11 Great Onboarding User Flow Examples For SaaS Companies

Creating an effective onboarding user flow is one of the most important tasks for any savvy SaaS owner.

If you want new users to get the most from your product — ultimately boosting user retention — you need to concentrate on getting user onboarding right.

In this article, we’re going to look at the onboarding experience for 11 different SaaS companies and draw out valuable lessons you can apply to your own onboarding flows.

Let’s dive in!

TL;DR

  • A user onboarding flow is a term that describes the process of introducing users to your product or service.
  • User onboarding flows are crucial: how your product is introduced to new customers has an enormous impact on their overall experience and product adoption
  • There are three main stages of user onboarding: primary (covering activation), secondary (about retention of existing users), and tertiary (enhancing and upselling).
  • A user’s expectations around onboarding will differ depending on their stage in the onboarding journey.
  • There are many types of onboarding flows to consider depending on the context: account creation, ‘Aha!’ moment, adoption-based, and features-based to name a few.
  • There are fundamentals that apply to all good onboarding experiences: an underlying theme of user focus, personalization, branched experiences, minimizing time to value, and continual iteration.
  • Different products with vastly different core functionalities use a combination of the above approaches to create successful onboarding flows.
  • If you’re looking to build effective onboarding flows that keep users engaged and drive them to adopt your product, use a tool like Userpilot. Get a demo here.

What is a user onboarding flow?

In a nutshell, user onboarding describes the process that introduces users to your product.

Getting the onboarding experience right is tricky: it takes time for new users to understand your product’s main features. And until they understand your product’s features, they won’t start to realize the core value.

The tipping point where a customer begins to get value from your product is described as an ‘Aha! moment. You should craft an onboarding flow that slashes the time it takes to reach that tipping point, reducing the time to value.

The sooner new users get value from your product and grasp the core benefits of using it, the more likely they are to remain customers.

Why are user onboarding flows important?

To succeed in the modern software marketplace, products need to have a clear value proposition and focus on a user-centric experience. Crafting a great user onboarding flow is a key part of that.

User onboarding flows help in many ways:

  • Introduce and familiarize new users with your application’s user interface by using a product tour
  • Showcase the core benefits of your product with in-app messaging
  • Teach new users how your application works
  • Finalize all account set up and registration for new users

The three stages of the user onboarding process in SaaS

User onboarding constantly changes and evolves — you should adapt your onboarding flows accordingly.

Screenshot of a diagram showing the 3 phases of onboarding in the user journey: primary, secondary and tertiary.
All onboarding is not the same: there’s primary, secondary, and tertiary to consider.

There are three distinct tiers to work through:

  1. Primary onboarding. This is new user onboarding — getting users to an ‘aha’ moment — and from there, to ‘activation’ (experiencing value from your product’s core features).
  2. Secondary onboarding. This stage is about crafting onboarding flows that introduce a new user to your product’s more advanced features (that build on top of the core value in the first stage).
  3. Tertiary onboarding. This stage focuses on account expansion (upselling new features).

Types of user onboarding flow

Customers at different stages of the onboarding experience will have different goals: it’s tricky to get new user onboarding right if you adopt a boilerplate approach.

Let’s explore some of the most common types.

Account creation user onboarding flow

A key part of onboarding users is account creation — this type of onboarding experience is called a signup flow, and the goal is to finalize account setup and registration for all new users.

“Aha!” moment user onboarding flow

Rather than a flow that simply introduces users to your product, this sort of onboarding process is designed to bring users quickly to their ‘aha’ moment. These flows should focus on showcasing the core features and benefits of the product.

Use personalization to populate empty states using the information collected during the signup flow and enable users to make a fast start.

Product adoption user onboarding flow

This type of onboarding flow can be extremely tool-specific, but broadly it’s about educating users about how they can navigate your product’s interface to quickly get the best out of the tool.

With that in mind, this sort of flow should be primarily focused on education and helping users meet their goals using a range of techniques.

That might include an interactive walkthrough of a new feature, a detailed product tour, or a simple checklist and progress bar showing users how they are progressing through the onboarding process.

