This is the second part in a series about personalized experiences. In the first article, I gave a brief introduction of the topic. This time, I’ll explain more in detail about how to “onboard” users in an online environment and why it matters to your organisation.

Originally published on the Edenspiekermann website

What is “onboarding” exactly? Onboarding refers to the process that users go through, the first time that they enter a new online service. Think of an app or website. In an onboarding process, you introduce users to the website or application and make them feel comfortable. This is also the moment where you can gain a good understanding of what the needs and desires of a certain user are. You can use these insights to provide users with personalized interfaces. The user will become more loyal to your service when the onboarding process is successfully exploited. They will feel more helped during their introduction on the website or application and better understand other steps during their journey.

Brand experience

Be keen on creating an onboarding experience that fits your brand promise. Users have a certain expectation of your brand that you should fulfill. What you ask, how you ask it, how you visualize it, and how it works all add up to a first initial brand experience.

Three examples of onboarding:

The movie ‘Her’

In my previous post I used the movie ‘Her’ by Spike Jonze as an example of good onboarding practice.

Trailer of the Movie Her

I think that the onboarding in this example is executed in a really nice way! Who doesn’t like the voice of Scarlet Johansson? 😉 The questions are asked in a low effort way using speech recognition, like a real interview between two people. Although I’m confident that speech recognition and artificial intelligence are imminent in the near future, it isn’t a working solution just yet. Not to mention that an onboarding experience like this doesn’t fit every brand.

Getting back to the questions in ‘Her’. The computer voice asks things like: “How would you describe your relationship with your mother?” “Would you consider yourself to be a social person?” These are irrelevant questions for most services or apps. To successfully onboard users it is important to only ask relevant questions. This also means that you shouldn’t ask questions that you already know the answer to. You should ask for the missing information. This information eventually enables you to put users in certain profiles. This step is highly important as you can design scenarios for those profiles that will lead to a richer user experience.

In the next example I’ll explain more about the different steps within the onboarding process.

Beats by Dr. Dre music service

Beats by Dr. Dre is a new streaming service that focuses on personalized music experiences. The service provides a great example of onboarding in the digital realm. In the Beats streaming service app, the onboarding process consists of two steps:

  1. Gain personal information. The ‘Beats experience’ starts with creating a profile. Here they ask for the user’s name, mobile number, birthday and gender. This information already gives a clue about who the user is.
  2. Learn about the user‘s music preferences. In this step, Beats taps into the user’s needs in terms of music preferences. They ask thing like: “what kind of music you like?” And you can select all kinds of different genres.

So, what does Beats do with this information? It simply enables them to tailor the music content for each user. With information about the users gender and date of birth they can offer the user certain music. It is far more likely for a 12 year old to like Justin Bieber than for somebody who is in their twenties or fourties. Beats can give the user hints with tooltips that relate to their music taste.

These insights into its users empowers Beats to provide them with content that is relevant. This will lead to longer usage sessions as well as returning users. If you personalize the user experience, users will perceive the service as more meaningful and will use the service more often.

For Beats by Dr. Dre it is quite easy to get information about the user’s needs. But what if you deal with a service that is more confidential in its nature? Think about services like banks, insurances and health services.

Onboarding in finance

A bank gains only little insight into your specific needs by analyzing your spending behaviour. They can see where you bought your products and whether this was at an online or offline store. This is not enough information to create a good personalized experience. How can you gain a better understanding of these users? It would be weird to just ask: “How much did you spent last month?” At Edenspiekermann we were challenged with this problem by one of our clients.

After conducting user research we found out that it’s important to ask questions in the right way and at the right time. The questions should be at a higher abstraction level. For example: “How often do you go shopping?” “When you’re shopping, how often do you buy something for your friends?” In short, ask questions in a recognizable story format. Through these questions you can get information about the user’s spending habits, their attitude towards money, financial risk and how the user wants to be supported in their financial situation.

As soon as you get an understanding of how a user sees their own financial situation, and how they wants to be supported, you can tailor the way you communicate with them. Basically, categorize people as certain user types. Within an interface you can change how to show different information to different kinds of users. This will improve the digital service hence the relationship between the bank and the customer.

Onboarding and gamification

To make a successful onboarding system you could use certain gamification methods. You can, for example, add tools that enable users to compare them to other users via progress bars. By making notions like “You are 90% on your way to having a rockstar profile.” Or say something like: “Your friends have a profile rating of 8, yours is currently 6”. Through methods like these, you can stimulate people to do more with their profile. A great example of how to target your users and to get them to be more loyal in the end can be seen in the way LinkedIn encourages its users to build up their profiles.


A good onboarding process enables users to easily understand a website or app. At the same time, it gives companies information about the users that they can use to provide them with personalized interfaces. Asking meaningful questions is key to making this a success. Also, not all services benefit from the same type of onboarding experience. Services with more private content should ask more storified questions. With music or news apps you can ask more direct questions because these opinions and tastes have a less confidential nature.