Increasing user retention through a redesigned onboarding experience


The goal

Increase the number of new users returning to our product in their second week of tenure.

The team

– Me, lead UX designer
– 1 product manager
– 3 software engineers


– Design director
– Product director
– Sr. product manager
– VP of marketing


In six months my team and I created a new onboarding experience that increased product retention by 31% and embedded a new process for innovation at our company.



Narrow the scope

My team and I were given the broad goal of “increase product retention”. While liberating, my product manager and I both knew we needed to narrow the scope in order to set reasonable expectations, manage our stakeholders and help our organization see the value of a product development cycle that listens to users and delivers iterative value.

We launched a two week discovery sprint to synthesize our stakeholders’ visions, research what’s been done and explore opportunity areas. At the end, we presented our thought process and five potential directions to pursue. Our stakeholders were on board and came together around one direction: the first time user experience after registration.


Discover your product’s unique value

While we had a scope, we needed a clear idea of what key elements we would introduce new users to. Our product’s unique value was not defined, so working with our senior user experience researcher we created the first new member survey to understand what users were expecting when they joined.

Over 350 new users responded to our survey, and we followed up with 6 participants through in-depth interviews. The synthesized results painted a picture of user needs that drove the direction of our onboarding work, as well as every other product team in the organization

[I want to] find other people like me in the same pain, and not feel so crazy because we can’t prove where the pain is from.
— User survey response

Build the strategy together

Many stakeholders and people in the organization had feedback on how we should approach the problem. To capture this and create a cohesive strategy that we could use on this project, I created an organic and growing strategy board. We used this to ensure that everyone felt heard, as well as to ideate off of once we were clear about our user needs.


Saturate the design space with ideas

We now had a manageable scope, stakeholder buy-in and a clearer understanding of what our users need. I used all the above to help ideate potential solutions, combining different strategies with different user needs. In presenting to stakeholders, I tied each idea to the framework we had built together, so they could see how all the original ideas and questions they had brainstormed were still being incorporated.

Validate and measure

We decided to user test two ideas that represented different tactics in guiding our users through experiencing the value of what our product provides. Users gravitated towards one prototype in particular, easily understanding what our company did and what they could get out of it, sometimes paraphrasing our mission statement back though it wasn’t written anywhere in the design.

We launched the new onboarding experience as an AB test and the new process increased week 2 retention for new users by 31%. In addition, users were 1.5x more likely to add a profile picture, and 2.3x more likely to add a brief bio.