Onboarding 101 with OthersideAI

“User centricity is at the center of every single thing we do.” —Jason of OthersideAI

In this piece, I’m digging into the consumer onboarding experience — what it is, why it matters, and how you can create a successful onboarding for your own product.

What is onboarding? And why should I care?

At the highest level, onboarding is the experience between “signing up and becoming an engaged user.” To put it simply, if users don’t understand your product, they won’t use it.

Onboarding can be both active and passive.

I’ve broken down the term onboarding into two parts: active onboarding, like the white-glove experiences we’re seeing more and more with subscription-based consumer productivity tools, and passive onboarding, which describes the actual design features that affect a user’s experience.

Onboarding Best Practices

A successful consumer product onboarding:

Emphasizes the product’s value proposition.

It’s less about the features, and more about what your users can do with those features. Jason Fried of Basecamp said it best:

Has a clear activation metric.

An activation metric is a measure of how many actions it takes a user to receive value out of a product. With clearly defined activation metrics, you can turn your onboarding into an educational experience and guide users to activation more quickly, setting yourself up for increased retention in the long run. “The truth is that if a user doesn’t know how to use a product, optimizing for activation is useless.”

Duolingo’s onboarding screens

Keeps it simple.

In consumer, a great onboarding flow gets you to the core value of the product in the minimum number of steps required. As such, successful onboardings avoid text-heavy explanations. Instead, opt for screenshots and illustrations to get the point across. It can also be helpful to include progress indicators if your onboarding process is multi-step, so your users can see how far along they are in the introduction to the product.

A simple progress indicator during an onboarding flow

Is personalized to the user.

Headspace is a great example of utilizing in-app personalization, promising the user a personalized experience based on answers given during the onboarding process. The more relevant information the new user gives, the more they’ll get out of the app as a whole.

  • Pitch: includes a mini tutorial upon signing up to get the user started
  • Lemonade: makes the process fun and personalized to the user
  • Apple Card: “the flow was so easy it felt like an accident”
  • Wild card: “If Quibi had anything going for it, it was the onboarding. 10/10” — Bryce Natale



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Gaby Goldberg

Gaby Goldberg

Investor at TCG Crypto. Alum @Stanford. Follow me @gaby_goldberg.