Onboarding is a murky term. Sometimes people mean your first session with a product. Other times it refers to those popups and guided welcome tours I have to endure. Other people think of onboarding as the initial two weeks with a product, usually the free trial territory of the experience.

I like to define onboarding as everything that precedes someone successfully building a habit around a product.

I’m defining ‘building a habit’ as doing a specific action a set number of times withing a specific timeframe.

I’m not pulling this ‘set numbers of times’ out of a 🎩. I have to sit down with the data and figure out how many times people have to perform your core action within an initial timeframe to stand a chance of becoming a long term user.

The only way I know how to do this is to run correlations between how many times people perform an action within different timeframes and how likely they are to continue using your product six months later.

Once I have a placeholder for what people need to do to stand a chance of building a long term habit around a product I have an endpoint to work with.

The idea here is to start at the endpoint and then work backwards. I map out all of the touchpoint people must go through till I get to when they first signed up.

Then I can measure exactly how many people made it to each touch point. Mapping the onboarding experience in this way lets me highlight the single biggest dropoff in the journey people take to build a habit with a product.

Visualising the onboarding experience as a funnel and measuring where the most significant drop-offs are is one way I’ve found high impact opportunities for growth.


Other questions to ask yourself to improve your retention…

  1. Does your product make a clear promise?
  2. Do you know how often people have the problem you help them solve?
  3. Do you know what your product’s core action is?
  4. How many people continue to use your product six months after they sign up?
  5. Have you segmented your retention curve by the different types of users in your app?

  • Elements of user onboarding If you want to improve how you think about your onboarding experience, look no further. 
  • Better Onboarding Krystal Higgins’ new book on onboarding just came out, and I’m enjoying it muchly.