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7 prime user onboarding examples that inspire product adoption

Just like riding a bike for the first time, customers need training wheels to help them gain confidence with your product—and it’s no different when creating a seamless user onboarding process. And what better way to do that than learn from the best examples of user onboarding out there today?

Last updated

11 Oct 2022

This is your guide to the best user onboarding examples: learn how key players in the SaaS world onboard new users, why their methods are effective, and how you can apply the ideas and techniques from each example to your business.

Want to craft a seamless user onboarding experience?

Hotjar’s tools give you greater visibility into the user onboarding process, so you can optimize brilliantly

7 customer-centered user onboarding examples 

Putting your users and their goals at the heart of your onboarding design helps you create an experience that quickly shows them the value of your product.

Understanding when and how your users get value from your product is crucial. Once you know that, you can work to reduce the time-to-value, by removing any obstacles and unnecessary steps between your users and the superpowers your product gives them.

Alessio Laiso
Senior Product Designer,, Hotjar

Remember: every customer is different, so user onboarding should be flexible and customizable to meet the needs of each individual. Simply replicating another tool’s onboarding flow won’t necessarily help your specific customer base—so make sure you understand your users before designing your onboarding process. 

Use these examples, ideas, and user onboarding best practices to optimize your user onboarding experience, and, ultimately, drive product adoption:

1. Toggl's interactive product tour 

For products with tons of features, look no further than Toggl for inspiration. Toggle, a time-tracking tool, breaks up its product tour into different versions with natural breaks between each one. This gives new users the option to learn about basic functions before moving on to more advanced ones. 

The tour begins with integrated tooltips that give you a rundown on essentials like: how to start your tracker, name your newly tracked activity, and stop tracking your time. After completing the product guide, Toggl congratulates you on reaching this milestone with a pop-up telling you there’s more to learn. It clearly marks the next steps, so you know what you can achieve by clicking ‘Show me’. Toggl also gives you the option to return to this stage of onboarding at any time.

#Toggl lets users onboard gradually before teaching them about more advanced features and functions. Source: Toggle
Toggl lets users onboard gradually before teaching them about more advanced features and functions. Source: Toggle

Toggl’s onboarding model quickly introduces new users to the product’s value—depending on the customer's needs and time constraints—while reminding them there’s more they can accomplish. 

How to apply Toggl's technique to your user onboarding process: 

  • Keep your users informed and in control: always tell the user what they’ll learn, how many steps it'll take, and how to pause (and resume) onboarding. Give users the ability to skip or retrace their steps to remind them they have the freedom to explore and onboard at their own pace. 

  • Use interactive tooltips and banners to show users their progress and mark their success. Tell users how many tooltips they have left to unlock and let them explore your tool alongside the tooltip. 

  • Introduce your product’s value proposition early: start onboarding by introducing users to your product’s most important features first. Then, roll out other (more advanced) features later in the onboarding process. This helps your users quickly reach their aha moment and start using your product to solve their problems—while giving them the information they need for further discovery.

Don’t drown your users in a sea of information at the start of their experience. Different bits of guidance might be more relevant at specific moments and best delivered through separate channels. For example, you might want to highlight feature B only after the user has already used feature A. And, depending on the situation, you might deliver that advice right in the product or through other channels like email.

Alessio Laiso
Senior Product Designer,, Hotjar

2. Duolingo’s value-first strategy 

Language learning app Duolingo takes product-led growth to the next level by starting its customer onboarding experience with the product itself—and ending in a signup form. It delays user registration to make sure you experience value in the product as quickly as possible. Then, it prompts you to sign up to keep using the tool and unlock additional features. 

As you enter the app, Duolingo asks you to select a quick translation lesson based on your language interests and to choose a learning goal. It uses progress bars to show you how easy it is to learn a new language—all before signing up for the tool. The app also helps users maintain learning momentum with periodic tooltip prompts as they complete a lesson. Duolingo’s onboarding process sparks user interest and increases the chances of them adopting your product by personalizing the learning experience and using gamification throughout.

#Duolingo lets users engage with their product before signup to reduce their time to value. Source: Duolingo
Duolingo lets users engage with their product before signup to reduce their time to value. Source: Duolingo

So, how do you apply the themes from Duolingo to your onboarding process?  

