What is Onboarding In Behavioral Design?


Onboarding is the process of introducing and familiarizing users with a new product, service, or system, and guiding them towards becoming proficient and engaged users. The goal of onboarding is to minimize friction, reduce cognitive load, and ensure users have a positive first-time experience, increasing the likelihood of long-term adoption and satisfaction. Onboarding plays a critical role in behavioral science, user experience (UX) design, and product design, as it directly impacts users’ perceptions, engagement, and overall experience with a product.


Onboarding as a concept originated in the context of human resources, where it referred to the process of integrating new employees into an organization. In recent years, it has been extended to cover the experience of new users with digital products and services, such as websites, mobile apps, software platforms, and online services.

Applications in Behavioral Design, User Experience, and Product Design

Progressive Disclosure

Onboarding often involves gradually revealing information and features to users, so as not to overwhelm them with too much information at once. This progressive disclosure helps users build a mental model of the product or system and eases the learning curve.

Tutorials and Walkthroughs

An essential aspect of onboarding is providing clear and concise instructions or tutorials, guiding users through the initial setup, key features, and functionalities of the product. These can take the form of in-app tooltips, interactive walkthroughs, or video tutorials.

User Interface (UI) Design

Effective onboarding requires designing user interfaces that are intuitive, visually appealing, and easy to navigate. This includes using clear language, visual cues, and familiar design patterns to guide users through the onboarding process.


Personalizing the onboarding experience can make it more engaging and relevant to individual users. This may involve asking users about their preferences or goals and tailoring the experience accordingly or using data-driven insights to customize the onboarding flow.

Feedback and Reinforcement

Providing users with immediate feedback and positive reinforcement during onboarding can increase motivation and encourage continued engagement with the product. This can include celebrating users’ accomplishments, providing progress indicators, or offering rewards for completing onboarding tasks.

User Testing and Iteration

An effective onboarding process is informed by continuous user testing and iteration. By gathering feedback from users and analyzing usage data, designers can identify areas of friction, confusion, or dropout and make improvements to optimize the onboarding experience.

In conclusion, onboarding is a crucial component of behavioral science, user experience, and product design, as it shapes users’ initial impressions and sets the foundation for long-term engagement and satisfaction. By implementing thoughtful onboarding strategies that reduce friction, provide guidance, and foster a positive user experience, designers can create products that are more likely to be adopted and appreciated by users.

Related Articles

Default Nudges: Fake Behavior Change

Default Nudges: Fake Behavior Change

Read Article →
​Here's Why the Loop is Stupid

​Here’s Why the Loop is Stupid

Read Article →
How behavioral science can be used to build the perfect brand

How behavioral science can be used to build the perfect brand

Read Article →
The death of behavioral economics

The Death Of Behavioral Economics

Read Article →