This article was originally published on Digital-Adoption.com

A customer onboarding journey map offers a number of benefits both for onboarding teams and for customers.

Developing a template or roadmap for the onboarding process can, for instance:


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  • Simplify your workflow
  • Help align teams around common priorities and goals
  • Improve the outcomes of the customer onboarding process

Because each business has a different product and a different onboarding process, each journey map should be unique.

Below, we will explore how to create a journey map that fits your specific product and business.

What to Include in Your Customer Onboarding Journey Map

There are several key elements that should be included in an onboarding journey map.

These can include:

  • Opt-in and sign-up forms. Opt-in forms and sign-up forms are the point of transition, when prospects become converted into customers. These forms are part of the larger customer journey, which began with marketing, continued with sales, and transitions into the long-term customer life cycle. They should be simple, easy, and painless, like every other part of the onboarding journey.
  • Welcome emails and follow-up emails. These emails are designed to start the relationship off on the right foot and keep customers engaged. They should be simple, straightforward, and avoid overloading users with too much detail. 
  • Initial training and walkthroughs. Once new customers start using the software, they should be offered a quick in-app tutorial. Using digital adoption platforms (DAPs), onboarding specialists can provide these introductory lessons quickly, efficiently, and without the need for human intervention.
  • Customer support and technical support. In some cases, new customers will need to contact support staff. They should have fast access to customer support through, for instance, pop-up chat software or easily accessible contact forms. And when support is necessary, support staff should focus extensively on improving the product experience. That is, they should respond quickly and help users achieve their goals efficiently.

These elements are some of the most important elements in the customer journey.

However, when designing an onboarding journey map, onboarding managers and specialists need to go a few steps further.

Designing the Onboarding Journey Map

Let’s look at a few steps for building out the onboarding roadmap:

1. Assess your circumstances.

The first thing to do is to understand your situation and your needs.

Every business is different and every product is different.

Therefore, every business will implement a unique user onboarding process.

The structure of the onboarding process will depend on factors such as:

  • The complexity of the software
  • The available budget
  • The organization’s structure and the availability of teams

Among other things.

2. Choose appropriate onboarding elements.

Once these factors are analyzed, it is time to decide which onboarding elements to include in the journey map.

When choosing from the elements mentioned earlier, develop a strategy that:

  • Streamlines and simplifies the user experience
  • Compacts touchpoints into as few interactions as possible, in order to accelerate adoption
  • Introduces product features quickly and efficiently
  • Focuses on users’ needs, aims, and goals

It is helpful to remember a maxim coined by usability expert Steve Krug: “Don’t make me think.”

This axiom – which is also the title of Krug’s book on web usability – is a perfect approach to any form of design, including the design of onboarding experiences.

In other words, the more mental effort customers have to put into the onboarding process, the worse the experience.

When that mental effort (cognitive load) builds too high, users become frustrated and can ultimately abandon the project altogether.

3. Map out the onboarding elements out on a timeline.

Timelines can follow a flowchart, which allow them to be flexible and non-linear when necessary.

However, generally speaking, the onboarding process will be linear.

Most users will follow a path similar to this one:

  • Opt in
  • Sign up
  • Log in
  • Initial tutorial
  • Welcome emails
  • Ongoing training and upskilling

And so forth.

Of course, each stage should be fleshed out and augmented with the useful information, such as goals and objectives.

4. Set goals for each stage.

Each touchpoint on the onboarding journey map should have descriptors such as:

  • Users’ goals, or what they want to accomplish at each stage
  • Goals for the onboarding team, which define the onboarding team’s target objectives for this stage
  • Descriptions of the users’ mindsets and feelings

Like customer journey maps, onboarding journey maps are designed to help organizations better meet their users’ needs.

Because the focus is on a streamlined user experience, many specialists advise painting a thorough picture of each step on this journey.

Describing users’ mindsets is one way to do this – it helps team members get inside the customers hearts and minds.

After all, it is all too easy to get locked into one’s own perspective, especially if team members have infrequent contact with the end users.

5. Analyze and optimize.

Finally, organizations should continually adjust the journey map as necessary.

This means that onboarding teams should:

  • Continually collect onboarding and adoption data
  • Analyze the program and look for inefficiencies
  • Learn from that data and make improvements

A big pitfall to avoid is staying static.

Experimentation and testing will help programs evolve as new data comes in.

In turn, onboarding programs will be able to deliver better results over the long term.