In times of immense variety, the first impression is the digital product’s “to be or not to be”. That’s why user onboarding is so critical to market success. What does it consist of, and how to ensure the best user experience at the very first touch?

With competing digital solution providers shifting their standards, the users have grown quite picky – and it’s hard to blame them for that. Why bother struggling with the software or platform that causes so much trouble when there are so many alternatives available? 

The first few sessions are critical – if the user feels that the product doesn’t meet their expectations, they may migrate to another one. Considering that around 60% of users test the digital product once only, a great first impression is basically your only chance as a provider. It depends on many factors, including technical aspects like speed and performance which are associated with the architecture of the digital product. However, it is user onboarding that plays the most significant role.

What is user onboarding?

User onboarding is a term borrowed from human resources discourse. As Polish Software House points out in their article filled with user onboarding examples:

User Onboarding is a system that actively guides users to find new value in the product you are creating. 

This definition from above covers the entire user lifecycle and starts before the user registers on the site. User Onboarding is also a process that dramatically increases the likelihood of users adopting your product.


User onboarding is a set of introductory guidelines that make the new user familiar with the platform and the possibilities it provides. This mechanism also teaches the newcomers how to navigate the digital product and addresses the most common doubts/issues.

Interestingly, user onboarding can adopt different forms. The most common one is within the app or platform. However, the user can also get onboarded by an automated or human consultant.

User onboarding – what should it consist of?

There’s no recipe for successful user onboarding since each product has its own specifics. Even those that serve the same purpose may slightly differ in terms of features or design, so some solutions may not work for them the same way.

There are, however, the essential fundaments that user onboarding is usually based on. 

Feature display 

Users are often not familiar with the features the platform providers have prepared for them, and faulty onboarding is to blame. With a set of pop-ups/interactive slides, they can be easily introduced to those.

UX tip: don’t exaggerate with those – if the app has numerous features, try grouping them and presenting each group briefly instead of getting to the details of each feature. Less is more – if you provide the user with too much information at once, they will easily get confused.


Not every product is customizable, but it’s becoming increasingly significant for the users to have that possibility. And for some apps to work properly, updating personal preferences is a crucial part of an onboarding user flow. The new users can state their choices to provide the algorithm with data to learn with. At the same time, provided information often serves for adjusting the interface and features of the app to their needs.

UX tip: The requests for preferences updates should be justified so that the user doesn’t assume you’re just extracting valuable data. A little note “we need this to make our recommendations better” or any other justification will be enough to keep your app trustable.

Which content to pick for your user onboarding?

The process can take place within a platform or via an external channel, depending on the onboarding flow. More and more commonly, providers onboard their users via personalized videos instead of relying on written guidelines. Such a solution increases user engagement and facilitates explaining more complex issues. The onboarding content can also come in the form of push notifications, e-mails, and pop ups. Of course, it’s worth testing the approach of your users towards each form of the content before implementing it.