Feature and benefits user onboarding flow

These flows are primarily used during secondary onboarding — so not simply for new users.

As we discussed earlier, onboarding flows aren’t always about first impressions. They can also be a valuable tool for helping to teach users about new features and enhancements to your software.

Two tools used for this type of onboarding flow are tooltips and announcement modals.

Both are effective ways to communicate with your users about new features, target specific user segments with relevant messages, and get your customers to engage with your product.

What makes a good user onboarding flow experience?

Every SaaS has a different approach when it comes to user onboarding.

Why?

Because what works for one product might not work for another — you’ve got to consider the distinct offering, the user segments, and more.

However, there are some fundamental principles all good onboarding experiences share.

The goal for every product’s onboarding experience is to effectively navigate new users through the main features of the product. This enables first-time users to not only swiftly grasp how to use the product but also empowers them to slash the learning curve and experience value much faster.

All onboarding experiences should be user-centric.

That means using data and insight from user testing to iterate and evolve your onboarding experiences continuously.

What other principles should you follow?

  • Be focused on the user, not the product. Guide your users directly towards what brings them value — don’t show them the entire tool in a long, boring, product tour just because you’re proud of all the effort you put into building certain features.
  • Create branched experiences. Personalize the onboarding experience for each user. Let them choose their path and identify which parts of the app make sense for them to learn about.
  • Combine UI patterns for more holistic experiences. New user onboarding doesn’t have to follow the same repetitive process: you can use modals, tooltips, checklists, and other sorts of creative visual design to adapt the flow based on how a user interacts with your product.
  • Test and learn. Iteration is the key to innovation. By focusing on testing concepts with your users and adapting the onboarding experience accordingly, you’ll give your product the best chance of success.
  • Keep it simple. Brevity is key. Avoid overly long, meandering messages or product tours and cut to the chase.
  • Don’t overload your users. Onboarding is a complex process: don’t overcomplicate things by asking your users to juggle multiple activities. Create an onboarding experience that focuses on one step at a time.

Great user onboarding flow examples

Let’s look at how 11 different SaaS products tackle the user onboarding process and explore why they work.

#1 — Userpilot

Userpilot’s signup flow starts with creating an account using your email and setting up a password.

Screenshot of userpilot user onboarding signup page.
The Userpilot ‘get started’ screen.

You are then prompted to verify your email. The use of social proof builds anticipation about what they’ll be able to do with Userpilot.

Screenshot of userpilot user onboarding flow.
The next stage in the flow is all about verification: security is important.

The next stage of the process asks you to choose a distinct brand color for the interface of the app — creating a more personalized experience.

Screenshot of userpilot user onboarding flow (personalization).
Personalization is an important aspect of the onboarding experience.

And then you wait for the dashboard to load.

Using a loading screen makes the most of users’ time by showcasing the product’s main capabilities while they wait.

Screenshot of userpilot user onboarding flow (loading screen).
A helpful loading screen.

Continue the onboarding experience by welcoming users to the app, and prompting them to take the final step to finish installation.

Screenshot of userpilot user onboarding flow (welcome screen).
Users are greeted with an informative welcome message.

If a user skips it, they’ll see the tool with a range of empty states.

Userpilot focuses users’ attention on the first action they need to take to start getting value from the app. To help users we’ve included an interactive checklist that guides them through the next steps.

If a user runs into challenges, the help widget is clearly visible and provides a mechanism to contact support.

Screenshot of userpilot user onboarding flow, showing help widget.
Ready to go, with a handy help menu available if users need it.

What makes the Userpilot onboarding experience so impressive is the combination of several themes: personalization, brevity, interactive elements, checklists, and a visually appealing interface.

These come together beautifully to create a fantastic first impression, help users understand the product, and ultimately help to boost customer retention.

#2 — Slack

Slack’s onboarding starts directly from their home page.

The value the app has the potential to add to you and your organization is clearly articulated, and the ‘try for free’ button is an effective CTA drawing users in.

