Appcues vs Pendo: Which Is Best For Onboarding SaaS Users?

Appcues vs Pendo? Onboarding software is in high demand for SaaS product managers, and with good reason — the market is booming.

This article is going to dive into the Appcues vs Pendo debate and try to answer a key question…

Which is the better tool for driving customer success?

Let’s get started!

TL;DR

  • Appcues and Pendo are both types of onboarding software, designed to help boost customer engagement.
  • But it’s not just a Pendo vs. Appcues debate: there are several Appcues and Pendo alternatives to consider.
  • When it comes to UI patterns (like modals, tooltips, and slideouts), Appcues has four options and Pendo three — compared to Userpilot’s six.
  • Product tours and in-app guides are also important tools to increase engagement. While Pendo’s guides are essentially chained together tooltips, Appcues has a range of templates (although those are reserved for pricier plans).
  • Userpilot is a powerful no-code tool with huge customization capabilities and can offer better value for money when it comes to building in-app guidance.
  • Checklists can form a pivotal part of SaaS onboarding flows. Both apps offer checklists — but for Pendo, they are only accessible via the Resource Center. Userpilot has a standalone checklist feature, even on their basic plans.
  • Another important feature that helps with feature adoption is a Resource Center. In the Pendo vs. Appcues contest, Pendo wins this comfortably, as Appcues don’t offer a Resource Center. But Userpilot boasts an impressively kitted-out Resource Center, complete with advanced features like module grouping and in-app guidance.
  • When it comes to analytics, gathering user feedback, and understanding product usage data, both Pendo, and Appcues offer relatively little — until you upgrade to more expensive plans. That’s a stark comparison to Userpilot.
  • Instead of deciding between Appcues or Pendo, get a Userpilot demo and get more value out of your money.

Are Appcues and Pendo the same?

Appcues and Pendo are different applications, with several areas of overlap.

The main differentiator? Price.

While Pendo makes a limited range of features available for free and Appcues offers a free trial, if you want to start using serious functionality the costs quickly start to mount.

Appcues vs Pendo: Is there a better alternative?

Both tools will help you get the job done. But, depending on your use case, there are other options to consider.

For mid-market SaaS companies run by product teams, Userpilot is a much more cost-effective alternative (starting at just $249 a month).

It boasts a more extensive range of UI patterns than either Appcues or Pendo and no functionality limitation on the starter ‘Traction’ plan.

Users marginally prefer the administration aspects of Appcues and feel both products are equally easy to set up. However, Userpilot is considered much more usable and meets business needs more effectively.

Visual of Userpilot versus Appcues advantages.
Userpilot stacks up well against Appcues.

Userpilot stacks up extremely favorably against Pendo across a range of dimensions: from meeting business needs to set up, to support, and direction of the roadmap.

Visual of Userpilot versus Pendo advantages.
Userpilot ranks favorably with users across business needs, usability, and ease of setup.

Value for money: Appcues vs Pendo key differences

In this section of the article, we’re really going to dig into the nitty-gritty of each area of product functionality. That way, we’ll be able to figure out which tool is the best option depending on your use case.

Appcues vs Pendo user onboarding UI patterns

Both tools have a range of UI patterns to choose from.

Appcues use slideouts, modals, tooltips, and hotspots.

Screenshot of Appcues UI patterns.
Choose the best UI pattern for the job.

Pendo, by comparison, provides three primary UI patterns: lightbox (which are essentially a form of modal), banners, and tooltips.

Screenshot of Pendo's UI options.
Pendo’s three UI options provide a range of options.

How much does this cost?

All of these options are available in Pendo’s free and Appcues starter plan.

Better onboarding software alternative

In comparison to the 3 and 4 options available with Pendo and Appcues, Userpilot boasts 6 distinct UI patterns: a modal, slideout, tooltip, hotspot, native tooltips, and banners.

You have two main ways to bring these to life:

  • With flows, where different patterns and actions are chained together to create interactive guides)
  • With spotlights, to create more static experiences like hotspots or banners
Screenshot of Userpilot UI options
Craft effective product experiences with Userpilot.

Appcues vs Pendo product tours and guides

Product tours are a staple of any effective onboarding product experience. They usually consist of arranging different onboarding elements together to help a new user complete a task.

Pendo and Appcues both offer a version of this capability (although they call them ‘Guides’ and ‘Flows’).

Pendo product tours are essentially a sequence of tooltips. They do get the job done, but they aren’t particularly user-friendly.

Screenshot of Pendo product tour
Sequencing tooltips together is a ‘rough and ready’ way to build product tours.

Appcues has a range of pre-built templates, which means it takes next to no time to create a tour of your own. There are a couple of drawbacks, however.

The basic plan includes no customization options whatsoever. If you do decide to upgrade to the Appcues Growth plan, you’ll only be able to customize elements like tooltips or modals by editing the CSS directly.

That means more coding — and more developer involvement — than you might expect.

Screenshot of Appcues product tour.
Customization is only an option in advanced Appcues plans.

How much does this cost?

You can build 3 guides on Pendo’s free plan. You can only use basic templates with Appcues unless you upgrade to their growth plan (which starts at $879).

Better onboarding software alternative

Especially compared to Appcues and Pendo’s limited options for customization, Userpilot is a truly code-free tool.

