Community Management

The How and Why of Community Onboarding

“User onboarding is the process of increasing the likelihood that new users become successful when adopting — continue reading
Posted by Taco Potze
September 26, 2016

“User onboarding is the process of increasing the likelihood that new users become successful when adopting your product.” —Samuel Hulick,

Methods of User Onboarding

Onboarding is the process of guiding new users through the steps of becoming successful users. It’s about making a great first impression that leaves your users satisfied and wanting more. But how do you go about achieving this?

There are several methods you can employ to onboard users and in this post, we chose to focus on these three:

  1. Walkthrough (AKA “Joyriding” by MK Cook)
  2. Learn by doing
  3. Concierge onboarding

1. Walkthrough

The walkthrough method (aka “Joyriding” by MK Cook) is about guiding your users through the features of a product and explaining the benefits of using these features throughout the walkthrough. Its purpose is to eradicate any confusion from the beginning on. It can be executed in lots of different ways, and you should be careful that your explaining texts don’t get too boring or repetitive. You don’t want users to rush through the process without them learning anything substantial.

Write your messages in a light, warm, and possibly funny way to maintain attention. But above all, keep it human! Give your users the impression that they’re interacting with a living, breathing person instead of a cold machine.  This holds true for all methods and not only this one.

The tour module, an example of the walkthrough method, is included in Drupal Core. You can watch a YouTube tutorial about the tour module here.


onboarding example open social

2. Learning-by-doing

Let your users do what you want to teach them instead of telling them how it is supposed to be done. Create a demo project, for example. In this project, they can practice first without having to worry about doing it right. Guide them through the process so they learn how to do it on their own. This way users become more confident when actually producing something.

This might take a little more effort from the user. However, if it’s designed in an easygoing way then users will enjoy it and learn more. Don’t worry if you think this would make your onboarding process too long. The solution is simple: split it up into multiple parts. Have an interactive checklist so users can start a tour whenever they feel like it. This is the process we have decided to use for Open Social.

3. Concierge onboarding

This process means taking the time to get in contact with your users and helping them personally. This term can be explained fairly simply by using a concept you’re already familiar with: a hotel concierge. A concierge’s job is to attend to a customer’s or potential customer’s every need (within reason, of course). Do you have a question about the product? Would you like to understand how to use a feature? Maybe all you need is an explanation of how our product meets your primary needs. The concierge is designed to be there for you.


Concierge Onboarding Demo


Open Social also uses the concierge onboarding for new customers. Learn how we use concierge onboarding and how we assign a concierge to a customer the moment they begin exploring Open Social. Even before you are a paying customer!

Looking for more resources?  We recommend visiting Kevin DeWalt’s blog on concierge onboarding. You can also sign up for a free email course on this topic. If you want to know more about onboarding in general, then ‘The Elements of User Onboarding’ by Samuel Hulick is a great primer.

Onboarding for Open Social

Our customers come first. We want to make it as easy for them as possible to kickstart their own community. That’s why we explain how our customers can onboard their users in our learning center.

It’s important for new users to complete their profile, learn how to create content, and know how they can find and join groups. This helps transform a new user into a successful user.

  1. First, we made a checklist of items that linked to the different parts of the onboarding tour. We empowered them to go through these steps. Users could quit any time they like and (re)start from where they ended before. This way nothing was skipped or got lost.
  2. Secondly, we use and encourage community managers to create documentation that explains the community and its guidelines. We have actually prepared templates for our customers to use, which includes an introduction page, community guidelines, key terms, FAQs, and how their users can get support.
  3. Thirdly, after the onboarding process (or even in between) community managers should maintain regular contact with the new users to ensure that the onboarding process is going smoothly.

How to write onboarding copy

The copy of your onboarding material is vital for sharing the right message and instructions with your user. But how do you write persuasive copy?

Copywriting exists out of several parts. Think about the style you’re writing in, the title, the body copy, and the CTA (Call To Action). When it comes to style, you have to think of what kind of personality you want to give your product. It’s easier for users to commit when the ‘personality’ of your product is friendly or funny instead of cold and heartless (although cold and heartless is also a personality). For example, mention“[This] is how you can find your friends” instead of “You have 0 friends”.

In order to help you write persuasive onboarding copy, here are 10 guidelines to stick to.

10 Copywriting Guidelines

  • Be clear and short: Make sure nothing that can be misinterpreted.
  • Use contractions: They’re not only conversational but they also cut down on characters.
  • Cut adjectives and adverbs: While they’re nice for color, verbs and nouns do a lot more work for you.
  • Use words that make sense for everybody: Your entire target audience should be able to understand what the copy says. Use words that fit the context.
  • Anticipate objections: Sometimes users won’t do what you want them to do because they are afraid of the consequences. So, defuse those concerns immediately by letting them know exactly what will happen.
  • Read it out loud: Catch odd construction and mechanical phrasing (you want the copy to sound like any other normal person).
  • Use the word “you”: This helps the reader become a part of the story.

Title and Body

  • The title should be descriptive: You can be witty or funny with the title but as many users don’t read more than the title it should describe the page just enough so it can be understood without the rest of the copy.
  • Body copy: Of course you can encourage users to read the body copy. Just keep it light and short, with subject-verb-object constructions. Also, keep it simple so you don’t alienate readers.


  • CTA (call-to-action): Some people only look for the buttons they have to press. In order to make it clear to them, have the buttons explain what they’re going to do. Use verb-object-effect phrases and keep it as short as possible. For example “Click to create a topic”. It contains a verb (click), object (topic), and effect (creating it).

For more information about writing copy, check out How to Rock Product Copy on the Fly.

What happens after onboarding?

After you’ve completed onboarding new users, you might still want them to do something or explain something to them. This is where continued onboarding comes in handy. When some users don’t use a certain feature, you probably want them to become aware of its existence. The reason they aren’t using it might be because they’re unaware.

Another example is developing a new feature that you want all your users to know about it. They can also be used instead of messages like “You have 0 projects”. Replace this with a message explaining how users can create a project and why they should do it. This is a helpful message that probably achieves more than just a cold fact.

Always test!

After you’ve designed your onboarding process, TEST IT! Test before implementing it and keep testing it long after that. As the website changes, as your target group changes, and therefore your popularity changes. That’s why it’s important to keep testing and improving it. After all, you only know what works if you test it on real users.


Community building guide


What onboarding method do you use? Did you find our documentation helpful? Let us know in the comments! 

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