April 26, 2024
min read

Usertip | How to Design an Onboarding Process for SaaS

The best practices to designing an onboarding process for SaaS.

Written by

Marc Chia

Customer onboarding is the most critical step for a SaaS business. It is the first point of interaction a user has with your product and is crucial to familiarisation, getting the best use of it and in the process, creating stickiness. An ideal onboarding process shows value right from the first interaction and minimises any psychological dissonance involved in getting users started quickly and easily.

Here we explain why you should:

  • Contextualise Onboarding Experience
  • Identify and Shine the Spotlight on `Aha Moments`
  • Deliver Detailed Information Only When Needed
  • Measure Your Success

So that you can design an onboarding process for your SaaS that generates growth and delivers value for users.

Contextualise Onboarding Experience

Every user is unique and has a different set of expectations from your product. Understanding the context of your user is crucial as it will help you serve personalised content and will make onboarding process more relevant to them.Depending on your product complexity, it might be a good idea to know the technical background of your users. Users with a lesser understanding of your product category might find it difficult to grasp too much technical information. Similarly, users with a better understanding of your product category might find the introduction of basic features too boring. This is why, having separate digital onboarding experiences for different types of users can prove to be more effective.

Image 1. Justinmind Offers Different Onboarding Experiences For Different User

Justinmind is a prototyping tool which asks its users whether they are a `Beginner` or an `Expert` and designs their onboarding experience accordingly. This contextualised approach ensures a more targeted and smooth onboarding experience that directly addresses each user's needs.

Identify and Shine the Spotlight on `Aha! Moments`

`Aha! Moments` are those key points where the usefulness of a product clicks fora user and they realise how the product holds value for them. It is crucial to know exactly where these aha moments are, and it is your responsibility to navigate your users to them. Otherwise, the onboarding experience might leave the customers wanting for more.

For more complex tools, getting to the `aha moment` might take some time, therefore for such scenarios, it is even more important to let your customers know beforehand with signposting that they will eventually arrive at these `aha moments` at a later point in time.

Supermetrics is a marketing add-on for Google Sheets and Data Studio that allows one to pull all your PPC, SEO, social and analytics data into automated reports. Connect to Google Analytics, Adwords, Facebook, Bing, Twitter, Linkedin and more. While they have many products, the common "Aha! Moment" is when users run their first query with Supermetrics. Upon selection of a metric and dimensions and hitting "Get data to table" they then see documents populate with their data and see the power and simplicity of it. This is primarily facilitated via an intentionally designed email onboarding campaign.

Once you have identified your aha moment you should design your onboarding around getting your users to this point.

Deliver Detailed Information Only When Needed

You might be tempted to show off all the features that your design and development teams have produced after so much effort. But, introducing all features at once might not help your customers achieve what they want and may even be overwhelming. Overloading your customers with too much information is the last thing you want when introducing them to your product for the first time.

Plan your onboarding process in such a way that the detailed information on features are introduced only where users require it. Introducing detailed information at the point of need for your users helps retain user attention and ensures the pace of learning is natural. This will ensure that every feature is introduced clearly and each feature will make sense to them.

Image 3. Slackbot Automates User Inquiries Through Slackbot

Slack achieves this by giving new users a guided product tour which users have the ability to skip. It also gives its users the ability to ask for questions from Slackbot, a built-in virtual assistant that answers their questions in an intuitive way. In this manner, users can trigger Slackbot directly whenever they have queries and Slackbot can deal with issues as they arise. This is a better method of delivery as compared to frontloading all the information.

Measure Your Success

When you design user onboarding, you do it with a specific purpose in mind. It may be to minimise post onboarding support inquiries, reduce user churn or generate value for your users. However, knowing whether we have achieved success is only possible when you measure it.

Measuring your success is important not only because it gives you an idea of how you are doing, but also highlights areas you can improve. Here are some key metrics to track

  1. Churn Rate: The customer churn rate is the rate at which customers terminates their usage.
  2. Customer Lifetime Value (LTV): LTV is the amount of projected profit that you can expect from a new customer over the lifetime of the engagement. While this may be affected by a number of factors, a core factor is how long a customer stays with you.
  3. Retention Metrics: Measure customer retention within time blocks to understand why customers churn. If you lose most customers during the first week of onboarding, it may suggest users are not being shown your “aha” moment quickly enough.
  4. Net Promoter Score (NPS): Your NPS gauges customer loyalty by how likely your customers would be to recommend your service to another person. It directly affects your referral rates.
  5. Freemium/Trial Conversion: Measuring how many users convert from free/trial versions can be important to understanding how well your product can be understood by users with minimal handholding and can help refine your overall onboarding and usability

There are many tools available today to measure these metrics and even combine insights from all these sources into actionable items for your own product so that you can grow your customer base while retaining existing ones.


Designing an onboarding process is essential for success in a competitive SaaS landscape where customers have many options. It is vital to design this experience in a way that not only attracts new users, but helps existing users stay. Establishing a good digital onboarding process is a keystone for delivery of value and when done well can be a competitive advantage for your company.

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