  • Use progress bars and action-driven tooltips that disappear once a user clicks on another element to create a learning experience that’s easy to navigate. And make sure tooltips don’t get in the way of intuitive user interface (UI) and UX design. 

  • Prompt users to choose a learning goal before they sign up for the tool to increase their likelihood of returning

  • Let users engage gradually and don’t block them from recognizing your product’s value with a long registration process. By letting users engage with the product gradually, signup becomes a small step in their path to attaining value. 

3. Slack's learn-by-doing method 

Team messaging app Slack lets you learn by doing. First, it asks you to input the basics, such as your name and company. Then, it connects you to a chatbot that walks you through the product tour and main features. 

Slack uses empty states, or the lack of user data, to paint a picture of how to use the product—and slowly encourages you to start your own conversations. Its compelling microcopy tells users how to fill in each field, while popups help users explore its features. 

#Slack uses a ‘Slackbot’ to lead their product tour and personalize user onboarding. Source: Slack
Slack uses a ‘Slackbot’ to lead their product tour and personalize user onboarding. Source: Slack

How to use Slack to inspire your own onboarding flow: 

  • Cut out onboarding distractions: don’t disrupt your users by asking them to give ‘permission to send push notifications,’ and with pop-ups, verification emails, or password reset notifications while they’re onboarding. Postpone any administrative steps until the user has embraced your product. 

  • Use chatbots to personalize the onboarding experience with stimulating product tours, and collect data on user personas to help you better predict and understand customer needs. Educate users in an interactive way and drive them to take meaningful action within your product. 

  • Enable further discovery without overwhelming your customers with too much information upfront. Introduce users to key features (with chatbots and popups) to get started with your product and use empty states to fill in the blanks.  

4. Hotjar's personalized onboarding experience 

When you start onboarding with Hotjar (hi there👋), a product experience (PX) insights platform that shows you how users behave on your site, you’re prompted to fill out a drop-down form—with information about your product needs—to inform your SaaS customer experience. Hotjar gives you a personalized onboarding experience and recommendations on which tools to focus by asking you how you plan to use its software. 

Hotjar also educates you about its tools through product guides and tooltips to highlight specific functions and features and take you through installation. 

#Hotjar takes you through the steps of setting up its tools on your website. Source: Hotjar
Hotjar takes you through the steps of setting up its tools on your website. Source: Hotjar

After installation, Hotjar celebrates your progress with a dynamic success message whenever you discover how to use a new tool or feature. There’s also a section showing recent team progress and activity in product onboarding, which invites you to test the same features as your teammates. And if you have any doubts or questions, Hotjar’s Help Center gives you the resources and documentation you need to succeed within the platform. 

Here’s how to design a comprehensive user onboarding experience like Hotjar:

  • Educate new users based on their interests to personalize and speed up the onboarding process. Show users your most important features and information they need based on the information they provide—and capture their interest before moving forward with installation. 

  • Create self-service resources like a knowledge base or help center to enable further discovery about the tools users might skip during onboarding, answer their questions, or help them get more use out of your product. 

  • Display team progress during product onboarding and inspire users to try out similar features or tools. Make product discovery an exciting part of your onboarding process to drive mass adoption. 

  • Include feedback widgets throughout your onboarding process that ask users to rate their experience. Get feedback in the wild as users onboard your product, so you know what to improve. 

5. Dropbox's short and easy onboarding 

Dropbox, the famous file hosting service, guides users through onboarding with seven simple steps. Although you have to create an account and verify your email before onboarding, creating an account is simple and fast because you can use a social media account or email. Dropbox walks you through the process of document uploading and sharing with on-brand illustrations, welcome messages, and banners. A progress bar at the top of the page measures your steps to keep the process simple and monitor user flows.

In case users still have questions after the onboarding process, Dropbox also provides them with a downloadable PDF they can reference for using the mobile and web app. 

By keeping onboarding short and reminding users of their ability to instantly share documents, users get immediate value out of the product and see how it can help them complete their jobs to be done (JTBD).

