User onboarding for apps and webs: What's the difference?

29.1.2019, 5 minutes read

While the purpose of website user onboarding is to raise user engagement, the app onboarding should transform inexperienced users into professionals step by step.

user onboarding

1. User onboarding on the landing page

One of the missions of user onboarding is to take the intermediate users to the next level. Users, who find themselves on the landing page, are a different group than the real app users; therefore, this difference has to be considered in the onboarding process too. How?

People usually open a website to learn more about a product or service, to uncover its benefits as well as to find out if and how the product/service can solve their problem. Onboarding needs to provide the answers clearly, factually, and persuasively. Why is that?

In the best-case scenario, the visitor starts to use the service or buy the product. Therefore, user onboarding not only persuades the users of the benefits, but also guides them throughout the sign up and/or ordering process.


Website user onboarding principle

As already mentioned, the purpose of a landing page is to promote the product or service in question by evoking the user’s need to use the service or buy the product.

An efficient website user onboarding is based on principles of a successful landing page. To make the landing page work, it must:

●     have limited navigation elements: in terms of user onboarding, this means that landing page should be concise in content, and yet so factual to serve as a call-to-action instrument.

●     deliver instant value: your audience, searching for a solution of their problem, is not interested in your service’s features, but rather in finding the best way to solve their problem. This value needs to be delivered to the visitor at the very beginning for him or her to become your customer.

It’s more likely that if the visitors come into contact with useful content at the beginning, they will keep using the service further on.

delivering instant valueA great example of delivering instant value is the landing page of an URL shortener Bitly which fulfils its purpose as soon as you open the website.
Source: Bitly

How it shouldn’t be done

We are going to demonstrate a few firms which shouldn’t serve as an example of putting the theory above into real practice. Take a look at this landing page, contradicting all website usability principles and logical reasoning.

bad example search bergSource: Search Berg

It doesn’t take us - as professionals - long to figure out what's wrong with this website, but let’s put ourselves in the customer’s shoes. A customer searching for SEO service for his or her website visits this page and... has no idea where to look.

This page lacks clarity for, on one single screen, it tries to:

●     show why to choose them (award-winning SEO agency, really?),

●     present the benefits (results in less than 30 days),

●     provide information about its affordability,

●     convince us to contact them.

More visual smog than on this website can be seen only in Slovakia.

How it should be done

The website of Evernote, a note app, meets all the criteria of a good-quality landing page.

evernote good exampleSource: Evernote

User onboarding flow starts with a simple explanation of the product and how it can help. Moreover, all the mentioned benefits are free to use.

onboarding flowSource: Evernote

One of the main features of user onboarding is to educate the new users about your product using punch line copy. However, copy shouldn’t focus on the description of the features, but rather on the benefits for the user.

When writing this sales copy, our principles of successful microcopy can come in handy.

The last part of the landing page leads to call to action depending on your target which could be giving up the users’ email addresses, downloading an e-book, trying the limited software version or signing up, in Evernote's case.

evernoteSource: Evernote

2. User onboarding for apps

While website user onboarding is more marketing-related, because its purpose is to increase users’ interest in your product, the app user onboarding is a different story.

Its mission is to familiarize the user with the app environment to show him or her how to work with it efficiently and regularly.

User onboarding in the app starts with the sign up and continues through following steps in which the users:

●     find out why they should use the app,

●     are shown what they can achieve with it,

●     receive information on what's next.

If you succeed in providing all these, the user onboarding makes the beginner an active user.

example of bubble guideExample of a bubble guide, a part of user onboarding.
Source: Bitly

Sources of inspiration

Generally speaking, a bad example of user onboarding is its total absence. Imagine that you sign up, land in an environment with lots of buttons and features, but you don’t know where to start.

It this case, it doesn’t pay to rely on the people's natural intelligence because the decisive factor in user onboarding is to deliver a wow moment which comes when the user discovers the capability of the app or realizes how to use it.

The following example reflects nothing of the above mentioned as the only thing the user sees is an empty screen with no tips on how to proceed. Instead, the app could guide the user into a section where he or she could add the missing card.

empty statesSource: Empty States

An environment with an action reference, which will fill the empty state, is a much better example:

empty statesSource: Empty States

The transition from an empty state is only one of the fundamental onboarding steps which can help you show the users how to use your app.

onboarding designEvernote is one of many apps which can be a great source of inspiration when it comes to user onboarding design. Source: Evernote


User onboarding is a complex and long-term process, starting from the first visit, through the user guidance in the app to...well, it should never come to an end because onboarding should be a stable part of the app which you are planning to continuously improve.

Every new functionality has to be presented to the users and shown how to work with it. This means that user onboarding is not a one-shot activity, but a never-ending process.


Don’t forget that the user onboarding for an app and a landing page varies. In the latter, your goal is to convince the website visitor to try your app.

Should you succeed, the users will approach the guide which shows them how to efficiently use the app. And you discover a way how to easily and efficiently train your employees on working with your in-house software. Furthermore, with no money spent on face-to-face sessions.

Do you need our assistance? Contact us and we will be of assistance for you, just as we were for our current clients.

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