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Minimum Viable Product Checklist: Your Go-To Guide To User Activation

Startups and product managers understand the critical role an effective Minimum Viable Product (MVP) plays in the early stages of product development.

An MVP isn’t just about having a product prototype; it’s about presenting a solution that not only resonates with your target audience but also effectively activates users – meeting the demand of real customers in real time with a product that is practically simple and refined.

This ultimate guide explores what you need to ensure your MVP excels at user activation and turns casual visitors into devoted users.

What is user onboarding?

User onboarding is the process of guiding new users to find value in your product or service. This step-by-step process aims to familiarize the users with the product, improve their overall user experience, and ensure they are equipped to fully utilize the product, thereby increasing the likelihood of retaining these users in the long run.

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Here are some common methods of user onboarding:

  1. Product Tours: A product tour provides an interactive walk-through of the product, highlighting its key features and functionalities. For instance, Slack, a popular communication tool, offers a product tour to new users, demonstrating how to create channels, send messages, and customize notifications.
  2. In-app Messaging: This is the use of pop-up messages or prompts within the application to guide the user. For example, when you first use the photo-editing app Adobe Lightroom, it pops up helpful tips as you navigate through different editing features.
  3. Email Sequences: A series of emails sent out over a period of time can be used to educate users about the product, share tips and tricks, or provide additional resources. Mailchimp, an email marketing platform, uses this method to guide new users.
  4. Tutorial Videos: These serve as visual guides that walk users through the product, showing them how to use it effectively. Canva, a graphic design platform, uses tutorial videos to introduce new users to its various design tools.

What is minimum viable onboarding?

Minimum viable onboarding (MVO) refers to the simplest version of user onboarding that can effectively guide a user to your product’s core value proposition. In essence, it’s the bare minimum required to get a user from sign-up to first value realization.

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Just like an MVP, the MVO is crucial at the early stages of a product’s life, allowing you to gather user feedback and make necessary improvements. The goal of an MVO is to minimize user churn by promptly demonstrating the value your product delivers.

Here are some examples of minimum viable onboarding:

  1. User Profiling: Many social media platforms, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, ask new users to fill out their profiles as their first task. This quick and simple process not only familiarizes the users with the platform but also customizes their experience, thereby delivering immediate value.
  2. Single Feature Highlighting: This involves focusing on one key feature of your product that delivers immediate value to the user. For instance, when you first download the Google Maps app, it immediately offers to show you the way to your home, demonstrating its core value proposition in an intuitive manner.
  3. Setup Wizards: These are used by tech products like routers or software apps where the user needs to perform some setup actions before using the product. The setup wizard simplifies this process, guiding the user step-by-step through the necessary tasks.
  4. Progress Bars: These provide users with a visual representation of their onboarding journey, giving them a sense of completion and achievement. Duolingo, a language learning app, uses this method effectively to encourage new users to get started with their first lesson.
  5. Welcome Emails: These simple yet effective tools introduce the user to your product, often providing useful links or tips to get started. Airbnb, for instance, sends a welcome email to new users with suggestions for their first booking, thus leading them directly to the platform’s core value.

Remember, the key to effective MVO is simplicity. The quicker and easier it is for your users to experience the value your product provides, the more likely they are to stick around.

Minimum viable onboarding (MVO) is not the same as a product tour

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While the differences between Minimum Viable Onboarding (MVO) and a product tour might seem subtle, they are indeed distinct, each serving a unique purpose in familiarizing users with a product.

A product tour, as the name implies, is a guided walk-through of your product’s main features and functionalities. It aims to give the user a broad overview of what your product can do, showcasing its possibilities and potential.

For instance, when you sign up for a project management tool like Trello, it offers a product tour that walks you through its interface, demonstrating how to create boards, add cards, and assign tasks. It helps the user understand Trello’s general functionality and potential uses.

On the other hand, MVO, or Minimum Viable Onboarding, focuses on the user’s immediate needs. It is less about showcasing all the product’s features and more about quickly and effectively guiding the user to the product’s core value.

Take Dropbox, for example. Upon signing up, Dropbox doesn’t tour you around all its features. Instead, it quickly guides you to upload your first file and access it from another device. This simple, straightforward action demonstrates the core value of Dropbox – easy file syncing across devices.

Here’s a quick comparison between the two:


  • Product Tour – Broad, covers all main features.
  • MVO – Narrow, focuses on core values.


  • Product Tour – To inform and educate about the product’s capabilities.
  • MVO – To guide the user to first value realization.


  1. Product Tour – Trello’s tour of creating boards and assigning tasks.
  2. MVO – Dropbox’s immediate guidance to upload and access a file.
  • While both product tours and MVO have their roles in user onboarding, understanding their differences can help product managers design an effective onboarding experience that balances the need to educate users with the urgency of demonstrating value.

Why should you care about user onboarding?

