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9 Key Lessons from ‘The Elements of User onboarding’


16 August, 2019



The Elements of User onboarding

Your product is the mountain that your user needs to climb.

You’re the Sherpa. Show him how wonderful it is at the top, remove any roadblocks and get him there.

Samuel Hullick, thought leader on user onboarding, uses this analogy in his book “The Elements of User Onboarding” to show you how to overcome those hurdles and help you to onboard your users successfully. In this article, we will summarize the key learnings from the book to help you skyrocket your user onboarding process.

Credits are to Samuel, all mistakes and important omissions are ours.

1. Explain Benefits Comprehensively

Unlike Facebook, Google or Twitter, be comprehensive in articulating how your product will make user lives better.Companies like Twitter and Facebook can afford to have a minimal homepage without much information.

However, for most, thoroughly explaining improvements is crucial to helping your key users envision the benefit. This leads them to the first commitment (signup, request demo, etc).

2. Spark The Aha Moment As Early As Possible

Your goal is to explain the benefits to the user and show how your product helps them get there, by sparking the “aha-moment” as early as possible.

For most products, the “aha-moment” unfortunately comes in too late, leading to users clicking away from your site.

This infographic does a great job of visually explaining one of the most important elements of user onboarding: the aha-moment.

Aha Moment Product Epiphanies

Infographic by CleverTap

3. Make an Emotional Connection Through Product Personality

We as humans make decisions based on emotions and use rational analysis to back these decisions.

Having a personality helps users to create an emotional connection with your product.

MailChimp, Wufoo and Slack are a few companies that have done an incredible job at this.

For example, photos of faces on a website capture attention and help form an emotional connection. Having a personality on not just the homepage, but throughout the product leads to a more connected user.

4. Help Users Rationalize their Decisions

After building an emotional connection, helping users to understand why the decision they are about to make is a rational decision.

To do that, show why your product is as good as all the other options out there and that it exceeds in specific ways, making it the logical choice.

Testimonials and endorsements from experts and social media followers, showcasing real world outcomes such as the number of users and being transparent, via promises as 100% moneyback guarantee, are some of the ways to convince your key users.

5. Clear Any Halted Progress

Assess the Points of Friction for the user to make sure people are not getting slowed down or interrupted.

Captchas or asking for a lot of information during the sign up process are some of the points that you want to avoid.

Understand and optimize these points to ensure a better user experience.Asking for email confirmation and slow sites are a few reasons a user can drift away from the path (you can use UXCam to see how users are using your app to understand where they are struggling and optimize those experiences).

Now that users are motivated and you’ve got them to take the first step to success, you will need to optimize the process to help them follow through to success, repeatedly.

6. Greet the User

When the user comes to your site, greet them like you would in normal life.Since it’s the first time visiting for the user, there won’t be much activity and the dashboard might look empty, also called “Blank states”.

Handle them gracefully with an ultra-sensitive tone without blaming the users for it.

Instead of saying “You have no friends”, use this opportunity to ask the user to invite people. Another approach is “content-as-tutorial”, similar to how Basecamp does, where content doesn’t exist merely to be seen, but to actively instruct.

7. Give Users Quick Wins

Give wins as early as possible so users remember this “peak” experience, increasing the likelihood of coming back again for more after the onboarding.

It’s not about the user getting started with the interface, but instead it’s about getting them to do something that’s a core essence of your offering. This allows the user to invest in your product.

Find the shortest path to these “achievements” by removing unnecessary steps. Each step increases the risk of users losing interest and clicking away from the app/site. Just focus on the most important elements of user onboarding.

8. Keep the User on Track for a Successful Journey

Maintain your presence inside your product and use interpersonal motivators.

Another effective way to keep users on track:Make the journey a series of small, easily achievable, steps that are unobtrusive to the user.

We as humans hate leaving things unfinished and we love achieving goals.Linkedin and Quora have done a great job leveraging this idea. Once your users are successful, acknowledge it and reward it

9. Repeating Success

The more instances of social accountability, i.e. getting people to connect with others inside your app, the stronger the commitment becomes.

Lifecycle email can be used to do things that the site/app cannot. Nudge people to complete the steps and pull the user into the site/app.

Conclusion about the Elements of User Onboarding

You don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression.

What happens after a user comes across your product is a delicate opportunity to make or break a relationship.

Every app brings a unique set of challenges. Use the tools and techniques learned above to measure, test and validate user onboarding ideas.

If you like this summary that has a lot of omissions, here is the link to purchase the book.

Here is the link to his tear-downs, which are as informative as they are hilarious. If you are ready to test the elements of user onboarding of your app, sign up for free at UXCam.

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We write about UX, Design & Product Management. Understand what users actually do inside your app at uxcam.com


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