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User Onboarding Design Best Practices: Guide with Examples

User Onboarding Design Best Practices: Guide with Examples

Product design
7 min

Onboarding is a strategic tool helping to engage users, simplify their customer journey, and keep users coming back. However, this practice is frequently ignored. In 2020, 25% of mobile apps were used only once. Why? 

Reasons to abandon the app are various: from charges up to regular updates. For 39%, technical problems were the main reason, 27% confessed they were annoyed with the notifications, and 26% found the UX too poor.

"Moreover, 8 in 10 users confess they delete installed apps because they do not understand how to use them."

Are there any chances one could fix these problems? They are. And it is possible with onboarding UX practice. You can explain to your users why the notifications are important. You can notify them about the updates. You can explain to them how to use the app and enjoy its features.

A well-organized product onboarding process helps explain to a user the value and the sense of the product. It helps to reveal the benefits of the product to the user. It demonstrates how users can solve their problems with the product.

Fabio Muniz, product designer and co-founder at Awari, says ‘You do not have “onboarding” as a tick box in your design process as though it is a feature you can add to your product. Onboarding is built when you build a user experience and not when you decide to add a few introductory screens.’

"Onboarding is as important as a product itself."

86% of users say they will be more loyal to a business that invests in onboarding. They expect an application to have some welcome and educational content that will help them get acquainted with the app. Thus, it’s time to think about creating user onboarding for your product.

In this article, we will talk about user onboarding principles. Also, we will explain to you how to create onboarding that prompts user activation and supports user retention. You will get examples of the best onboarding practices to help you decide on the onboarding you need for your app.

How proper user onboarding experience may influence your product bottom line

There’s no one fit all approach to onboarding. Working with different companies and businesses, we’ve seen that different apps require different onboarding elements. No one can just copy onboarding from the competitor and use it in their app.

Creating a user onboarding we always remember about:

  • Your product. The values, the mission, the essence.
  • Your company. Behind every good product, there’s a great company. 
  • Your customers. What do they expect from your application?
  • Market best practices. We’re sure they are helpful
  • UX onboarding​​ patterns. Your customers have got used to some patterns, and we use them to make their journey more satisfactory.

87% of users believe companies need to put more effort into providing a consistent experience. Besides, the experience should be built properly. Here are two key steps that are to be covered when creating a user onboarding.

First-use onboarding

It is an engagement stage. At this point, we put effort into making a user interested in the product. We do not provide a tutorial on what button to tap to open a personal profile but show how the product can help the user.

Onboarding after the target actions

If the user has already been converted, we need to make him loyal to the company and retain him. 

User onboarding has a direct effect on the product itself and the customers as well. User onboarding best practices help to build long-lasting relations between the product and the user. 

Onboarding for building trust and loyalty

Even though the customers have already made target actions, the onboarding process should continue.

"Every time you introduce a new feature or function, onboarding helps you to inform your customers and promote updates."

We need to remember that users expect that their journey will be effortless. The first time they use a new app is stressful. With onboarding, we reduce the level of stress and, in some cases, fear. It evokes positive emotions from the interaction with a product. Later, it affects the conversion rate, sales, and loyalty.

However, to make onboarding work for you, you need to stick to the main rule. Onboarding must be integrated seamlessly. If it is annoying, the users are more likely to quit the app. 

Best practices of user onboarding design insist that we must create a feeling that users make their decisions on their own. In this case, we may say that the onboarding is successful.

Create user onboarding story to improve LTV

We use app onboarding to engage the user and reveal all features step by step. Won’t we just give them all the information at the very first stage? The answer is simple. A user may get lost with the features and quit the app. Therefore, onboarding turns into a strategy.

By building it, we answer the questions:

  • when to onboard user
  • where to onboard users
  • why to onboard users

"We raise loyalty, and our users become our regular customers."

Statistics show that only 2% of users make their 1st purchase within a week. With proper onboarding, this number can be higher. Moreover, the retention rate on day 1 and day 30 of mobile app install can be different. Check out the data on different categories presented by Statista.

Let’s analyze the first category of mobile apps — Comics. As we can see, the retention rate of the first day is 33.8%, day 7 — 16.4%, day 30 — only 9.3%. Mobile app onboarding best practices can help to improve the retention rate and LTV. 

Mobile apps never stay the same all the time. New features appear. New functions become available. New ways to use the app appear. Onboarding can cover that and present it to the users!

We can define three basic components of onboarding: feature promotion, customization, and instructions. All of them help with rising user satisfaction.

Feature promotion

It’s important to notify your users about new features. You can do this with a notification, but you can also use onboarding to present it most delightfully and attractively.

The matter is that onboarding is frequently the combination of marketing and design. With onboarding, we do not notify about a new feature. We drive attention to it. We make it more visible to our customers. We can say that we sell a new feature with onboarding. App onboarding UI helps us with that.


According to Nielsen Norman Group, content customization ‘can create a relevant experience and is more likely to be appropriate for initial app onboarding’.

Customization is vital for building empathy between the customer and the company. In some cases, the app won’t function properly without customization. For example, fitness apps — need to be customized to be effective for a user.


Onboarding, even SaaS onboarding, is not a tutorial. Thus, when you provide the basic instructions, it’s important to understand your goals.

Focus on the key app elements that your customers will use.

Best practices of user onboarding design

Mobile and SaaS onboarding UX best practices can help you create an effective onboarding flow. All of them have already proved their effectiveness, and we’re sure: using best practices brings the results we expect.

