As a product manager or designer, you've probably invested countless hours perfecting your product, ensuring it's the best it can be. However, even the most polished product can fall short if users struggle to navigate its features effectively. 

Onboarding can be a tricky art to master. There's no one-size-fits-all approach, and what works for one product may not work for another. 

But don’t worry! 

In this article, we'll take you through the ins and outs of product onboarding from start to finish. We'll cover everything from the importance of first impressions to the best practices for designing onboarding flows. 


  • Product onboarding is the process of guiding users through your product's key features and benefits, helping them navigate smoothly from their first interaction.
  • User onboarding is the system of actively guiding users to find new value in your product, often personalized to the user's specific goals and needs. 
  • Product and user onboarding form a detailed choreography, each step significant in creating an enriching user experience. The steps matter as they influence users' perception of your product and their decision to stick around.
  • A seamless opt-in process paired with understanding user goals and motivations sets the stage for a successful onboarding journey.
  • User education on your product and its interface, supplemented by a warm welcome email, are key ingredients to foster user connection and engagement.
  • An onboarding team and data-led approach – your power duo for sustained success.
  • Celebrating user milestones and providing ongoing support - do you cheer your users on their journey?

We serve up an extra helping of best practices and point out the common pitfalls to avoid - are you ready to level up your onboarding game? 

Let's dive in!

Product Onboarding vs User Onboarding

Product onboarding and user onboarding are two terms frequently encountered during product design. While they are related, they refer to different aspects of the onboarding process.

Product onboarding refers to the process of introducing a new product to users and guiding them through the features and functions of the product. This aspect involves demonstrating how to utilize the product effectively and how to maximize its benefits.

Conversely, user onboarding refers to the process of familiarizing a new user with your product and guiding them through the initial steps, such as account creation and profile setup.  

While product onboarding focuses on the features and functions of the product, user onboarding focuses on the user experience of signing up and getting started with the product. Both aspects are critical components of the onboarding process and must be executed skillfully to create a positive user experience. 

In short, both product onboarding and user onboarding are essential for crafting a successful onboarding experience. It's important to remember both when designing your onboarding flow to ensure that your users have a seamless and enjoyable experience from start to finish.

This table summarizes the key differences between product onboarding and user onboarding.

Product Onboarding

User Onboarding


Introducing a new product to users and guiding them through its features and functions

Introducing a new user to your product and guiding them through the sign-up process


The features and functions of the product

The user experience of signing up and getting started with the product


To help users understand how to use the product and get the most out of it

To help users create an account, set up their profile, and access the product


Showing users how to use the various features of a software tool

Walking users through the sign-up process for a mobile app


Critical for ensuring users can use the product effectively

Critical for ensuring users can get started with the product quickly and easily


Related, but distinct from user onboarding

Related, but distinct from product onboarding

Key Elements of Product Onboarding 

Having covered the basics, let’s now take a look at the key elements of product onboarding. 

We'll dive deeper into each of these elements and provide more guidance on how to implement them effectively. These elements are essential for creating a successful onboarding process, so it's important to understand them in detail. 

You can use some of the practical tips and examples to help you incorporate these elements into your own onboarding process. 

So, let's take a closer look at the key elements of a great product onboarding process you should implement.

1. Create a Frictionless Opt-in Process

Did you know that 86% of product users don’t finish the sign-up process if it’s too complicated? 

Creating a frictionless opt-in process refers to making the sign-up process as simple and straightforward as possible for users. A lengthy or complex sign-up process can discourage users from continuing to use your product. 


By streamlining the opt-in process, you can increase the likelihood that users will sign up and try out your product. 

In practice, you can achieve a frictionless opt-in process by using social logins, reducing the number of required fields, and providing clear instructions throughout the process.

Making the sign-up process as smooth and seamless as possible is crucial for ensuring users actually complete the process and don't abandon it partway through. 

2. Identify Basic User Goals

Before creating your onboarding process, it's essential to understand what your users are looking to achieve when they use your product. By identifying their basic goals, you can tailor your onboarding process to help them achieve those goals quickly and easily. 

In a practical scenario, identifying basic user goals involves conducting user research, analyzing user behavior, and identifying common pain points or areas of confusion.

3. Understand Why Your Users Signed Up For Your Product

A report by Emplifi shows that 86% of customers will leave a brand after just two bad experiences with a product.

Such statistics prove why it's crucial to understand the motivations behind why your users signed up for your product. This can help you create a more targeted and effective onboarding experience. 

Conducting user research and analyzing user behavior can provide insights into users' pain points, user goals, and expectations. 

By tailoring your onboarding process to address these motivations, you can increase user engagement, product adoption rates, and retention.

4. Educate Users on Your Product and Interface

During the onboarding process, it's important to educate users on how to use your product and interface effectively. User education includes providing clear instructions, highlighting key features, and addressing common questions or concerns. 

Interactive walkthroughs can significantly enhance the onboarding experience by providing users with step-by-step guidance on how to use your product's features and interface. These walkthroughs can be tailored to the user's needs, allowing them to explore your product at their own pace. By offering visual cues and real-time feedback, interactive walkthroughs can boost user engagement and promote better understanding of your product. 

When designing walkthroughs, focus on highlighting the most important features and avoid overwhelming users with too much information.

5. Send a Welcome Email/Email Series

Email can be a powerful tool for onboarding users and keeping them engaged with your product. A welcome email or series of emails can introduce users to your product, provide helpful tips and resources, and encourage them to explore its features. 


Good emails can help increase user engagement and reduce the likelihood of churn. 

It's important to strike a balance between providing helpful information and overwhelming users with too much content.

