“Forward” user onboarding

A few weeks ago I posted a short article about “backward” user onboarding and I wrote that there are two types of user onboarding funnels: “backward” and “forward”.

“Backward” user onboarding means that you are showing the end result as quickly as possible and then educate your customers by helping them to edit. You can read more about it here - “What the heck is ‘Backward’ user onboarding”.

“Forward” user onboarding means that we are guiding our customer through the creation of something from the empty state.

Today we’re going to talk a bit more about that kind of user onboarding and see some examples of course.

Example #1 - Evernote

We all know Evernote, but if you don’t, Evernote is the app that keeps your notes organised. Memos are synced so they're accessible anywhere, and searchable so you always find what you need.

When you sign up to Evernote, quickly enough you will find yourself dealing with this short list of 4 tasks. This list forces and helps you create a note, set a reminder, save web article and install a mobile app. In other words, it helps you to discover the product by forcing you to act and complete the very basic tasks. Once you’ve created your first note, Evernote shows where it saved. You learn by doing.


Example #2 - Basecamp

One of the oldest project management tools, Basecamp combines *all* the tools teams need together in one place: message boards, schedules, to-do lists, group chat, documents & file storage, and more.

I’ve tested a lot of project management apps. It’s hard to onboard a user to such a product because they are big and complicated (products, not users). Basecamp helps their users to get started with the product by guiding them through creation of a new project. Once again, learn by doing.

Don’t forget to read my post “what can we learn from Basecamp user onboarding”.

Example #3 - GoSquared

London based company, co-founded by James Gill, GoSquared is one of the best platforms where businesses can communicate with their customers through analytics, CRM, live chat, and marketing automation.

I know James Gill for two things: he co-founded GoSquared at the age of 14 (wow) and he talks about user onboarding a lot. Watch this talk - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpbAz49M9sY, he’s amazing!

It’s not a surprise GoSquared has almost perfect user onboarding.

Just like Evernote and Basecamp, GoSquared uses “forward” user onboarding and guiding you through the onboarding very gently. Because the product is complex and has a couple of big features, the onboarding divided into multiple funnels. Just like Intercom, GoSquared onboards customers to each sub-product separately. Once you’ve completed all the tasks (there are not many) you already have a pretty good understanding of the product. Once again, learn by doing.


When it works the best?

Unlike “backward” user onboarding, the “forward” type can be created for any product. It also seems easier as all we need to do is to give a user a few tasks to carry out so he would understand our product. But in reality, it’s much harder.

It’s much harder to create a funnel that will take a user from the product’s empty state to full and awesome, and help this user to realise the potential value, feel the first success and some sort of connection to the product.


Take a look at Monday.com user onboarding. Great product, love it. But instead of onboarding users their checklist is about profile and communication channels. That doesn’t help users to understand the product. That does help marketers.

Mind your customer!