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Guide to Onboarding User Flows + 3 Amazing Examples

In this article, we'll go over onboarding flows as onboarding flows are all about visualizing what you'll experience; let's check out some examples. 
Product Tour
Written by
Selman Gökçe
Published on
February 22, 2023

Onboarding user flow is the medium that visually connects your users to your product or service. It intends to present your core features and new features to both your first-time users and current users. 

Imagine that you and your friends are at a movie theater to see the new Marvel movie. 

You walk up to the box office and get in line to purchase tickets.

Then, you buy your favorite soft drinks and popcorn from the concession stand. 

Some of you use the bathroom, and the rest wait in the lobby for the others to come back. 

After reuniting, there are two things left to do: finding your seats and enjoying the movie. 

These steps might sound familiar as you've been to movies before. You know where to obtain tickets, how to order beverages, and the limited amount of actions you can perform in the theater.

Basically, you know the drill.

However, this might not be the case every time, and you may need someone to help you throughout the whole process

That's why user onboarding flows matter to your customers more than you think. 

Because the moment they feel lost, you will lose them, too. 

Before we dive in further, let's check what user onboarding flow is. 

What is an Onboarding User Flow?

Onboarding user flow is the medium that visually connects your users to your product or service. It intends to present your core features and new features to both your first-time users and current users. 

This never-ending process (aka user onboarding process) starts the moment your users interact with your product or service and is of prime importance due to the role it plays in user experience. 

During the onboarding process, you must be able to thoroughly deliver what your users expect in a series of steps to reveal the actual value of your product or service. 

Provided that your user interface is capable enough to do so, your users won't be lost in a maze of complex actions. Instead, they will smoothly adapt to the change of view and be able to find their way on their own after a few steps. 

Let's note down that the more successful your user onboarding flow is, the less frustrated users you will have - which is frankly critical for the rest of the user journey.  

Why is it Important to Have a Great User Onboarding Flow?

What you encounter when you start a journey matters. 

For that reason, the user onboarding experience shouldn't be overlooked. Hence, the user onboarding flow must be top-notch to raise user retention

Because if people don't find what they are looking for during the user onboarding process, they might quit using your product or service for a competitor. 

Or, if you fail to demonstrate your updates as efficiently, the same negative impact has a high chance of occurring. 

In this case, it would be best to have an excellent user onboarding flow that conveys all of your key messages and portrays all of the core benefits clearly to improve user retention and generate a successful user onboarding experience.

Thanks to onboarding flows, you'll kill two birds with one stone: raise your retention rates and lower your customer churn

Also, the more familiar your audience is with your product or service, the more engaged they get with it. 

3 Examples of Great Onboarding User Flows

As onboarding flows are all about visualizing what you'll experience, let's check out some examples. 

1- GatherContent

What is admirable about GatherContent's user onboarding flow is that it's detailed; yet, no problems occur in comprehending because it does an excellent job explaining the product features during the product tour.

GatherContent requires you to fill in these blanks - it would be much better if the signup process only asked for an email address, and the rest was asked later on. 

After signing up, a tooltip signals the checklist with five goals called Quick-start guide.

The box bearing the task lights up green after you complete it.

As you start doing the tasks, more tooltips run to your aid and show you around the main page, where you'll be doing most of the work. The first tooltip explains where you'll be seeing your projects and what is there.

The next one displays the action bar through which you'll mostly manage the platform. 

Then, it shows you where you can see the people to whom you've assigned the task at hand.

Right after, it presents the place which shows the status of the work.

The tooltip moves onto the place where you can apply templates and see which templates are applied. 

At the end of this tooltip guide, it shows the button that lets you exit the page. 

During the tour, there are also modal windows that have gifs above displaying the functions you'll soon try, such as editing, formatting, and commenting.

Once everything is done and you finish the tasks given in the Quick-start guide checklist, the progress bar lights up. 

After you complete all the tasks, the checklist and the icon of the guide above disappear. Thus, that's the end of the tour!

2- 15Five 

15Five proves that having short and simple steps in your onboarding flow is very effective in terms of ensuring user engagement.  

Firstly, it asks for your detailed information - which could be the only thing that needs to change to keep up with the rest of the flow. 