Excellent user onboarding can be the difference between a user adopting your product long-term or abandoning it after the first use. It’s a crucial process that establishes the first impression, sets the tone for the user experience, and affects the user’s perception of your product’s value. Here are some reasons why you should prioritize user onboarding:

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  1. First Impressions Matter: The onboarding process is the user’s first encounter with your product. It’s your chance to make a positive first impression. A well-structured, intuitive, and helpful onboarding experience can immediately show the user that you value their time and want to ensure a great user experience.
  2. Increases User Retention: A successful onboarding journey can significantly increase user retention. By getting users to understand and experience your product’s core value quickly, they’re more likely to continue using the product. For instance, Spotify’s onboarding process guides new users to create their first playlist, a quick win that immediately delivers value and encourages them to keep exploring and using the platform.
  3. Drive Conversions: Onboarding isn’t just for new users. A well-thought-out onboarding process can also guide existing free or trial users towards paid features, directly influencing your conversion rates. Adobe, for example, uses its onboarding process to highlight premium features available in its Creative Cloud suite, enticing trial users to become paid subscribers.
  4. Reduces Support Costs: A user who understands your product is less likely to contact your support team with questions or issues. It can significantly reduce your support costs and workload. Grammarly does this well by providing a clear and informative onboarding process that teaches users how to utilize the tool effectively, minimizing the need for support.
  5. Improves User Engagement: Effective onboarding can increase user engagement. By immediately guiding users to meaningful actions that demonstrate the value of your product, they are more likely to engage with your product more frequently. Duolingo, the language learning app, is a prime example. Its onboarding process immediately guides users to start learning a language, fostering a habit of daily engagement.

Effective user onboarding is crucial for driving user engagement, retention, and conversions, making a positive first impression, and reducing support costs. By focusing on delivering immediate value, your onboarding process can serve as a powerful tool in securing long-term, satisfied users for your product.

Minimum viable user onboarding process step-by-step

Planning Your MVP

Before a line of code is written, meticulous planning is required to identify what the MVP will be and who it is for.


Identify Your Audience and User Personas

Understanding your audience is fundamental. Market research, user interviews, and creating detailed user personas are crucial. Define their pain points, preferences, and behaviors to tailor your MVP to their exact needs.

Define Key Features and Functionalities

The success of your MVP hinges on the features you choose to include. They need to be the essentials – what gives the first impression of your product’s unique value proposition. Each feature should have a clear purpose tied to the user’s problem or need.

Set Clear Goals and Metrics for User Activation

Clarity in what you consider an ‘activated user’ is imperative. It could be completing a profile, uploading content, or inviting friends. By setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound), you can measure the effectiveness of your activation strategy.

Designing for User Activation

The design of your MVP should not only be aesthetically pleasing but should also direct users towards activation.

User-Friendly Interface and Intuitive Navigation

Simplicity is key. The UI should lead the user intuitively through the activation process. It includes clear navigation, minimalistic design, and branding that communicates trust and reliability.

Streamlined User Onboarding Process

Onboarding is a user’s first interaction with the product. Make it a seamless experience – potentially incorporating progressive profiling to gather data gradually without overwhelming new users.

Effective Calls to Action and Persuasive Copywriting

Calls to action (CTAs) should be compelling and plainly visible. Use copywriting that resonates with the user’s goals and encourages them to take the next step. A/B testing different CTAs and copy can help identify what works best.

Building and Testing Your MVP

Developing and refining your MVP is where the rubber meets the road.

Select the Right Technology Stack

Your choice of technology will impact the scalability, security, and speed of your MVP. Carefully select a stack that aligns with your MVP’s immediate needs and future aspirations.

Agile Development Methodologies

The Agile approach, with its focus on iterative and incremental development, is a natural fit for MVPs. It allows for quick adaptation to changing market conditions and user feedback.

Conduct User Testing and Gather Feedback

Real user testing provides invaluable insights. Observe how users interact with your product, ask for feedback, and be prepared to make adjustments. Early user involvement can reveal unforeseen issues and help fine-tune activation strategies.

Launching and Monitoring User Activation

Launching an MVP is an exciting milestone, but it’s just the first step. Ongoing monitoring and adaptation are key to sustained user engagement.

Pre-Launch Marketing Strategies

Build anticipation for your MVP with a strategic marketing push. Generate buzz through social media, content marketing, and beta testing programs. Above all, highlight how your MVP will solve user problems and enhance their lives.

Track User Behavior and Engagement Metrics

Analyzing user behavior and engagement metrics provides a clear picture of how users are interacting with your MVP. Tools like Google Analytics can shed light on user journeys, drop-off points, and areas for improvement in the activation process.

Iterative Improvements Based on Data Analysis

Data-driven decision-making ensures you focus on what’s most effective. Apply insights from user data to refine user activation methods. It could involve UX enhancements, tweaking feature sets, or adjusting the onboarding process.

Highlighting Successful Startups and Their User Activation Strategies

By delving into the stories of startups that have successfully activated users with their MVPs, you can gather practical tips and insights. Each case study can provide a unique perspective on how to approach user activation within specific markets or product categories.

The path to building a successful MVP with robust user activation is a dynamic and iterative one. It requires a deep understanding of your target audience, a well-considered design, and a commitment to ongoing improvement.

By following this minimum viable product checklist, startups, and product managers can ensure that their MVP stands not just as a product but as the foundation of a thriving user community.

By prioritizing user activation from the inception of your MVP, you set the stage for a product that resonates with, engages with, and retains users. It’s about more than just launching a product; it’s about launching a journey and a relationship with your users. The strategies outlined in this post will not only guide your MVP development but also serve as a roadmap for sustained growth and success.

So, keep these tips in mind and embark on your MVP journey with confidence. The possibilities are endless! Have any questions or insights on user activation strategies? Share them with us in the comments section below.

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