How to: SaaS Signup Flows
[26 ideas]

Signup (setup) flow and user onboarding

Usually, before experiencing the first Aha! moment your users need to complete a set of actions that makes it possible a.k.a. achieve the Setup moment. A few popular cases would be connecting an integration, inviting other teammates, or adding a logo. To streamline this process many companies use so-called setup flows (also signup flows or after-signup flows), which are an extension of the signup page. Its purpose is to shorten the path to the account setup and let users experience a product’s value as soon as possible. Thanks to those flows users don’t need to click through settings pages trying to figure out what they should do.

However, what if your software can satisfy various needs, or serves distinct groups of users? At the point of signing up, you might not know yet what actions to suggest. If that’s your case, instead of helping users already set up their accounts, simply ask questions. Then, use their answers to recommend the right educational content or lay out the easiest path to experiencing your product’s value. You can be as straightforward as asking what problem they expect to solve with your app, and in return, show related templates or pre-filled forms.

The last, and personally my least favorite type of signup flow is the one purely focusing on lead qualification. Questions asked here usually don’t lead to any improvement in user experience but rather help the company decide whether the user is worth paying attention to by the sales team.

26 Tactics to improve the signup flow conversion

So how does it work? Right after creating an account, a user is taken to another page before entering the product itself. In most cases, it’s visually different from the signup page what gives you the feeling you’ve entered another phase. Let’s see what design and conversion rate optimization tactics we can use to drive user activation.

Increase motivation right at the start

Before you can start using Booksy they make you go through 12 steps of the setup flow. That’s why at the very beginning, they aim to increase your motivation making you imagine your business thrive while you can focus on what you like most.

saas signup flow motivation boost

Manage expectations

If your app’s setup takes quite some time, consider managing expectations just as Stripe does. Before showing a form, they let users know how long it takes and what information they need. Just make sure to let people skip the setup in case they want to explore the app first.

saas signup flow managing expectations

Keep one action per screen

Reducing cognitive load is one of the basic strategies to keep in mind. Limit the number of actions per screen to minimum and your users won’t even notice when they’re already done. Confluence does an amazing job combining one action per screen with clean design and a light image constant throughout the flow.

Use big tiles with icons

Make it easier to find and select the right answer using tiles with descriptive icons instead of regular radio buttons or a dropdown list. Just imagine how long it would take to read through 16 list items if Fresha’s designers didn’t use this concept in their flow.

Mark the first step as already done

Use the well-known bias to completion and show users that they’ve already completed the first step in the process—usually, creating the account.

saas signup flow completion bias

Add an “imaginary” step before

Datapine takes the previous tactic to the next level. Right after account creation, they show you’ve completed not one but two steps. The first of which is finding the right software!

Show progress 

This is one of the must-haves in basically any flow. Use a progress bar or list steps to make sure people know how much is left.

Allow to skip harder to complete steps

To complete a profile in Booksy you need to add a photo of your workplace. But what if you don’t have it at hand? Obviously, it’s better to let users complete the process without it, so they can start exploring the app and add it later.

signup flow skip steps

Make your flow as long as needed

You might feel the pressure to keep your flow short, worrying that many users won’t reach the end otherwise. And while you should keep it in mind, don’t remove necessary steps. As long as you keep them relevant and easy to complete, vast majority of users will complete the process, and you’ll achieve your main goal—reduce the time to value (TTV) and bring them closer to their first Aha! moment.

Split it into two separate flows

In case your signup flow is too long and too complicated, you can follow in Moz’s footsteps. Simply split your flow into two separate ones!

Ask what they want to achieve

If there are multiple goals users may want to achieve thanks to your app, why don’t you simply ask them about it? This way, you’ll be able to provide more a personalized experience and, in the end, drive your activation rate.

Ask which features they are interested in

Similarly to the previous tactic, you can ask which features they are interested in and follow up with an appropriate onboarding checklist or send them straight to the right page. Remember—the fewer steps to achieving the end goal, the better!

signup flow choose features

Introduce an Aha! moment right away

Time to value is everything. The faster you make users realize what they can achieve (and how it all works), the better. CloudTalk, a call center app, does it perfectly. Right at the start, they introduce the first Aha! moment giving you a new phone number. And in the next few steps, they let you experience how the app works on a demo phone call. All of this without setting anything up!

Make them feel something positive

Each question can be asked and displayed in multiple ways. Mailjet could simply say “Which department do you work in?” and leave two buttons. However, by adding pleasant images showing each persona, they create a positive feeling right before you enter the app.

Invite for an onboarding call

Sales-assisted onboarding has a much higher conversion rate compared to pure automation. According to Ramli John, 3-4x times higher (Product-Led Onboarding). That’s why you should make sure your qualified leads have an easy way to schedule an onboarding call with one of your agents. You can either embed the calendar widget (Chargebee) or add a link to another page (Whatagraph).

Suggest upgrading the subscription plan

In many cases, users can select a specific subscription plan still on a signup page. If later in the process you determine that a higher plan better fits their needs, suggest upgrading the subscription. That’s what Dropbox does in their flow.

Offer a discount for adding a credit card

Requiring users to add their credit card upfront is a major conversion killer. But what if you simply suggested it, offering something in return?

Import existing data from other sources

The less effort you require, the better. Try automating the setup, e.g., by importing existing data from other systems your users have already configured.

Fetch logo based on provided email address

Similarly to the previous tactic, instead of asking users to upload their logo themselves, use one of the logo APIs out there, or scrape their website based on the domain in their email address (applicable only for business emails).

Shuffle the order of the steps

Who said you need to ask for the email address and the password at the beginning? Quite a few companies included in the research seem to experiment with leaving these fields for the end of the flow. This approach has both pros and cons. On one hand, you’re able to introduce small Aha! moments faster. Awesome! But on the other, users will expect it anyway, and at every step they’ll know that there’s at least one more to go through.

Delay the email address confirmation

Asking users to confirm their email address before accessing the app can be a real conversion killer. And even if you don’t see a big drop-off at this point in the funnel, it definitely lowers the motivation and mental energy needed to explore your product.

Congratulate at the end

Not everything revolves around reducing friction. As you saw in the Booksy’s example (the first point on this list), you can play around with increasing users’ motivation, especially when your signup flow is long. And you can use a similar approach at the very end. Congratulate your users and make them feel like they accomplished something meaningful—it will psych them up for the rest of the journey. Just let your creativity shine as a simple “Well done” might not be enough. Look at how Freshdesk throws confetti all around your screen… I’m already pumped up to see what’s inside! 😄

Show what you’ve already achieved

Just like Freshdesk, Recruitee congratulates you at the end. There’s just one “tiny” difference. Instead of evoking emotions they speak to your reason, outlining what you’ve achieved so far. Both have their merits, and it’s up to you which one you choose (if any at all).

Tie each step to its desirable outcome

Don’t just require users to follow your instructions blindly. Make them want to complete each step by showing what they get in return.