What is Onboarding UX? Different Pattern Types and Practices

Sakshi Gupta
July 1, 2024
14 mins


If you are wondering what good a simple onboarding UX would be, the answer is, ‘it could significantly increase retention rate and conversion.’ It can help users quickly value a product and adopt its key features.  Therefore, a good user onboarding UX is crucial for improving conversion rates and user retention. It sets the stage for how users perceive and interact with your application or website. Effective user onboarding UX ensures that new users understand the value of your product quickly and can navigate it with ease, reducing frustration and increasing satisfaction.

User onboarding is the process of guiding new users through your application or website, helping them understand its features and benefits. It's a key part of enhancing the user journey, making it more intuitive and enjoyable.

Comparing onboarding to exploring a new environment helps highlight its importance. Just as a well-designed map can help someone navigate a new city confidently, a well-crafted onboarding experience helps users feel comfortable and confident using a new application or website. This familiarity leads to better engagement and long-term retention. Let’s learn about onboarding UX and its different types of patterns and practices.

What is Onboarding UX?

Onboarding UX, or user experience, refers to the process and design of guiding new users through a product, application, or website. It helps users understand how to use the features and get the most value out of the product from the start. This often includes tutorials, welcome messages, tooltips, and interactive guides. 

Onboarding UX is crucial because it shapes the first impression users have of your product. A well-designed onboarding experience makes it easy for users to understand and use your product, reducing frustration and confusion. This initial ease of use leads to higher user satisfaction, increased engagement, and better retention rates. 

Effective onboarding UX helps turn new users into long-term, loyal customers by ensuring they see the value of your product quickly and effortlessly.! The following data will show how important onboarding experience can be for your business:

  • 89% of potential customers will consider switching to other solutions if the onboarding process for a tool they're currently using is complicated.
  • 65% of customers said they would consider giving a software tool with feature deficiencies a “second chance” if the tool provided a good onboarding experience.
  • 43% of users said onboarding checklists were a helpful piece of the onboarding puzzle.
  • 63% of customers think onboarding is key to deciding to subscribe to a product.
  • 74% of potential customers will switch to other solutions if the onboarding process is complicated.

With Nudge, you don’t need to worry about providing an excellent onboarding experience to users. Our features make sign-up easy and guide new users to their "aha moment" quickly using native onboarding tours, walkthroughs, and checklists.

Types of Onboarding UX

“If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.”  

- Dr Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover 

To understand the patterns of user experience, we should first look into the different types of it. Here are different types of onboarding experience: 

1. Comprehensive Onboarding UX

Comprehensive onboarding provides an in-depth introduction to the product, featuring detailed product tours, step-by-step walkthroughs, and checklists. This method ensures users thoroughly understand the product's features and functionality right from the start. It is particularly useful for complex products with multiple features that users need to grasp to get full value.

Example: When you sign up for a new project management tool like Asana, it guides you through setting up your first project, explaining each feature in detail. This ensures users can effectively manage their tasks and projects from the get-go.

Asana Onboarding System

Also read: Complete Guide To SaaS Onboarding With Examples And Best Practices

2. Contextual Onboarding UX

Contextual onboarding delivers relevant information just when the user needs it, using tooltips, hotspots, and feature guides. This type of onboarding enhances the user experience by providing guidance in real-time, without overwhelming the user with too much information at once.

Example: Facebook uses tooltips and hotspots to highlight new features or changes when you log in, ensuring you notice them without being overwhelmed. These subtle cues help users discover and understand new functionalities as they navigate the platform.

Facebook Onboarding

3. Announcement Onboarding UX

Announcement onboarding focuses on using modals and banners to inform users about updates, new features, or important changes. This type of onboarding ensures that users are always up-to-date with the latest improvements and can quickly adapt to new functionalities.

Example: Spotify uses banners and pop-up modals to announce new features, like playlist enhancements or updates to the app interface. This ensures users are kept informed and can take advantage of new features as soon as they become available.

Spotify Onboarding System

Also read: 35+ User Onboarding Tools To Design And Optimize Onboarding Journeys

4. Self-serve UX

Self-serve UX empowers users to explore the product at their own pace, often providing resources like help centers, FAQs, and video tutorials. This type of onboarding is ideal for users who prefer learning on their own and want to dive deeper into specific features as needed.

Example: Netflix allows users to explore its vast library of content and provides a help center with articles and videos to help users understand how to get the most out of their subscription. This self-serve approach caters to users who prefer to figure things out independently.

Netflix Onboarding Tour

5. Product Tour-based UX

A product tour-based UX provides a structured introduction to the main features of an application or website. This approach guides users through key functionalities in a sequential manner, ensuring they understand how to use the product effectively from the start.