6. Have an Onboarding Team

Onboarding is a complex process that involves many different roles and responsibilities. Putting together a dedicated onboarding team can help ensure that the process is executed effectively and efficiently. 

This team can include individuals from product management, design, customer support, and other areas of the organization. By working together, they can create a cohesive onboarding process that meets the needs of users and the business.

Some good practices when building an onboarding team include:

  • Define roles and responsibilities
  • Assemble a diverse team that comes with a wide range of experiences
  • Allocate resources effectively
  • Empower your team with data

These practices can ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of your team.

7. Collect Feedback and Analyze Impact 

Finally, collecting feedback and analyzing the impact of your onboarding process can help you identify areas for continuous improvement and optimize the experience for future users. 

This involves setting up feedback mechanisms, such as surveys or user testing, and analyzing user behavior data to understand how users are interacting with your product. 

Based on this feedback, you can make adjustments to the onboarding process to improve user satisfaction and retention rates.

Mastering feedback analysis is thus a matter of using the right collection mechanisms and availing solutions in a timely manner.

8. Set Expectations and Celebrate Milestones

Clearly outlining the expected outcomes and milestones during the onboarding process can help users understand the value of your product more quickly. By setting expectations, you can guide users toward achieving their goals and keep them motivated to continue exploring your product. Establishing milestones also provides users with a sense of accomplishment, fostering a positive user experience. Make sure to celebrate these milestones with your users through in-app messages or other forms of recognition.

9. Offer Ongoing Support and Resources

Ensuring that users have access to support and resources throughout their journey with your product is crucial for long-term success. This can include creating a knowledge base, FAQ section, video tutorials, webinars, or a help center. Additionally, offering timely and responsive customer support through channels such as live chat, email, or phone can contribute to a positive user experience. By giving users the tools and assistance they need, you can minimize frustration, address issues promptly, and foster product loyalty.

Additional Best Practices for Product Onboarding 

Now that we have covered the main elements of product onboarding, let’s shift our attention to some best practices.

These practices can help you create a comprehensive and effective onboarding experience for your users. They include:

  • Start with the basics: When onboarding new users, it's important to start with the most essential features and functions of your product. Focus on what users need to know to get started and achieve their basic goals, and save more advanced features for later on in the onboarding process.
  • Keep it simple and concise: Avoid overwhelming users with too much information or too many steps. Keep your customer onboarding flow as simple and concise as possible, with clear instructions and a streamlined user interface.
  • Use visuals to aid understanding: Visuals like images, videos, and animations can be very effective in helping users understand how to use your product. Use visuals to demonstrate key features and concepts, and make sure they are clear and easy to follow.
  • Segment your users: Tailor the onboarding experience for different user segments based on their needs, preferences, and prior experience with similar products.
  • Provide multiple learning paths: Offer various ways for users to learn about your product, such as interactive tutorials, video demonstrations, and written documentation.
  • Test and iterate: Continuously test and refine your onboarding process based on user feedback and analytics data.
  • Make it fun and engaging: Onboarding can be a dry and boring process, but it doesn't have to be. By incorporating elements of gamification, humor, or storytelling into the onboarding experience, you can make it more engaging and enjoyable for users.

By following these best practices, you can create an onboarding experience that is effective, engaging, and enjoyable for your users.

Common Onboarding Mistakes to Avoid

Before wrapping up, it's essential to discuss common onboarding mistakes that could undermine your efforts. Despite the best intentions, these missteps can hinder the user experience during the product onboarding process.

We'll go over some of these common mistakes and offer advice on how to avoid them. By being aware of these pitfalls, you can ensure that your onboarding process is smooth, efficient, and enjoyable for your users. 

Let's take a closer look at these mistakes and how to avoid them.

  1. Assuming that users will figure it out on their own: It's a common mistake to assume that users will naturally understand your product without any guidance. Instead, provide clear instructions and support throughout the onboarding process.
  2. Failing to communicate the value of your product: Users won't stick around if they don't see the value in your product. To clearly communicate the value and benefits of your product during the onboarding process and consistently throughout the user journey,it's crucial to emphasize how your product’s features help users achieve their goals. Demonstrate the real-life benefits of using your product, rather than merely listing its functionalities.
  3. Overlooking different user personas: Not all users have the same needs or goals. Account for different user personas and tailor your onboarding process to meet their specific needs and goals.
  4. Neglecting support resources: Users will need support as they begin to use your product. Ensure you provide ample resources, such as help documentation, tutorials, and customer service, to assist users when they need it.
  5. Not evaluating the effectiveness of your onboarding process: You won't know if your onboarding process is effective if you're not measuring its impact. Utilize analytics tools to monitor user behavior and pinpoint areas for improvement.
  6. Creating a complex product onboarding process: Users want a simple and easy-to-use product, and the onboarding process should reflect that. Avoid overloading users with excessive steps or intricate features during onboarding.

These common onboarding mistakes can be easily avoided, and avoiding them helps create a smooth and successful product onboarding experience for your users. This, in turn, sets them up for constant success with your product.

Wrapping Up

Mastering the art of product onboarding is critical to ensuring the long-term success of your product and the satisfaction of your users. By implementing the key elements of product onboarding, following best practices, and avoiding common onboarding mistakes, you can create an effective and engaging onboarding experience for your users. 

Remember to keep it simple, concise, and personalized to meet the needs and goals of your users. Additionally, ongoing support and resources, as well as collecting user feedback, will help to ensure that your users are successful with your product over time. 

By taking the time to master the art of product onboarding, you can set your product up for success and help your users achieve their goals.