals with personalization in the user onboarding process.

Example: Grammarly

Grammarly is a writing assistant tool that follows some great personalization steps when onboarding new users.

They start by asking the new user what they’ll be using Grammarly for.

It can be for school projects, for work, or other projects.

After having set the writing needs their new user has, they go on trying to get more information that’ll make it more possible for Grammarly to provide the user with the service they need.

Have a look:

The ‘I want help with’ question makes the user feel that they will get personalized service, tailored to their needs.

We all love the feeling of receiving a carefully curated service that we actually need instead of generic tips that might not apply to our needs and to the challenges we might be facing.

Here’s the last step in the little personalization process Grammarly does:

It asks the user for a bit more context on what their writing needs are.

Personalization can be as easy and smooth as shown in those screenshots.

How much personalization you use in the user onboarding process is entirely up to you and the way you want to provide your users with tailored service from the very beginning.

For a tool like Grammarly, it’s extremely useful to ask specific questions and personalize the service.

Here’s an example of using personalization but not in such a personal and user specific way as Grammarly does.

This example comes from OTT platform Uscreen.‍

Although there’s only one personalization question, it manages to make the onboarding process more engaging and thoughtful.

Keep in mind that it affects the way new users feel and engage with your product positively.

Now, keep reading to find out our last strategy.

Strategy #6: Employ Gamification

The last strategy we advise you to follow is to employ gamification.

In a few words, gamification is about taking elements from games and incorporating them into other activities, like your user onboarding process.

When it comes to gamification, I like to use the following definition by G2.
To incorporate gamification into your onboarding process basically means that you make the whole process more fun and engaging for your new users.

It can be anything from a little quiz, to achieving small goals in a fun and unprecedented way through an app.

It can be small rewards that’ll be given to the user for their performance while using your product.

It doesn’t have to be something too game like – some elements of games that’ll fire up engagement will do.

A nice way to add game elements into your onboarding could be by using badges, progress bars, stickers, and other fun visual elements and graphs.

Example: Duolingo

Here’s a great example by language-learning website, Duolingo.

Duolingo is using gamification successfully both to onboard new users as well as keep them engaged within the platform.

The elements of gamification within the tool are plentiful.

More specifically, an example of a gamification element within the tool is that Duolingo gives crowns to users when they level up their skills:

Additionally, there’s a progress graph, where the user’s progress can be seen.

Note that there’s a daily goal that gives rewards in the form of points every time the user reaches it within the app.

One of our favorite gamification features in Duolingo are the badges that are given to users as a reward for reaching their learning goals, for scoring high, or for being engaged with their learning.

And they look great:

Talk about gamification in the user experience, right?

This sort of recognition and rewards can help a company keep their users engaged and give them motivation to keep using the product/app so that they can collect more badges, stickers, and points.

Also, it means users can basically continue having fun with the product.

Let’s wrap this up with some final thoughts.

Now Over to You‍

There you have it.

A list of six strategies you can use when onboarding your new users.

The whole idea behind building a great user onboarding experience is that you want them to stay with you for a long time and you also want to satisfy their needs.

To do so, keep in mind some of the strategies we’ve discussed in this post.

First of all, the effectiveness of using screen recording tools to capture how to videos, as well as the use of interesting graphics like timelines, to make the onboarding process more engaging for your new users.

Also, personalization is also a must when it comes to user onboarding.

Good luck onboarding your new users!

Author: Payman Taei

Bio: Payman Taei is UI/UX designer and the founder of Visme, an all-in-one visual communication platform empowering everyone to create and share beautiful interactive presentations, infographics, and other forms of engaging content with no design skills. He is also the co-founder of Respona, the all-in-one PR, and link building tool that combines personalization with productivity.

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