12 Must-read Actionable User Onboarding Articles from 2014

12 Must-read Actionable User Onboarding Articles from 2014

We’re all very lucky these days.

The Internet might seem like it’s comprised almost entirely of funny pictures. But, if you know where to look, you can find content written by supersmart people with amazing perspectives, ideas and strategies to help make your customers happy and your SaaS profitable.

One tiny problem though, is that there’s so much great content that it’s easy miss out on some of the best reads. Don’t worry though! You’re here now, and we’ve put together last year’s essentials for you.

If user onboarding is still a relatively new concept to you, the first two articles in this list are what you need. For more seasoned veterans looking for advanced strategies, you may want to skip the first two and start off with number 3 below.

The material here can genuinely help you make a fortune in improved SaaS results, so make sure you bookmark this article and come back until you’ve read them all.

ConversionXL became well known for its no-nonsense, results-focused and highly actionable content. In this article from managing editor, Tommy Walker, you’ll find a particularly solid introduction to user onboarding. Things you’ll learn include:

Key takeaways:

  • A great explanation of what user onboarding is
  • How to track your conversions in your funnel, find the clogs, friction points and red flags
  • How to implement actionable onboarding to find the “Aha!” moment

A Quick Guide To Successful User Onboarding for SaaS Products

Lincoln Murphy is an industry leader and one of the best SaaS consultants in the world. His Sixteen Ventures is a treasure trove of SaaS growth insights and this article is a must read

Key takeaways:

  • A more efficient way to approach your free trial period
  • How to define “customer success” and make sure your users get theirs
  • The importance of focusing on the next milestone when you’re feeling overwhelmed

In a guest post for UX Booth, Shopify’s Lindsay Thornton tells the story of how she realized that the usability data her team was pulling wasn’t providing the kind of qualitative results needed to make informed decisions about the user interface. Thornton did a great write-up on her experience.

Key takeaways:

  • Examples of important information you often can’t get from the data
  • How implementing surveys can gather the kind of information that makes a difference
  • How to use diary studies and effectively approach your user feedback


Naturally, the myTips blog had to get an entry. We received a lot of positive feedback from our article on actionable onboarding. So, if you haven’t already, check out the article on the link below. If you do, you’ll learn:

Key takeaways:

  • A definition of skill and how it relates to your user’s onboarding experience
  • How and why to use arrows, buttons and incentives to improve your results
  • How to track and review your data to improve results quickly and easily

Intercom makes semiregular appearances on the myTips blog because it’s such an excellent and effective onboarding tool. They also have a pretty stellar blog of their own, and in this contribution from Samuel Hulick, you’ll find valuable insight on how to utilise the power of the story in your onboarding.

Key takeaways:

  • How to “set the stage” for your onboarding
  • How to interview successful users and keep them focused on the success they have experienced
  • How to be more specific in the questions asked to highlight the value of your product, while simultaneously gathering data

Killer user Onboarding Starts With a Story
Image credit Samuel Hulick

While how-to and actionable guides are juicy and profitable, sometimes what user interface adjustments need is a little inspiration. And this article from Zapier gives precisely that. It provides 14 different sources of people doing particular things very well.

We didn’t put the key takeaways here because there are essentially 14 of them, each of them with images, so check out the article below.

Ghost is an open source blogging and publishing platform with a pretty smart team of UI guys and onboarders behind it. In October, John O’Nolan wrote an article featuring the strategies they used to generate a 1,000% conversion increase (and no, that’s not a typo).

Key takeaways:

  • How there can often be lots of little “Aha!” moments
  • A great real-world example of how to review data and take action based on it
  • How to take the success achieved so far and use it to plan ahead

What Makes People Love Ghost 1,000% More

In this post on Digital Telepathy’s Betterment blog, MK Cook uses the analogy of the first date when describing your user’s onboarding experience. It’s certainly a relevant metaphor and the article gives insightful tips for various strategies to ensure that a romantic evening gets you to 1st base, and then some…

Key takeaways:

  • Different approaches you can use such as, “joyriding”, “do something”, or “setup”.
  • How to spot potentially complicated parts of your onboarding and spell it out for the user
  • How to always be on the lookout for opportunities to add more fun to the user’s experience

User onboarding is all about the thought process. For that reason, this article from Toggl is an excellent insight as Liisa Toompuu explains the thought processes experienced while doing onboarding for this time tracking SaaS.

Key takeaways:

  • The importance of metrics and how to start simple if you find using them difficult
  • The importance of taking care with case studies because everyone has different needs
  • Great examples of how the tiniest things can have huge effects

Lessons Learned from Toggl Onboarding

Finding your “Aha!” moment takes time, skill and continual, iterative testing. You’ve probably already read our awesome article on the subject [link], and this is another one should definitely check out. By reading different peoples’ perspectives on this important topic, you’re much more likely to have success.

Key takeaways:

  • That people can’t pay you money before they’ve reached the “Aha!” moment
  • How to properly define what your “Aha!” moment is
  • How drop-offs can happen before optimizing the changes you make to guide people towards it

This article is arguably the best in a series titled The Art & Science of Growth Hacking and looks at how to determine the “Wow!” factor in your product and then ensure that it gets delivered straight to your users via your onboarding process. It’s a longer read than most, but well worth setting time aside for.

Key takeaways:

  • How to identify your “Wow!”
  • How to reduce the time and effort it takes to get it delivered to your user
  • A thoroughly-diagramed processed to spot blockage points

Time to WOW by David Skok

This list probably wouldn’t be complete without at least something from the awesome KISSmetrics blog. Some of the methodology in these six tips can get a little advanced but, followed correctly, it’s realistic that you could double your activation rate and book that holiday in the Caribbean for the end of the year.

Key takeaways:

  • How to map out your ideal customer flow
  • How to simplify steps, language and visuals to reduce friction and improve performance
  • Great strategies for re-engaging users that fall off

Happy reading and good luck in 2015!

We hope these actionable articles will inspire you to try something new this year. As Thomas Jefferson famously said, “if you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.” Push yourself outside your comfort zone by testing new strategies so you can look forward to your most profitable year to date.

Got any favorite articles from 2014? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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