User Onboarding

User onboarding can impact the entire user experience, and you only get one shot to welcome a new user. Use these guidelines to ensure your app’s onboarding process is turning new users into active ones.

User Onboarding Goals

There are several goals that your user onboarding experience should accomplish:

  • Teach users how to use your app’s basic features in an effortless way.
  • Establish your app’s value and capabilities - let users experience a WOW moment.
  • Solidify the user’s trust and interest.
  • Give the user incentives to keep using the app.
  • Allow users to begin discovering your app quickly.
  • Make users feel welcome.

Questions To Help You Get Started

Whether you are creating a user onboarding experience for the first time or revamping your current one, here are some questions to guide you through the process:

  • Who is considered a “new” user? Which segments will this onboarding process be targeted at?
  • What are your app’s basic features and how can you demonstrate them to your users in a quick, fun way?
  • How can you convey your app’s value and brand?
  • How can you ask for user data and personal information in a way that doesn’t feel intrusive or demanding?
  • What types of messaging will you send users during the onboarding process?

Best Practices

Creating Segments

Remember that onboarding is a process. You need to not only target users who are completely new but also ones who have used your app for only a week. If you aren’t able to highlight all the features you want during the initial onboarding experience, introduce more the next time your user opens the app. To do this, create multiple segments that target users at different stages of the onboarding process.

Designing Simple Introductions

When a user opens your app for the very first time, you want to show them how to use your basic features in a quick, simple manner. You need to teach users how to navigate your app without taking so long that they become impatient.

Here are some things to keep in mind when designing an introduction:

  • The format of your introduction shouldn’t be time consuming, since users are probably eager to discover your app. For instance, instead of creating a long video tutorial, consider condensing the information into a few pages that readers can slide through.
  • Focus on introducing users to basic and important features during their first session. You will have opportunities to show them more features in their next few sessions.
  • Keep the copy simple and concise.
  • Use graphics, if possible, to show users how to navigate your app.
  • Address any concerns the user may have. For instance, if you ask users for their email, it may help to also tell them that you won’t share their address with any other parties.
  • Demonstrate your app’s value before asking users for their information. If your app involves a registration process, for example, your user will be more eager to undergo it after seeing what your app has to offer. Prompting users the second they open the app may scare away those who don’t want to put in the effort to register without knowing what your app can do. Learn more strategies for asking users for data on our page on Data Opt-ins.

Hailo does a great job at onboarding new users. When users open the app for the first time, they are led through a short Hailo Tour before being shown the registration page.

1. Hailo Tour Step 1 - Quickly re-emphasize app’s purpose.

Hailo Step 1

2. Hailo Tour Step 2 - Show users how to use the most basic features.

Hailo Step 2

3. Hailo Tour Step 3 - Address payment, which is something most users are probably wondering about.

Hailo Step 3

4. Hailo Tour Step 4 - Show users what to expect after they’ve hailed a cab.

Hailo Step 4

5. Hailo Tour Step 5 - Point out another helpful feature.

Hailo Step 5

6. Hailo Tour Step 6 - Include a friendly hint.

Hailo Step 6

7. Hailo Tour Registration Page - Prompt users with a clear call to action after showcasing the app’s value.

Hailo Step 7

Taking Advantage Of The News Feed

The News Feed is an extremely powerful tool in the user onboarding process. It hosts rich content within your app, so users seeking more guidance or more advanced tips can easily access them. While your introduction should be simple and brief so users can dive into your app, the News Feed is there for when users have finished their initial exploration and are ready to discover advanced features and become a more involved member of your app’s community.

Welcome new users to your app with a branded News Feed card. Keep the News Feed updated with relevant information, hints and deals targeted towards users who are at different steps of the onboarding process. For instance, a user who is in their second week would see hints about advanced features, while a user who is in their third or fourth week may be targeted with conversion campaigns.

Requesting User Data

Requesting user for data during the onboarding process can be tricky. Read our tips on our Data Opt-in page.

Because it’s best practice to ask users for data after providing them with value, we recommend that you do not ask users to grant location or push access the second they open your app for the first time. There is a higher chance that the user will deny you access. If this information is essential to the onboarding process, request it with a custom opt-in prompt.

Using Multi-Channel Messaging

Use multi-channel messaging to create an engaging onboarding campaign. Combine in-app messages, push notifications and emails with News Feed content to capture your users’ attention right away.

In-App Messages

  • You do not need to request the user’s permission to send in-app messages, so you can send them even when you don’t have any user data.
  • They are useful for driving in-app discovery because they can deep link to your News Feed or a specific page within your app.
  • In-app messages can be used to provide brief tips and updates.
  • Before users give you permission to access data or push notifications on their devices, you should prime them to increase the likelihood they convert.

Push Notifications

  • If a new user has push enabled and has only used your app once, you can send them a notification a couple days after their first session to remind them to come back into your app.
  • New users are still in the process of developing trust in your app’s communications. Don’t send too many push notifications, or users may perceive your app as spammy.
  • Like in-app messages, push notifications can [deep link] to specific pages within your app, making them a good tool for encouraging users to re-open your app.
  • Our Push Best Practices page has more information on creating custom opt-in prompts.


  • If new users provide their email address, send them a welcome message right away to thank them for signing up.
  • Because emails allow for rich content, you can include images and helpful hints.

Here’s an example of a welcome email that Hailo sends to users after their first session:

Hailo email

New Stuff!