Example: When you sign up for a new email service like Mailchimp, it takes you through a structured tour of its main features, including setting up your first email campaign, managing contacts, and analyzing results. This guided tour helps new users get up and running quickly.

Mailchimp Onboarding Process 

Detailed Overview of User Onboarding UX Patterns

“If you want a great site, you’ve got to test. After you’ve worked on a site for even a few weeks, you can’t see it fresh anymore. You know too much. The only way to find out if it really works is to test it.”  

– Steve Krug, Author 

Now, let’s see different patterns of onboarding. Understanding them is important because it will help you better determine which pattern would be best for your business. 

1. Welcome messages

Welcome messages are essential for establishing a positive first impression. They greet new users warmly and provide an overview of what they can expect from the product. A well-structured welcome message sets the tone, making users feel valued and encouraging them to explore further, thereby reducing drop-off rates and enhancing user engagement.

Example: Slack sends a friendly welcome message when you sign up, introducing you to the app and highlighting key features, making you feel instantly connected to the platform.

Slack's friendly welcome message during sign-up

2. Product Tours and Walkthroughs

Product tours and walkthroughs are crucial for acquainting users with the product’s interface and functionalities. These guided experiences walk users through key features step-by-step, ensuring they can navigate the product confidently and understand its value quickly, which is especially important for complex applications.

Example: When you start using Canva, it takes you through a product tour, showing you how to create and customize designs, making it easy to get started with your first project.

Canva in-app messages for product tour 

With Nudge, you can also take advantage of in-app messages to boost user experience and give them smooth navigation. 

3. Onboarding Surveys

Onboarding surveys gather essential information about user preferences and needs, allowing for a more personalized experience. By understanding user interests and goals, the product can tailor content and recommendations to enhance relevance and engagement, thereby improving user satisfaction and retention rates.

Example: When you sign up for Prime Video, it asks about your viewing preferences and favorite genres to suggest shows and movies that match your interests, personalizing your experience from the beginning.

Prime Video's personalized system for user experience 

Also read: 25 user onboarding examples with best practices

4. Checklists

Checklists serve as step-by-step guides that help users complete important tasks during onboarding. They provide a clear and structured path, ensuring users don’t miss any critical steps and become proficient in using the product’s essential features. This method boosts user confidence and reduces the learning curve.

Example: Trello uses checklists during onboarding to help users set up their first board, add cards, and invite team members, ensuring they understand the core functionalities of the tool.

Trello uses checklists during onboarding

5. Modals and Banners

Modals and banners are effective tools for communicating important updates or introducing new features. They grab the user’s attention without being too intrusive, ensuring that critical information is conveyed effectively. This helps keep users informed and engaged with the latest product developments.

Example: Spotify uses modals to announce new playlist features or app updates, ensuring users are always aware of the latest improvements and how they can benefit from them.

Spotify announcing new features

6. Tooltips and Hotspots

Tooltips and hotspots provide users with context-specific guidance as they interact with different parts of the product. These unobtrusive hints and highlights offer real-time assistance, helping users understand new or complex features without overwhelming them with information all at once.

Example: When using Facebook, tooltips appear to explain new features or changes, helping users understand updates without interrupting their experience.

Facebook using tooltips

You can also guide users through the app with a series of personalized tooltips by Nudge to take them from one action to the other.

Also read: Mobile Tooltips – a guide to effective design & implementation to improve UX

7. Feature Guides

Feature guides are designed to introduce users to new product functionalities. These guides provide detailed instructions and use cases for new features, ensuring users can maximize the value they get from the product and stay engaged with its evolving capabilities.

Example: Gmail uses feature guides to introduce new functionalities like smart compose and email scheduling, providing clear instructions on how to use these features effectively.

Gmail uses feature guides

8. Self-help Resource Center

A self-help resource center offers a repository of on-demand support and learning materials within the app. It typically includes articles, video tutorials, and FAQs, enabling users to find answers to their questions and learn about the product at their own pace, fostering self-sufficiency and continuous learning.

Example: Shopify’s help center provides a comprehensive range of resources, from setup guides to troubleshooting articles, empowering users to resolve issues and learn independently.

