The Elements of User Onboarding

I just finished reading “The Elements of User Onboarding” by Samuel Hulick. I discovered the book through the excellent site which has chronicled every screen in the onboarding process of several web and mobile apps and added great commentary (positive & negative) on each screen.

If you help make a web/desktop/mobile app, I highly recommend going through a few of these teardowns, as they alone will make you re-think some parts of your onboarding process. These teardowns together with the book have given me lots of great ideas for drastically improving the liklihood that a new user of will become successful.

For each chapter, I wrote down a brief summary or simply something that stood out to me. By all means, this isn’t a replacement for getting the book – but a teaser and reminder to myself what I read!

Ch 1
Onboarding starts way back with your marketing / how users hear about you and needs to be consistent throughout their entire experience.

Ch 2-3
Show people how you will make them better

Ch 4
Help people see specific details of how your app would improve their life (“aha moment”)

Ch 5
Cater to their emotions – show you understand the struggle of their current methods (use the exact wording of a similar audience expressing their pain points) + help them emotionally connect with your superior way.

Ch 6
Your app has a personality. What is it?

Ch 7
Give them logic to help defend emotional connection. Focus on how your product is as good as competitors + exceeds all other options. Also pitch customer service, resources, tech support, humans, add trust via testimonials (face/name/title/logo), and numerical social proof. state that you serve “stars” and “aspirational stars”.

Ch 8
Clear all possible obstacles in the path. Overcome objections, remove fiction, & remove points of disconnect (checking email for confirmation, looking up coupon codes, etc)

Ch 9
Design an experience that’s attainable in their first usage that gives that some joy / quick win / at least a glimpse to help them believe your product will be able to help them

Ch 10
Cut down the first run experiences to the fewest ones strictly necessary for helping them achieve a goal

Ch 11
First page after signup matters. Don’t keep users in a limbo state too long

Ch 12
Imagine you were in-person standing behind a new user helping them become successful with your app. Design your onboarding to be like this. Adding more UI to explain your UI is not onboarding. Make your UI better rather than adding explanations. Rather than fake sample content, use that default content to explain your app / give them a walkthrough, if possible.

Ch 13
Give users steps to complete in a way that motivates them to accomplish them. Show that progress has already been made even from the beginning. Make them happy by congratulating/rewarding upon first difficult or important action accomplished ( we should congratulate them when they close a deal or get their leads imported).

Quora has a nice “quest” that stays open as they browse around, giving them things to do on their own rather than forcing them through a mandatory guide

Ch 14
Send an email “congrats – your making progress!” after they do something good, that serves as a catalyst for next action.

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