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There's a right and wrong time to iterate on onboarding

Emily Wang
2 min read

Your SaaS product is never not changing. The wheels are constantly in motion, and your product roadmap never reaches a destination. While you’re focused on growing and evolving, you can’t forget a critical component—in-product onboarding. 

When should I update my in-app customer onboarding?

I’ve had the pleasure of talking to countless product leaders who face a common challenge: they aren’t sure what to do with onboarding after the initial version. There are two sides to this problem:

  • If you view onboarding as a one-and-done task, you risk holding users back as personas and product change.
  • If you stress over updating every detail in your onboarding, you can waste precious time making inconsequential updates.

The solution lies in the middle. Your onboarding needs to evolve with your product, but it doesn’t have to be as tedious as you might suspect. You can take a nearly formulaic approach to know when to iterate and leave onboarding as is. 

Adjust you in-app onboarding based on customer action

In-product onboarding teaches new users how to fit your tools into their lives and workflows. That means that if something affects when or why someone would use a feature, or the person evolves, you need to update onboarding. 

You’ll likely need to update onboarding if:

  1. You or your users find a better way to complete a task. I like to refer to the onboarding flow as the “happy path.” That is, what order should users follow to achieve a goal as quickly as possible. Your customers might even point out where they deviated from the course you thought was best in favor of an even faster route. 
  1. You’ve added a new persona. People in different roles or with varying priorities need dedicated onboarding. For example, if your current flow caters to marketing roles, but you’ve found that customers bring in engineering help, you need a path for the new user type. 
  1. There’s a new buying path. Your onboarding needs to be optimized if you want to strengthen your product-led growth, since proactive onboarding gives users the tools to work independently. Adding a self-service buying path (or investing more attention in it) warrants an evaluation of your onboarding to ensure it can lead to user activation. 

Decision tree flowchart titled "Should you update your customer onboarding?" Update if you have a better order to introduce features, there's a new user persona, or you've added a new way to buy. Leave it if none of those apply.

Design changes and bug fixes aren’t onboarding iteration contenders

In-product onboarding outlines the why and your fresh UI or feature updates will make the how feel intuitive. Don’t worry about updating onboarding solely for:

  1. UI and design updates. When you update design elements your documentation usually gets an overhaul. If all that’s changing is the UI on top, and not the underlying purpose behind the actions, you can leave onboarding alone. 
  1. Feature updates. If you want to give users an in-app message that a new feature is available, go for it. However, you don’t need to alter your onboarding for each update or bug fix. 

In-app onboarding iteration checklist

If you’ve established it’s time to give your onboarding another look, there are three phases that every iteration needs. 

Step 1: Identify the path

Take a moment to write down your onboarding paths, who they serve, and what the critical “aha” moment is. 

Then, consider the path for the new persona, buying route, or feature. If that path diverges from your original track, or you’ve found a better way altogether, you need to create a new flow. 

Step 2: Choose the steps

Whether you need to forge a new path or update an existing one, you’ll need to consider the steps. If a current action takes too long to complete and doesn’t impact the outcome, delete it. Have a new must-use feature? Add it. If everything must stay, try rearranging your steps to put quick wins early in the game. 

Step 3: Simplify the content

Your final onboarding iteration step is putting the finishing touches on content. Reduce wordiness where possible. Remember, you can always link to your help center or technical docs if users want to know more. Go ahead and update screenshots as needed since you're here. 

Bento helps you iterate onboarding faster

Onboarding users is an ongoing process, but it doesn’t have to be tedious. Bento helps product teams analyze, iterate, and ship onboarding (or rather, everboarding) updates in less time. 

Start by comparing stats on onboarding steps to identify bottlenecks, then use onboarding templates to add modules or persona segments easily. Updates automatically send to existing and new users, and if your media is deleted, your admin receives an email giving them a heads up about the new 404. 

Sign up for a demo today to see how Bento can enable you to iterate more frequently without the overhead of a complete redesign project.


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