Best user onboarding experience for your SaaS

What is the best onboarding user flow in 2023 for your SaaS

A well-executed onboarding process is pivotal for SaaS companies to ensure that users quickly understand and derive value from their product. Let’s dive really quick into some real-world SaaS onboarding processes. From analyzing the top 50 SaaS products here are some of the most common onboarding flows:

Upfront Requirement for Free Trial: This model requires users to provide their credit card information before gaining access to the free trial. Their cards won't be charged until the trial period concludes. This approach helps in filtering out casual browsers and ensures that users are genuinely interested. For instance, many premium services adopt this model to avoid potential abuse of their platforms.

Delayed Requirement During Free Trial: Some platforms allow users to start their free trial without credit card details but will prompt them for this information partway through the trial period. This hybrid approach lets users test out the service initially without any commitment, but to continue using the service for the entirety of the free trial, they need to provide their card details.

End-of-Trial Requirement: Here, users are only prompted for credit card details at the end of their free trial if they wish to continue with the service. This approach maximizes the number of users trying the service but might result in lower conversion rates at the trial's end since users have to take an additional action to continue.

Tiered Access: Some services provide basic features for free and advanced features only during a trial period, requiring credit card details. Users can use the basic features indefinitely, but to access the advanced features, even during the trial, they have to provide their credit card details.

Pay-First Trials: A less common approach where users pay a minimal amount (often symbolic, like $1) for a trial period. This ensures a user's genuine interest, and at the trial's end, they might be transitioned into a full subscription.

Freemium to Premium Transition: Platforms operating on a freemium model provide a set of features for free indefinitely. Users are prompted for credit card details only when they decide to upgrade to a premium plan with enhanced features.


We’ve analyzed some of the most popular SaaS in order to have a better picture of what is done right now depending on which market they answer to and when do they capture credit cards.

  1. Salesforce:

    • Flow: Salesforce usually offers a guided tour of its CRM with interactive prompts. New users can set up their environment, import contacts, and test out features

    • Credit Card: Typically, credit card details are required after the trial period ends (usually 14 days) if the user wants to continue using the service.

  2. Adobe Creative Cloud:

    • Flow: Users can explore different Adobe software, from Photoshop to Illustrator, after downloading and installing them.

    • Credit Card: Adobe asks for credit card details upfront, even for their 7-day free trial, but users won't be charged until the trial ends.

  3. Shopify:

    • Flow: Users go through the process of setting up their online store—choosing themes, adding products, and configuring settings.

    • Credit Card: While Shopify offers a 14-day free trial, users are required to enter their credit card details if they want to select a paid plan and launch their store.

  4. Ahrefs:

    • Flow: Ahrefs, an SEO and website analysis tool, lets users explores like backlink checking and site audits.

    • Credit Card: Ahrefs requires credit card details for a 7-day trial at a minimal fee. If not canceled, it seamlessly transitions to a monthly subscription.

  5. Grammarly:

    • Flow: After sign-up, users can install the Grammarly browser extension and shown how it works across different websites and platforms.

    • Credit Card: Grammarly offers a free basic version. However, for the premium version's free trial, users need to provide their credit card details upfront.

  6. SEMrush:

    • Flow: New users are introduced to various features of this SEO tool, including keyword analytics, site audits, and competitor analysis.

    • Credit Card: SEMrush typically asks for credit card details for its 7-day free trial. Users will be charged once the trial ends unless they cancel.

  7. Zapier:

    • Flow: Users are guided on how to integrate different apps and create automated workflows (zaps).

    • Credit Card: While Zapier does offer a free plan with limited zaps, to explore premium features or to increase their quota, users need to upgrade. Credit card details are asked when selecting a paid plan.

  8. ConvertKit:

    • Flow: Users are led through setting up email campaigns, building forms, and segmenting their audience.

    • Credit Card: ConvertKit has both free and paid plans. To access the paid plan's trial, credit card details are required upfront.

These examples illustrate the diversity of onboarding experiences that SaaS companies deploy. The common thread among successful onboarding flows is the emphasis on helping users quickly realize the product's value and guiding them to take actions that align with their goals. Having credit card capture as early as possible in your flow might be a good way to validate product market fit as there is no better feedback then someone putting their credit card in.

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