After acquiring your information, it sends you a welcome mail.

Then, it asks you to create a password that will be of use later on.

After creating your password, it takes you to a page to invite your team members - which is optional. 

Whether you invite team members or not, it triggers a tour that consists of five informative yet applied tasks about the Check-ins section. The first one greets you and reveals the core functionality of the product.

Then, it provides you with the right setting to teach you how to comment by giving an example on the right and explaining the situation on the left. 

The third step tells you to add a priority and shows you how you can benefit from it on the right. 

Next, it shows you how to add questions that are directed at your team members in order to get feedback and check in with them. 

The last step is about giving virtual high fives to your team members by praising their work. Once you read the last step, you end the product tour by clicking on the Finish button.  

3- Squarespace 

Squarespace's user onboarding flow is good for many reasons: one-click signup process, elegant visual design, and short guides that show the core functions back to back.  

The signup process is quite easy due to the one-click signup it offers.

After signing up, a modal window that consists of 4 steps appears and asks you to name your site.

At the second step, an explanation and a gif with hotspots over the buttons you'll soon get familiar with are displayed.

Next, the same modal window appears with the same elements on it; this time, it shows you how to create pages.

The last step contains the information on designing your site.

After the short trial, a checklist appears on the right. This checklist must be finished in order to set up your site and go public.

Thanks to the arrows on the right of the tasks, you're able to find where you need to look for that specific action.

As you start exploring, there are modal windows that demonstrate what you're capable of doing there.

After you finish the tasks, it lets you go live by clicking on Subscribe.

5 Steps to Designing Great Onboarding User Flows

If you want to have a great onboarding user flow, then keep on reading because I am about to reveal all the necessary steps of the design process one by one. However, keep in mind that trying to apply all of these steps could end in disaster since your onboarding flow should always be organized and in harmony. 

1- Be direct and clear 

Regardless of your audience, you should always cut to the chase when you seek to be understood. If you don't, then you might just confuse your audience - which is the opposite of what we try to achieve.

Therefore, keep it short and simple so that the users can easily digest what you are saying while following the other points or visuals. 

2- Be User-centric 

Find out the needs and expectations of your users and try to adjust the onboarding flow according to that. The more personal their onboarding is, the more engaged they are with the product or service.

Therefore, it would be best if you could see the whole onboarding process from their eyes and act upon that.

The ultimate goal here is to prove your product value to your audience while making sure that they feel like they are in capable hands. 

3- Don't be a Slave to Texts

To get your point across, you might think that texts are the way to go, like the good old times. However, it's far from the truth: People prefer watching and listening over reading

That's why you should benefit from videos, images, and GIFs whenever you see fit. Let your audience rest for a second by offering them a video instead of lengthy texts. 

4- Make Use of Tooltips and more

Sometimes users feel exhausted because they don't remember some features or functions by heart when using a product. It's totally normal to forget these things - unless it happens way too regularly. 

Then, it's just bad onboarding, not bad users.

The solution is easy, though. Use new patterns in your user onboarding flow and see the changes by resorting to user testing. 

Who could know something related to users better than the users?

5- Have Interactive Guides 

Don't let your users sit still and watch as the onboarding happens right before them. Introduce them to your product by letting them interact with the product

By doing so, you'll ensure not only user retention but also user engagement


Onboarding user flows are like the play you get to perform in front of your audience. 

You have to practice a lot, be mindful of them, and make sure they have a great time - then, they might even recommend it to their friends. 

Therefore, the elements you show within them matter because they can affect:

  • User retention
  • User engagement
  • Customer churn

However, as long as you take the steps above into regard, you and users will be just fine. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

1- What is user onboarding flow?

User onboarding flow is where your potential users and current users get to interact with your product or service. Throughout this process, you should showcase your product and present your core features to make the users see your real value. 

2- How do you create a user onboarding flow?

There isn't only one procedure to follow, but you can create a user onboarding flow by listening to your users' needs and expectations, being as direct as possible, and making use of the right onboarding patterns. 

3- What makes a good user onboarding?

If you can onboard your users without tiring them by creating an errorless onboarding flow according to their needs and expectations, then you're providing them with a good user onboarding. 


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