This is the third post in our best-in-class onboarding series, where we’re exploring the top SaaS companies that drive product-led growth. (Check out our last post: Vidyard’s sign-up flow and onboarding checklist.) Each blog includes a DIY no-code template based on the product featured.
Wizards and workflows are some of our favorite user experiences—but turning your user onboarding into a wizard? Truly magical. That’s why we couldn’t resist digging into Airtable’s product-led onboarding experience.
Part of what makes Airtable’s onboarding sign-up flow so unique is just how actionable it is. Users must make key decisions via the wizard and will have created their first app before even entering the product. (Look, ma—it’s onboarding magic!)
About the UX/UI of Airtable’s two-panel onboarding wizard
Why this two-panel wizard UI design pattern works
- Make one critical decision at a time. Simple next and back controls
- See instant results. Change something on the left, get the result on the right
- Use a progress bar (and remove the number of steps!)
Discover a visually dynamic, personalized onboarding experience
3 wizardly wins for building a better product onboarding experience
- Start with simple questions: Like meeting a new person, keep the initial conversation simple. Start with closed questions (e.g., name, role) before moving on to broader, open-ended ones (e.g., what app do you want to build? What are the related fields?).
- Add some structure: This structure is genius because you can begin to branch—personalize the experience (i.e., only include use cases for product managers) while showing a range of suitable options for that group (you can build apps for feedback, roadmap, goals, and sprints)—all of which are deeply relevant.
- Create an engaging experience: Add different question types (e.g., clickable tags, input fields). Varying the format and the design keeps it interesting for the user—while showing off what’s possible within the product.
Pro tip: Camouflage your marketing questions. Airtable sneaks in a marketing attribution question: “Where did you hear about us?” These types of lead qualification and marketing attribution questions are most likely to be skipped by users as they create no value for us as users.
This step is brilliant because it keeps users on-task within the wizard flow without disrupting the experience. The design on the right remains consistent; when new users glance at it, they assume this marketing question relates to creating an app.
Airtable restores the balance by following up with another value-driven onboarding step that helps users find a low-code template based on their specific use case.
Why your onboarding flow needs a data import
What distinguishes a wizard from a typical onboarding survey or sign-up flow is the set-up tasks. Here’s why you’ll want to include an import opportunity in your onboarding wizard:
- Data makes it real: Adding data upfront reduces time to first value (TtFV) by helping the user see the future of their use case inside your product before they even log in.
- Product adoption gets easier: When users have data to work with, they get to work. Data import is often a big user drop-off point, so get it out of the way. A product-led strategy enables users at every stage of their journey—and that includes onboarding and activation.
- You can fake it until you make import it! Don’t have a data onboarding live yet? Consider adding a demo dataset to help users understand what being live will feel like.
Get your Airtable-style onboarding flow wizard template
Explore the Candu-created interactive onboarding template below and grab your free wizard template to build an onboarding flow like Airtable’s.
Beyond the flow: Airtable’s in-product onboarding experience
A look inside Airtable’s app-builder dashboard:
Once users complete the onboarding wizard, Airtable drops them into the builder; here, they find a getting started checklist drawer with clear next steps. Here’s why it works:
- Users get a tour only after they’ve built their app via the wizard. This moves activation BEFORE orientation—this one is so important we might get it tattooed.
- The simple drawer checklist helps users understand the best path to get started without locking future steps.
- There’s no empty state—users have either imported data or Airtable has generated demo data to help them visualize value.
- Teamwork is top of mind. Airtable knows their platform has more value when the whole team is onboard, so they’ve made it easy to invite the whole crew.
- “Advanced” comes after. Airtable introduces new users to the concept of advanced features post-activation—such an important thing to showcase AFTER a user has been activated.
For an even better user experience, we incorporated the getting started checklist as the final step in the onboarding flow in our Candu-built template. Airtable’s checklist overlay adds complexity to the UI design, which increases a user’s cognitive load. In the example below, you’ll see a checklist with a blurred UI background.
Related post: Creating UI that drives product adoption
This helps users prioritize their final activation tasks by reducing the number of choices. Instead of adding decisions on top of a project dashboard, we offer the user one final breath before diving in.