Customer onboarding best practices in 2021 will include:

  • Simplification

Onboarding should not be messy. It must be clear, interactive, and captivating. Avoid long texts, vague descriptions, and stock images. It works for e-commerce products and Saas businesses

Focus on important information. If you don’t need the location, don’t ask for this information (and don’t ask to track the user’s location).

  • Skip option should be available

Your users should always have a choice to skip the onboarding. It can help you increase the login rate. And of course, the customers who never use onboarding will be grateful.

  • Demonstrate product values

First screen is the touch point where you should show the benefits of your product. Remember: the value must be clear to the user.

  • Use opt-in notification access

Your clients will get a chance to decide whether they want to get notifications. Give them an option to change access whenever they want.

  • Don’t show all features at once

Use the customer journey flow to understand when to promote different features.

Mobile app onboarding best practices

Onboarding UX design for mobile apps is common to onboarding of web products. When we open an app for the first time, we see several welcome screens. As a rule, they demonstrate the value of the product. These screens must be interactive to keep users engaged and swipe the screens.

Personalization and customization are also essential for mobile apps. It helps to increase the engagement rate. 

Additionally to the abovementioned app onboarding design best practices, for mobile apps, we can also list the following:

  • use SMS detection

A user can get registered in an app by the mobile number.

  • allow making selfies if you need a photo

It’s a quick and easy way to provide you with a photo if needed for the business.

  • make it progressive

Remember that mobile screens are smaller than a desktop. For mobile apps onboarding screens, choose progressive onboarding than putting all information on one screen.

  • demonstrate key features available on mobile only

It is obligatory for the businesses that have different channels of communication with a customer. If functions on your app differ from the function on the website, show this difference to the user.

  • use short forms

Short sign-up forms are important for any type of product. But it’s important to remember that any form you have within your app or product must be short.

  • stay in context with user

The onboarding should appear only at the right moment. For example, an app for tracking everyday activity and calorie loss should immediately show the user that it’s important to connect the smartwatch to the device or allow access. 

  • add preview function

New users will be glad to preview an app before they install it or pay for it.

  • call to action directly

Be clear with your CTAs. Users must understand what they need to do to start using your app.

Examples of the best onboarding experience

Onboarding design can be different. It depends on the goals you pursue and the results you expect. Still, it must be effective. We are going to share with you some onboarding design examples of the best solutions for user onboarding. Take note of the cases you like most of all.

Bank of America Onboarding

Banking and financial apps frequently use onboarding to show their clients their key benefits and features. However, using onboarding for promotion is not a common case for this market.

After introducing a new Monthly Payment Plan, Bank of America also launched an onboarding to promote this feature.

Short descriptions, simple yet powerful images, and only four screens in progress make this onboarding effective.


This 5-screen welcome onboarding demonstrates the values and mission of Acorns, an investment company that helps to grow wealth.

Visual UI is attractive, and the colors also benefit the idea. Also, pay attention to the texts and graphics: they support each other, and you understand each message.


We’ve already mentioned customization in our article. It is time to exemplify it. 

Just look at how Headspace uses onboarding to determine the expectation of the user. In this way, the app will use more relevant content in the future. 

During onboarding, the Headspace app allows users to choose the type of content they want to receive. Therefore, their satisfaction level grows each time they use an app, getting exactly what they need.

Arounda expertise in onboarding: HABITLOG case study 

We at Arounda Digital Product Design Agency believe: onboarding is important for any product. It helps to improve the interaction between business and customer. We created onboarding for food delivery apps, streaming platforms, financial apps, and other niches.Onboarding flow is based on the results of preliminary UX research, competitor analysis, TA research. We create the best onboarding flows for each particular user. In this way, we develop a personal approach to each segment of the customers.

HABITLOG challenges

A time management project HABITLOGG approached us to create a simple and minimalistic design for the application. Discovery and research, as well as UI and UX, were also on us. Additionally, we’ve created first-use user onboarding to explain to users what this project is about and explain the benefits of using the app.

Solution for HABITLOG

When working with time management applications, it’s important to remember about TA. The matter is that this is a competitive field for development, as the number of time management tools is huge. We’ve decided to focus on first-use onboarding to show the best about HABITLOG from the first screens.To create effective user onboarding, we conducted UX research, including target audience and competitor research.

HABITLOG results

One of our main tasks for HABITLOG was to keep the application from looking overloaded and complicated. Therefore, onboarding should also have been as simple as possible.We’ve decided to use only three screens for first-use onboarding: one welcome screen and two screens with features of the app. Also, we’ve added the Skip option to get right to the app if they prefer so.

Are you ready to create onboarding for your app?

User onboarding brings your company closer to the real customers. It builds connection, evokes emotions, and helps a person to feel their uniqueness. In UX, it’s a great tool to reduce fears and stress from using a new app. In marketing, it’s an effective tool to convert users into clients and build a community of dedicated users.

User onboarding is a complex process requiring the approach of experts. UX and UI designers, marketers, researchers, UX writers, developers — a huge team works on each project. And you have found the team that will do this for you.

Engage your users and make them more loyal with onboarding. We will help you with any process you may need, including the research and strategy for the application.

If you’re on the way to create an app, we at Arounda Digital Product Design Agency are ready to become a part of your journey. Along with onboarding, we also make UX/UI design, discovery and strategy, web design, and branding.

We’re waiting to hear back from you.


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