#Dropbox uses simplicity to its advantage with clearly defined banners and steps. Source: Dropbox
Dropbox uses simplicity to its advantage with clearly defined banners and steps. Source: Dropbox

To take a page out of Dropbox’s onboarding process, you can: 

  • Cut out unnecessary steps: make your onboarding process short and simple while also providing your users with resources for further learning 

  • Use on-brand illustrations and welcome messages to delight your users without hiding basic product functionality. The more your brand can convey its personality, the more users will identify with your solution. 

  • Favor clarity: tell users exactly what they need to start using your product—in the simplest way possible. Make sure your onboarding copy, UI, and UX design promote a transparent and decluttered experience—and avoid using jargon that might confuse users. 

6. Calendly's quick activation tactic 

Meeting scheduling app Calendly promotes product adoption by building its activation moment (connecting your calendar to the app) right into its onboarding process. 

After signing up with your email, Calendly’s product guide prompts you to set up your personal URL and timezone, which are crucial for realizing the product’s benefits. It then reminds you to sync your calendar with the app, in case you missed this important step. It tracks your progress in a progress bar and gives you the option to skip any steps and customize your experience. 

It then eliminates user friction and personalizes the customer experience (CX) by asking you to indicate your meeting availability. Once you’re in the app, it gives you a checklist to schedule your first event—so users know exactly what they need to do to gain value.

#Calendly utilizes user onboarding checklists for a seamless user onboarding experience. Source: Calendly
Calendly utilizes user onboarding checklists for a seamless user onboarding experience. Source: Calendly

Here’s how to use Calendly’s technique to inspire your user onboarding process: 

  • Include a user onboarding checklist either at the beginning of your onboarding process or once users enter your digital product, to inspire your customers to take action and remind them of their goals

  • Build activation steps into onboarding to get more users to activate your product and increase their chances of adoption. Be strategic about which steps bring users the most value, and include the ones that drive product use. 

  • Reduce friction around key user challenges: anticipate issues users might encounter within your product and frame your onboarding process around them. For example, Calendly’s checklist includes setting up your first meeting with yourself to troubleshoot any technical issues before you start using it.

Pro tip: watch Hotjar Recordings to see exactly why new users drop off and where they get stuck during onboarding. Then, identify users who've experienced problems and use Hotjar Feedback widgets to find out more about their experience, so you can get ideas for onboarding improvements and priorities, and optimize accordingly. 

#Hotjar Session Recordings let you watch how your users experience your product

Hotjar Recordings give you a firsthand look at your user onboarding process. Source: Hotjar

7. Apple Music's long free trial period

Apple Music is Apple’s video and music streaming service. It encourages new users to test out its product with a three-month free trial period—giving them more time to explore and recognize value than the typical 30-day SaaS free trial. Apple Music tells its users exactly what to expect from the streaming platform in three simple bullet points. Then, if users choose to proceed, Apple Music asks them to select a pricing option for when the free trial ends. 

Apple Music lets you curate your own onboarding experience by selecting your interests and scrolling through artists until you’re satisfied. And the more artists you select, the better the suggestions it offers. 

#Apple Music’s onboarding process lets users customize their onboarding flow. Source: Apple Music
Apple Music’s onboarding process lets users customize their onboarding flow. Source: Apple Music

Once you complete this stage of onboarding, you arrive at a personalized ‘For You’ page that categorizes all your favorite artists and songs—and gets you started with the product. 

So, how can you apply Apple Music’s onboarding strategies to your business? 

  • Hyper-personalize the onboarding experience and give users the ability to customize it. Adapt your product tour to their needs and let their interests and preferences drive your recommendations to fuel customer engagement. 

  • Display onboarding results immediately, so users can see the impact of their onboarding process and don't have to start again from scratch. With its ‘For You’ tab, Apple Music creates a tailored onboarding experience with automatic results upon completion—so users get an instant feel for the tool’s capabilities. 

Use product experience insights to power user onboarding 

The way you design your onboarding experience depends on:

  • Understanding user needs

  • The type of learning your ideal customers respond to

  • Highlighting your product’s value as quickly as possible 

Use our guide to inspire you with useful onboarding tips and best practices taken from leading SaaS businesses. Then, go deeper into your user onboarding experience with product experience insights that show—and tell—you exactly what to improve.

Want to craft a seamless user onboarding experience?

Hotjar’s tools give you greater visibility into the user onboarding process, so you can optimize brilliantly.

FAQs about user onboarding