Screenshot of Slack home page.
Onboarding starts from the Slack home screen.

Next, you’re presented with the following screen. The data capture is stripped back to the essentials for rapid, frictionless signup.

Screenshot of Slack signup page.
A slick set of sign-on options.

After you’ve entered your email, you’re presented with an engaging welcome screen.

Again, the value proposition is clearly articulated — it’s a great way to introduce users to the app.

Screenshot of Slack signup page welcome message.
Re-iterating the value proposition as part of the onboarding flow.

In the next part of the onboarding process, Slack is keen to understand specific user needs so they can personalize what comes next.

They use a simple onboarding survey asking for the name of the company and what they’re working on.

Screenshot of Slack onboarding flow (company name)
Company or team name is a key piece of information for Slack to gather.

Asking one questions at the time helps to not overwhelm the user.

Screenshot of Slack onboarding flow (team activities).
Figuring out what users are focused on helps Slack personalize the experience.

There are some intermediary steps encouraging users to invite their colleagues to collaborate, but that’s it! Users are shown the main Slack interface, with a prompt to complete a full feature tour.

Screenshot of Slack interface with product tour.
A guided tour to kick off the Slack experience completes the onboarding flow.

Slack has nailed the onboarding experience: they adhere to pretty much every principle we set out earlier.

Critically, their onboarding experience is ruthlessly designed to reduce the amount of time it takes for a user to start getting value from their tool.

#3 — Canva

Canva starts their onboarding flow with a simple sign-up screen. The subtle background of completed designs is a nice touch.

Screenshot of Canva signup screen.
A straightforward start to the onboarding flow.

The next step prompts users for information about their goals. It’s a smart move to gather this sort of information during onboarding: it helps personalize the experience and give users a great first impression.

Screenshot of Canva onboarding flow.
Clear themes help make this a simple choice.

The next screen uses engaging copy to draw users towards a feature that lets them ‘play’ — an excellent way of getting to know the tool.

Screenshot of Canva onboarding flow (home page).
Within a couple of steps, users are landed on the Canva home screen and ready to start.

And that’s it!

From sign-up to creating original designs in a handful of steps, there are plenty of lessons to learn from the Canva onboarding experience.

Screenshot of Canva onboarding flow (new design page).
It doesn’t take long to start creating designs.

#4 — Notion

Notion’s onboarding flow starts with gathering some key data about the user, enabling them to branch the experience accordingly.

Screenshot of Notion onboarding flow (signup page).
Options allow branching in the onboarding flow.

The user is then presented with a screen showing a checklist within Notion itself, setting the foundation for an effective ‘Aha!’ moment as the user grasps what the tool is for.

Screenshot of Notion onboarding flow (getting started screen).
It doesn’t take long to see what Notion is all about.

#5 — Fullstory

Fullstory kicks off the onboarding flow with a standard bit of information capture.

Screenshot of Fullstory signup page.
Fullstory keep it simple and don’t overcomplicate things.

Next, they look at understanding what the user is trying to achieve with their app.

Screenshot of Fullstory signup page.
Personal and professional details are combined on one page in this flow.

The progress bar is a great addition to this signup flow, increasing the chances of users finishing up the process.

Screenshot of Fullstory signup page.
Greeting a user by name is a great way to keep them engaged during the onboarding flow.

Once you’re done with that, you are greeted with an empty state prompting you to install the Fullstory snippet.

Screenshot of Fullstory signup page.
The next stage of the process is clear and obvious.

#6 — Productboard

Less information is less intimidating for a user to complete the signup process with Productboard.

Screenshot of Productboard onboarding flow.
Keeping it brief and using welcoming language help start the onboarding flow get off to a good start.

They ask the user for a few key pieces of information at a time, keeping the flow short and snappy.

Screenshot of Productboard onboarding flow.
The user won’t be overloaded with information here.

The final step is to set up a workspace. Just two pieces of information are needed to unlock this feature.

Screenshot of Productboard onboarding flow.
Users want to unlock value as quickly as possible — they are just one step away here.

This welcome screen is engaging and gives users exactly what they need to get started.