Screenshot of Userpilot onboarding.
Customization is a pivotal part of the onboarding experience.

Even on the lowest Traction plan, You can fully customize each UI element directly within the simple editor, so non-technical teams (like marketing or customer success) can use the tool.

Another difference is flexibility.

Appcues templates funnel all their users down a fixed sequence of onboarding events in a very linear way. By comparison, Userpilot recognizes no two users will interact with your product in the same way. It allows you to create bespoke, fully interactive tours triggered by users’ actions.

Appcues vs Pendo checklists

Checklists are hugely powerful onboarding features to look out for in any user onboarding software. Both Pendo and Appcues offer them to their users, but there are some key differences.

Appcues offers customers the chance to use interactive, customizable checklists that are targeted to specific user segments. Pendo checklists are only available via the resource center, which means customers have to click through the help button to access them and offer less customization.

Screenshot of Pendo Resource Center.
Accessing checklists via the Resource Center isn’t the fastest option.

How much does this cost?

Appcues checklists are only available in the $879/mo Growth plan (which is billed annually). That’s actually a cheaper option than Pendo, where they are only available on the Pro plan (which according to some online reviews, can cost up to $5,000/year).

Better onboarding software alternative

Userpilot has multi-checklist functionality. That means you can easily create different checklists that help guide users from one milestone to the next in their journey.

You can also build in tasks, with several trigger options to consider: run a script, point users to a URL, or kick off a flow. You could even simply mark tasks as complete from the get-go to encourage your users to continue on.

Most impressive of all? The price. All of this is available on the starter plan (which costs $249/mo).

Screenshot of Userpilot checklists.
A range of options is available — even on basic plans — in Userpilot.

Appcues vs Pendo resource center

Pendo wins this round, for a simple reason: Appcues doesn’t support building in-app resource centers.

Pendo’s resource center is considered an in-app guide and offers the key bits of functionality you’d come to expect: access to a range of help and support.

However, Pendo doesn’t allow grouping modules. That means customers might have to scroll through an extremely long list to find the answer they’re looking for.

Pendo Resource Center screenshot.
Pendo’s Resource Center is fairly basic.

How much does this cost?

Pendo’s pricing isn’t particularly clear here: it’s not obvious whether this functionality is available on the Team plan, or whether you’d need to upgrade to Pro or Enterprise editions.

Regardless, it’s a significant investment given the somewhat plain UI and limited range of customization options.

Better onboarding software alternative

As well as offering significantly enhanced functionality compared to Pendo, Userpilot’s impressive resource center capability is available in all of their plans.

One example is module grouping, which enables you to group similar areas thematically (with no coding). That makes it easier for your customers to access the support they’re looking for.

Screenshot of Userpilot Resource Center.
Userpilot boasts a powerful resource center capability.

Userpilot also allows you to offer in-app support directly to your users. Not being redirected to third-party apps is a huge boost to the overall product experience for your users.

Appcues vs Pendo analytics

Product analytics is an important data-set for any savvy product manager, particularly around user onboarding.

Appcues have a somewhat limited capability, offering monitoring and tracking for up to 10 features on their ‘Essentials’ tier.

Pendo takes the crown in this area, with its impressive reputation for in-depth analytics capabilities. You can use identify behavioral patterns, track retention rate over time, or spot drop-off points in the user journey.

However, when it comes to collecting user feedback — Pendo falls short. Rather than NPS, Pendo has a proprietary measure — Product Engagement Score (PES) — which is an amalgamation of adoption, stickiness, and growth.

How much does this cost?

In Pendo, unless you go for one of the higher-tier memberships, you’ll miss out on customizable reports, PES scores, polls, and NPS analytics leaving you with very basic analytics.

Screenshot of Pendo pricing.
Pendo’s free plan offers limited capabilities.

It’s a similar story for Appcues.

Appcues screenshot.
Growth and Enterprise plans offer users much more.

Better onboarding software alternative

As well as an enhanced range of product analytics features, Userpilot also enables you to dig into qualitative data around user sentiment.

You can also conduct experiments using A/B testing — a significant advantage compared to Pendo.

a/b testing userpilot dashboard
A/B testing in-app flows in Userpilot

Appcues vs Pendo pricing comparison

Appcues and Pendo both have different areas of strength.

But they have something in common too: to really start to unlock value for your app, whether that’s around analytics or support, the starter plans just aren’t fit for purpose.

Screenshot of Pendo pricing options
Pendo has a range of plans available.

To avoid critical limitations in your onboarding experience, you’ll need to upgrade to the more expensive plans.

Screenshot of Appcues pricing options.
For most medium and large SaaS products, the ‘Essentials’ plan won’t cut it.

By contrast, Userpilot offers a huge range of features even at the free and entry level. It’s got an unparalleled level of customization and flexibility, backed up by impressive analytics capabilities. It’s suitable for large and small businesses alike.

Conclusion

For SaaS businesses to survive and thrive, they need to get user onboarding right. Therefore, it’s critically important to choose the right tooling for the job.

There are a range of considerations to bear in mind, from pricing, to functionality, to security, to ease of implementation. Considering how Appcues and Pendo stack up against Userpilot though, the choice is relatively simple.

Want to build product experiences code-free? Book a demo call with our team and get started! Just the link in the banner below.

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

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

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