In the first two parts of our series on onboarding, we talked about progressive onboarding and value-oriented onboarding. In this article, we’re going to talk about the third and final type of onboarding: function-oriented onboarding.

Function-oriented onboarding is very similar to value-oriented onboarding, in that they both inform the user through organized slides when the app is used for the first time. However, the key difference is that function-oriented onboarding focuses, as the name says, on functionality.

This onboarding method is used to:

  • Showcase key functions of an app and how to get started with them
  • Showcase advanced functions, such as a unique gesture control or particular edit tool
  • Teach the user when these functions can be used
  • Focuses on how to use the app without outright stating why
  • Best with apps that are task-oriented and/or complex to use


How to Use Function-Oriented Onboarding

Keep it Short

Being concise is extremely important for function-oriented onboarding. This means that you should stick to about 3 slides total with one function per slide. With this format, you should manage to capture and maintain your user’s attention and successfully inform him or her about the basic features of your app. Furthermore, by keeping it succinct, you also avoid being too long winded and subsequently losing your user’s interest. You should also make sure that the slides are easily navigable by the user and that the total number of slides are clearly denoted. Below you have the Carousel app, which does a great job of explaining the app’s key functionalities within 3 slides.



Onboard Before the Login/Sign Up Screen

Just like value-oriented onboarding, function-oriented onboarding works best when it’s done before the user is prompted to log in or sign up. Essentially, it is geared towards capturing the user’s attention within the first seconds of him or her opening the app. You do not want to deter the user’s momentum/interest in the app by first requiring him or her to sign in or create an account. Demonstrate your app’s unique functions and build the user’s trust before you ask them to take a personal action like making an account.


Focus on Essential Functions

When opting for a function-oriented onboarding process, you want to focus on essential functions that will enable users to successfully start using your app. It is also crucial that you prioritize highlighting and explaining complex functions instead of easy, intuitive functions that the user is already familiar with. By using in-app analytics tools to analyze your UX, like Appsee, you can assess which functions might need additional clarification within your onboarding. Once you have pinpointed confusing functions and how users have behaved with them, you can then effectively explain those functions within your onboarding process. In addition, you should make sure that users have the ability to go back and review a previous function’s slide or access your intro slides within your app’s “help” section. Do not expect that users will always remember every aspect of your functions. The second they have to go searching for answers, the user experience is being damaged.

Below you have HootSuite’s onboarding process, which does a great job of briefly explaining key functionalities, via coherent, uncluttered animated slides.




Explain the Actions Needed within an Empty State

Some apps start off with a default, clean “empty state” which requires your app user to personalize and populate the main page with content or preferences. If your app possesses this sleek, immaculate state, make sure you explain to users right away how to get started with the functions available to them, or else the user might be confused by the condition and which actions are required. Even worse- within a second they might think that the empty state is an app error and thus presume your app is faulty. Below you have Spendee, which shows users how to get started right away.




How Not to Use Function-Oriented Onboarding

  • Explaining obvious functions. For example, every user intuitively knows what a navigation bar is and that it’s used to navigate the app. Elaborating on this function would waste a slide and the user’s time.
  • Explaining obvious icons. As mentioned in our article on creating user friendly icons, there are several seemingly common icons that might have their place within the onboarding process. However, universally recognized icons such as the shopping cart or the home icon do not need to be explained using this type of onboarding.
  • Utilizing too many slides for function break down and/or too many concepts per slide.
  • Using function-oriented onboarding when progressive would work best. You should carefully analyze whether or not a function is best showcased via a succinct slide display or involving the user’s continuous interactions/exploration.
  • Asking for users to log-in/sign-up before or while explaining the key functions of your app.
  • Not allowing users to reference previous slides depicting functions.


Nuzzel app for personalized news, prompts the user with signing up right away. Although their onboarding has a crisp design, they use two slides to demonstrate one concept and utilize another slide to explain an obvious function.
Nuzzel app for personalized news, prompts the user with signing up right away. Although their onboarding has a crisp design, they use two slides to demonstrate one concept and utilize another slide to explain an obvious function.



Ultimately, a good function-oriented onboarding process will get the user up to speed and comfortable regarding the functions that are unique to your app. It’s a great process for apps that have unique settings, use gesture controls extensively, hand/or possess an empty state. When executed properly, your functions will essentially serve as your selling points for why your users should retain your app.

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