Screenshot of Productboard onboarding flow.
Immediately, users can begin to use the application.

#7 — Heap

After a user is asked to create an account, Heap prompts them to install the javascript code.

Screenshot of Heap onboarding flow.
There’s an option to skip installation if a user wishes.

Heap then uses a visually appealing modal to collect relevant user data.

Screenshot of Heap onboarding flow.
This modal allows a user to self-select their user segment.

This is followed by a welcome screen with clear prompts to take action and for a user to create their very first dashboard.

Screenshot of Heap onboarding flow.
Heap provide a visually punchy start to the onboarding flow.

A series of tooltips are available to walk users through the detail and are triggered by the user when they need them.

Screenshot of Heap onboarding flow.
It’s clear what a user needs to do to create a new dashboard.

Heap finishes with an onboarding survey to collect insights and improve future onboarding experiences.

Screenshot of Heap onboarding flow.
It’s important to continually gather insight and data about the onboarding experience.

#8 — Trello

Trello has an extremely simple sign-up screen, with confirmation it’s free to start an excellent way of encouraging first-time users.

Screenshot of Trello welcome page.
The only information a user needs to share is their email.

Users are greeted with a modal confirming they’ve signed up successfully.

Screenshot of Trello onboarding flow modal.
A clear CTA indicates what should happen next.

The final part of the onboarding flow is this detailed checklist, helping users navigate the app and getting to experience the value.

Screenshot of Trello onboarding flow (checklist).
A checklist keeps attention focused on the next necessary steps.

#9 — Story Chief

Story Chief has gone for a similar minimal approach, simply asking users for the name of their company.

Screenshot of Story Chief onboarding signup flow page.
The start of the onboarding flow.

The next part of the onboarding flow is a welcome screen with a video showing a short walkthrough of the app.

Users can then work through a checklist of activities to ensure they complete onboarding effectively.

Screenshot of Story Chief onboarding flow (video).
A video is an engaging way of enhancing the onboarding flow.

#10 — ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign has a well-structured onboarding flow that prompts users to answer about one topic at a time, starting with personal details.

Screenshot of ActiveCampaign user signup flow.
A minimal approach to the onboarding experience.

Their friendly tone continues to ask they ask for information about the user’s business.

Screenshot of ActiveCampaign user signup flow.
All of this information will help craft a more personalized experience.

The next section focuses on company goals and objectives and allows for an even greater degree of customization.

Screenshot of ActiveCampaign user signup flow.
A broad range of options are available to choose from.

Password setup is the next step in the flow.

Screenshot of ActiveCampaign user signup flow.
Security is an important part of onboarding.

Finally, the user is presented with a detailed checklist of activities to work through.

Screenshot of ActiveCampaign user signup flow.
It’s simple to visualize progress and identify the next steps.

#11 — Hotjar

Hotjar starts with a straightforward signup screen.

Screenshot of Hotjar onboarding flow.
Hotjar demonstrates how a simple approach can work effectively.

Next, they explore how they can help — enabling users to directly select the option most likely to meet their needs.

Screenshot of Hotjar onboarding flow.
Three broad themes help focus user flows.

The user is then landed directly on the ‘Dashboard’ page, with a clear prompt to finish the installation and complete onboarding.

Screenshot of Hotjar onboarding flow.
The user is close to their ‘Aha!’ moment — just a short setup to go.

Conclusion

We can see from the range of examples above that there’s no one size fits all approach when it comes to onboarding experiences, but similar best practices are applied by everyone.

By sticking to the key principles — remembering to put the customer first and helping them make the most of your product — you’ll give yourself the best chance of getting it right.

Want to get started with creating a user onboarding flow? Get a Userpilot Demo and see how you can transform your onboarding process.

--

--

Userpilot is a Product Growth Platform designed to help product teams improve product metrics through in-app experiences without code. Check out userpilot.com

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Userpilot Team

Userpilot Team

Userpilot is a Product Growth Platform designed to help product teams improve product metrics through in-app experiences without code. Check out userpilot.com