Users should experience a product or platform in a layered way. The further they go, the more new features and benefits they discover. This means the user is always learning, and as designers, there is the opportunity to engage them multiple times and ways through their journey.
In building the onboarding experience, the key is to assemble a diverse toolkit to follow the user as they progress.
Starting at the beginning, choose a thoughtful default experience. Usually the homepage and initial user settings, this introduction can make an invaluable first impression with inspired design and content architecture.
Then, as the user continues, they’ll be informed and aided by inline guidance, highlighted suggestions that exist in the flow of the experience; reactive guidance, tips that are prompted by the user’s actions; and proactive guidance, alerts for features the user hasn’t discovered but should.
Of course, once the user is in the flow of their user experience, they'll also want to self-serve their support. For this, great onboarding toolkits offer on-demand guidance, an easy to find and clear set of answers to the frequently asked questions.
When onboarding is flexible and adaptive to the user, their journey, and timeline, it evolves from a first-run tutorial to become a trainer.