When designing your user onboarding, one of the crucial decisions to make is when your users will see your onboarding messages. Sending time-based messages or action-based messages are two possible strategies for managing your onboarding sequence. Read on to find out the pros and cons of each method!

Time-Based Onboarding

In this model, onboarding prompts (such as tool-tips, pop-ups, or emails) are shown or sent based on how long it has been since the user signed up. This strategy for onboarding is most commonly used for onboarding emails. For instance, an enterprise SaaS business may have a sequence of onboarding emails. The first email is sent as soon as the user signs up. The subsequent emails are then sent on the second day after they signed up, the fifth day after they signed up, and so on.

The key advantage of this strategy is that it ensures that you stay in contact with all your sign-ups - including those who did not initially engage with your app. This strategy is also easy to scale, so you can use it whether you have 10 users or 10,000 users. However, the big disadvantage of this strategy is the inability to personalize the onboarding flow for each user. Since all users get the same messages on the same day, regardless of their activity, there is no option to customize. This inevitably results in some users receiving irrelevant emails. After all, the eighth email in an eight-email sequence is unlikely to be useful for a user who signed up and then never touched the app.

Action-Based Onboarding

This model involves sending onboarding messages to your users based on the actions they have (or have not) taken in your software. This could be via email, or in-app. The advantage of action-based onboarding is the increase personalization which is possible. By triggering onboarding messages with specific actions, the messages your users receive are far more likely to be of value to them. This is likely to make your users more likely to read the messages, and to increase retention! This also allows you to contact lapsed users via email with messages specifically designed to re-engage them. This method tends to be more effective than time-based onboarding for precisely this reason. It's far preferable to send your users relevant messages that they will actually read.