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What is Website Onboarding and How to Do It Right

In this article, we will go over successful onboarding is meant to show potential users and customers how your website will make their lives easier.
User Onboarding
Written by
Renk Mert
Published on
February 22, 2023

This article will take 10 minutes of your time, but provide a value that is probably worth hundreds of times more than that. Let us start with a question: How much research do you do before deciding on what movie to watch?

This article will take 10 minutes of your time, but provide a value that is probably worth hundreds of times more than that.

Let us start with a question:

How much research do you do before deciding on what movie to watch?

If your answer is longer than ten minutes, then you are on team ”picky.”

But you're not alone. It's normal for you to take 10 minutes of your time for a movie that will take more or less two hours from your night.

With that being said, how important do you now think it is to make sure your users think your product is worth their time?

A successful onboarding is meant to show potential users and customers how your website will make their lives easier. And the better their first impression is, the higher your chances are.

First impression for a web app = onboarding.

Want to know more? Keep reading.

What is Website Onboarding?

Website Onboarding is the process of guiding a first-time user through the product features and getting them to become loyal customers. 

Website onboarding, or any kind of onboarding process, is often thought of as a simple product tour. 

However, it starts way before the product tour.

The product tour is only a part of the onboarding. A complete onboarding starts as soon as the potential user learns about your services, and, ideally, doesn't end until users decide to abandon you.

Or simply put, onboarding works best if it's continuous.

Because as you develop and change, you will have to onboard users to those changes.

Why should you onboard users to a website?

If you don't give your consumers sufficient information and direction about what your product is, how to use it, and how to find value in it, there's a good chance they'll abandon it.

Before they've even finished using it.

And expectations develop quicker than the technology itself.

Following that, here are the main reasons for website onboarding being crucial:

  • The onboarding is like a map. It helps users set expectations, a pace, and feel satisfied with your services.
  • Onboarding is a key step for assuring a good user experience. Good user experience means better retention rates and higher return on investment.
  • Good user onboarding helps you save more money by cutting costs of support, sales, outbound marketing, and helps you fight churn.

7 Steps to Onboard User to a Website

If we're on the same page about why an onboarding flow is crucial for websites, let's see how to create the best:

1- Onboarding Begins Before The Landing Page

The first thing you have to keep in mind about a website user onboarding experience is that it starts before users enter the onboarding portal, or get into your website.

The user onboarding process includes each email the user gets, each ad they see about you, or each gossip among colleagues about your services.

In other words, you have to keep in mind that users have done their research about you before deciding to sign up and get on board. The same goes for any employee onboarding experience. They probably have an onboarding buddy who gave them a brief about what to expect.

So, make sure to design an onboarding journey that doesn't waste each user's time, talking about who you are and what they should expect.


2- Keep The Signup Process Short

It's known that employee retention depends on the hiring process as much as the salary.

The same goes for website onboarding. If it's too challenging to sign up, no one will care how unique and valuable your website is.

Here are some of the signup form best practices:

  • Don't ask for more than 4 types of information on one screen.
  • If your users need to fill more boxes than four, put some of those into another step.
  • If your signup form has multiple steps, let the users know via a progress bar.
  • Don't hide any rules. If there are specific rules for the password, let the users know in advance.
  • Don't ask for password repetitions, and don't ask users to confirm their email addresses via email.

Take Netflix as an example.

Not only do they create a sympathetic environment by letting users know that they hate paperwork too. They also ask for only 2 essential types of information, assuring everyone that there will be a progressive onboarding and not a bad app experience from the get-go.

3- Be Welcoming

Congratulations if you managed to make users sign up for your product.

Now, you have to make users feel at home.

That's probably one of the trickiest parts of digital onboarding: giving the feeling of warmth and human connection. For example, you could use cute illustrations and a dialog box rather than a cold modal to keep users interested in your website.

You can also write the copy as if you are actually talking to the user.

For instance, instead of saying ”click here to go to the menu”, you could say,”The menu is located right here, you'll probably be using it a lot.”

Also, try to use moving elements on your onboarding screen. For example, gifs, videos, animations, or even sliding models will be more engaging than linear app messages.

[ typeform image]

After reading this content, tell me if you would take this product tour, or cut the onboarding process to dig into the website yourself?

Personally, I'm convinced that Typeform won't waste my time or cause any other onboarding issues. That's how vital even one single modal is when it comes to onboarding.

4- Keep The Product Tour Short And Clear

The onboarding process will be long, yes. But you should make sure that your users don't feel that way. And keep in mind that user onboardings are much more than product tours.

So yes, those have to be short.

Both the copy on the product tour and its length must be short. This has various reasons:

  • You don't want to bore your users, or else your engagement rates will decrease.
  • Don't cut the product experience with a massive load of information which is supposed to be a successful onboarding experience.
  • Make sure that the design of the product tour matches your website or web app design.

There are three good practices shown in this one single tooltip:

  1. The copy is short, and the placing of sentences is great.
  2. There is a progress bar, showing how long the tour will take. And there are only 8 steps.
  3. The attention to detail makes the tooltip sound friendly. How more cute could an hourglass be?

5- Allow Users To Interact With The Process

Unless you decided to describe your digital product with an article or one single video (both being horrible mistakes), you should let users interact with the onboarding elements.

And by that, I don't mean the ”main menu” button on error pages.

The users should be in charge of the amount and density of information they get. They should be able to follow the product tour and other onboarding elements at their own pace.


  • If you decide to go with video onboarding, use separate videos for different functionalities.
  • If you decided to go with copy-only, again, split the information into different pages. You could even create a resource center where users could access those copy anytime.
  • If you use an interactive website walkthrough, make sure to let users do more than clicking ”next.” You could get them to fill a box, or select something on the page themselves.
  • You could also let your users know about onboarding tasks using a checklist.

The good thing about checklists is that they have multiple advantages. They make you look professional, let the users be in control, and inform them about the duration with progress bars.

6- Don't Disappear After Only One Explanation

If you know, you know... the feeling when you accidentally close the product tour and cannot open it back.

It is your job to make sure the onboarding process is fail-proof. So it will be wise to cut the users a bit of slack, and make sure your resources and onboarding patterns are not only one-show.

Take this modal from Ideta as an example. Everything is dark on the screen, except for the essential onboarding material, and the help center button.

If you don't want to put a specific highlight on such small details and make the process longer than it should, such small hacks could be a lifesaver.

7- Collect Feedback And Listen To Your Users

And lastly, actually interacting with the users.

Wouldn't you love it if your favorite bar took your advice about the sizes of portions and decided that you're right?

The same thing happens if you ask users what they would love to see on your website, or what they think could be done better. The actual users will be your free testers.

But remember to keep the feedback collection process short.

ClickUp simply asks to be rated, and short feedback won't be a burden to the user.

Make use of short surveys like NPS surveys. Don't bombard busy people with endless google forms.

And also, don't expect them to be kind enough to give you feedback even if you don't ask for it. Any average user will churn on their first lousy experience without hesitation.


Creating a good user onboarding for a website is not difficult, nor expensive. It could only take a bit of your time, but you will be glad for having taken the time after you start seeing results and get positive feedback.

Also, it's crucial to know how to create the best onboarding flow more than anything.

These seven proven practices have helped companies like Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Typeform, and many more, and you could be the next on this list.

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