Shopify’s help center 

Best Practices for User Onboarding UX

Now that you know all the different types and patterns of onboarding UX, it is time to understand how to implement them effectively. Here are some best practices for it:

  • Personalization of the user experience according to user personas and behaviors

Tailoring the onboarding experience to fit different user personas and behaviors enhances user engagement and satisfaction. By understanding users' needs and preferences, you can create personalized onboarding flows that address specific challenges and highlight relevant features. Personalization makes users feel valued and understood, leading to higher retention rates and a more positive overall experience. It helps users see the immediate relevance and benefits of the product, encouraging deeper interaction

Conduct surveys with Nudge to collect user feedback and tailor your app to increase conversion rates. Choose from multiple types of questions and set up the logic for each of them right inside the dashboard.

  • Offering an option to skip onboarding flows for experienced users

Providing an option to skip onboarding flows is crucial for experienced users who are already familiar with the product. This flexibility respects users' time and acknowledges their expertise, preventing frustration and disengagement. Users who can skip redundant steps are more likely to continue using the product, as they can quickly get to the tasks they need to accomplish without unnecessary interruptions.

  • Filling empty states with engaging and helpful content

Empty states, such as blank dashboards or pages, are opportunities to engage users with helpful content. Filling these spaces with tips, examples, or tutorials can guide users on what to do next and how to make the most of the product. This approach prevents users from feeling lost or confused and provides direction, making the onboarding process smoother and more intuitive.

  • Employing progressive disclosure to manage information flow and prevent overload

Progressive disclosure is a technique that involves revealing information gradually to prevent users from feeling overwhelmed. By presenting only the most essential information upfront and gradually introducing more advanced features as users become more comfortable, you can enhance the learning experience. This method ensures users can focus on mastering one aspect of the product at a time, leading to better retention and understanding.

  • Incorporating gamification elements to engage and motivate users

Gamification involves adding game-like elements, such as rewards, progress bars, and achievements, to the onboarding process. These elements can make the experience more engaging and motivating for users. By introducing a sense of challenge and accomplishment, gamification encourages users to complete onboarding tasks and explore the product more thoroughly, leading to higher engagement and retention.

With Nudge’s Gamification feature, you can put engagement on autopilot by gamifying user journeys and rewarding users based on their actions.

  • Clear and effective microcopy to ensure simplicity and clarity in instructions

Microcopy refers to the small bits of text in a product that guide and inform users, such as button labels, error messages, and tooltips. Clear and effective microcopy ensures that instructions are simple and easy to understand, reducing confusion and errors. Well-crafted microcopy can significantly enhance the user experience by providing clear guidance and reassurance throughout the onboarding process.

  • Turning user onboarding into a continuous process to accommodate updates

Onboarding should not be a one-time event but a continuous process that accommodates product updates and new features. Regularly updating the onboarding experience helps users stay informed about the latest changes and ensures they can continuously learn and adapt. This approach keeps the product relevant and useful, encouraging long-term engagement and satisfaction.

  • Identifying and removing friction points to enhance the user journey

Friction points are obstacles that hinder users' progress and cause frustration. Identifying and removing these points is essential for a smooth onboarding experience. By analyzing user behavior and feedback, you can pinpoint areas where users struggle and make necessary adjustments. Reducing friction enhances the overall user journey, making it more enjoyable and efficient.

  • Running experiments and collecting user feedback for ongoing optimization

Continuous optimization of the onboarding process is vital for maintaining its effectiveness. Running experiments, such as A/B tests, and collecting user feedback provide valuable insights into what works and what doesn't. By regularly analyzing this data, you can make informed improvements to the onboarding experience, ensuring it remains aligned with users' needs and preferences.

  • Writing helpful UX copy and testing and running experiments for refinement

Writing clear and helpful UX copy is crucial for guiding users through the onboarding process. This involves crafting instructions, tips, and messages that are easy to understand and follow. Additionally, testing this copy and running experiments help refine the onboarding flow. By iterating based on user feedback and behavior, you can ensure the UX copy effectively supports users in their journey, leading to a better overall experience.


So, the main point is that to have a successful business in the long run, the first thing you need to focus on is user experience, aka onboarding UX. Well-crafted onboarding UX patterns play a pivotal role in both user retention and business growth. By ensuring new users understand and appreciate the value of a product from the outset, businesses can increase user satisfaction and loyalty. A positive onboarding experience reduces frustration and encourages users to explore further, ultimately leading to higher retention rates and improved profitability.

Moreover, the onboarding process is not a one-time event but a continuous and iterative journey. Regular updates and optimizations based on user feedback and data insights are essential for keeping the onboarding experience relevant and effective. This iterative approach allows businesses to adapt to changes in user behavior and market trends, ensuring the onboarding process remains impactful over time.

Book a demo with Nudge to invest in an user-centered onboarding experience that would not only benefit your users by making their initial interactions smoother but also help increase customer lifetime value. 

Sakshi Gupta
July 1, 2024