The Onboarding Guide describes specific steps how to use the software or product. It is practical and targeted to the user. It contains screenshots, images or specific actions. At the end, the customer knows the main features and can use the product.

What does onboarding mean for software products?

The onboarding process describes how to integrate a new user or employee to a new system, product, app or software product. The user starts from being a novice that knows nothing about the system. She is presented the system and explained step by step the different modules and features. At the end, the user knows the relevant elements of the software and can perform all necessary tasks.

The duration of the onboarding process depends on the size and features of the application: starting at a few minutes for a small app or web application to multiple days or even weeks for a complex ERP or CRM SaaS web application.

Depending on the number of users that start the onboarding process and the complexity of the software, every employee might start with self-paced learning – or cohorts can be used to onboard groups of users (e.g. new employees that start at the same day, new customers that are onboarded to a SaaS application).

What is the difference to employee onboarding?

The typical employee onboarding process describes how to integrate new employee and a new hire with specific onboarding tool or HR software. The employee onboarding is managed by the human resource department typically using employee onboarding software.

What should be in an onboarding guide?

The content of a customer onboarding manual depend a lot on the system, the typical user and the complexity.

Typical elements of the onboarding guide might contain the following chapters:

Installation and integration: what is necessary to get the software or application up and running for the user (e.g. download the setup application, install, and configure the access to a server)

First start and user login: how to run the product, how to login and configure the user account (e.g. specific user settings, login with Single-Sign-On to a cloud-based or on premise active directory)

Typical use cases and features: short introduction of the main software use cases, maybe grouped by persona or typical user requirements (like administrator, accountant, operator, manager)

Customization: optimize and adapt the user interface – e.g. add specific actions and icons that are used daily, hide or disable features that are not relevant to the employee

Import, Export, Reporting and printing of data: the integration with other elements to import and export data to the application is important for business application. Reporting and printing might also be – depending on the software – also a typical use case.

Access the help center and documentation: how the user can get more information and resources to learn more about the software and other features that might be interesting

Contact to support and self-service platform: in case of a problem, the user should be able to escalate the issue and get help.

What types of onboarding software is available for software applications and web-based products?

Different technology, products and types of onboarding products are available today. Depending on the product and the required onboarding steps, one or multiple of them can be used to provide a great onboarding experience:

Onboarding guide or onboarding manual

Typical text-based onboarding guide with screenshots that is read by the user and followed on the screen (could be a static PDF onboarding guide, or a onboarding training manual stored in a documentation portal).

User flows

Dynamic onboarding flow or interactive product guide that teaches the user how to use elements of the product with interactive guidance – when opening the application or a screen, the onboarding software is shown and teaches the (main) elements and how to use them as onboarding tasks.

Onboarding guide using userflow (source: userflow product tour)

Direct integration of help

The application contains info bubbles, tooltips, hotspot or other elements that integrated on the main elements of the screen so that the user can read and learn the features when using the product. This is also very helpful for rare-used screens and features, or complex UI parts – the user can better understand and use it.

Interactive virtual assistant and chat bots

Typical external SaaS solution that is integrated in the web application (or app) and shown as a small icon in the corner of the browser window. When the user clicks on this element, a popup with further information is shown. The user can interact with the bot or assistant to get more information and links to e.g. an external or integrated knowledge base.

Onboarding guide using virtual assistant
Onboarding guide using virtual assistant (

Onboarding checklist

During the onboarding process, the user follows the checklists and is guided to all relevant steps and areas. This can be a physical, printed checklist – e.g. from a downloadable pdf file, an Excel, Word or Google Docs based onboarding checklist template or a specific software.

Videos, Webinars and screen recording

The user can view and playback videos that demonstrate elements of the product. This can be live webinar sessions, or pre-recorded learning videos hosted e.g. at YouTube or inside a specific learning management system (LMS).

Survey and questionnaire

When the user reaches a specific milestone or at the end of the onboarding process, the user fills out a form to check what has been learned and if all elements have been understood.


Depending on the type of application or industry, a certification can be used to certify that the user successfully learned and knows a specific product or role (e.g. Exam MB-800: Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Functional Consultant ).

How to create an Onboarding Guide?

The process to create the onboarding guide can be broken down in the following elements:

Step 1 – prepare

Define user groups and persona, and their typical use cases, check what information is already available and in what format, define a draft onboarding workflow and how to measure the result

Step 2 – choose onboarding software and tools

Decide which elements of onboarding software and technology might be useful: onboarding guide, checklist, videos, interactive user flows and hotspots, or even a virtual assistant or chat bot? This depends on the time and budget available, and the complexity of your product or software. It might be helpful to start with only one or two elements and measure how the user learn (e.g. using a questionnaire or survey at the end of the onboarding process). If the product and user base is multilingual, then be careful what is possible to create and maintain with the resources available (number and experience of your learning/support/documentation team).

Step 3 – create the content

Create the content of the different onboarding tools and let it review by the different teams and departments (e.g. product management, support, sales, marketing, …).

Step 4 – onboard the first users

Start the onboarding process with the first users and measure the result. Check if all elements of the onboarding process are useful and working. Conduct questionnaire, survey or maybe even 1:1 interviews to get the learners feedback. Check for potential problems or unclear content.

Step 5 – measure and improve

Continuously measure the result and improve the elements and content. If new features are added to the product, check if the onboarding guide needs to be improved or reworked. Check e.g. for search queries of the assistant or knowledge base portal if additional onboarding content should be added.

Need help to create your onboarding guide and onboarding process?

If you have a question or need more information about onboarding manual or the onboarding process for software products, reach out to us. Subscribe to our newsletter to get more information and content about multilingual documentation process and software.

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