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Creating an exceptional first-time user experience is crucial for product-led growth companies.

When users interact with a product for the first time, they need to quickly perceive its value. However, they can only recognize that value if they have a positive and seamless initial experience. This is where the first-time user experience comes into play.

What does an ideal first-time user experience look like? In my years of experience designing growth for multiple companies, I’ve identified six criteria to consider when creating a first-time user experience to drive product adoption.

Ease: A Smooth Path to Success

The first truth of onboarding lies in its ease of use. Users should be able to get started effortlessly, without encountering unnecessary friction or complexity.

By minimizing barriers and streamlining the initial setup, companies can create a welcoming environment that encourages users to explore further.

A simple and intuitive interface, clear instructions, and minimal prerequisites contribute to a low-stress onboarding process, enabling users to feel comfortable and confident right from the start.

Expectation: Setting the Stage for Success

Establishing clear expectations is crucial to ensure users know what lies ahead. A well-crafted registration process, complete with informative welcome screens and introductory tutorials, helps users understand the value they can expect to derive from the product.

By managing user expectations, companies can align their onboarding flow with the user’s desired outcomes, fostering a sense of anticipation and excitement.

Clarity: Guiding Users Towards Progress

To provide a truly valuable first-time experience, it is essential to offer users a clear understanding of their progress. Details such as empty states inform users of what they can do as well as what they should do. For onboarding flows, utilizing visual cues such as progress bars, checklists, or step-by-step indicators allows users to gauge their advancement through the onboarding process.

Clear milestones or objectives not only enhance user confidence but also serve as a motivating factor as they strive to accomplish key goals during their initial interaction with the product.

Agency: Empowering User Autonomy

User autonomy is a fundamental aspect of the first-time user experience. Allowing users to navigate the product independently and at their own pace empowers them to take control of their journey.

A self-guided experience enables users to explore features and functionalities without feeling overwhelmed or constrained.

Additionally, providing the flexibility to skip certain steps caters to experienced users who may prefer a more streamlined entry process, fostering a sense of agency and respecting their time.

Value: Instantaneous Benefits

One of the primary goals of the first-time user experience is to demonstrate the immediate value of the product.

Users should be able to achieve tangible outcomes quickly, such as completing a task or experiencing a benefit that aligns with their needs. By focusing on delivering immediate value, companies can captivate users from the outset and solidify their commitment to further engagement.

Focused: Reducing Cognitive Load

Maintaining focus during the first-time user experience is crucial to prevent overwhelming users with excessive information.

The content and visual elements presented should be aligned with the user’s primary goal of understanding the product AND their current stage of onboarding.  Extraneous content should be reduced or eliminated to minimize cognitive load and ensure that users remain engaged.

A streamlined experience enables users to concentrate on learning the essential aspects of the product, leading to higher retention rates and increased satisfaction.


Crafting an exceptional first-time user experience is a strategic imperative for product-led growth companies. By embracing the six immutable truths of the first-time user experience—ease, expectation, clarity, agency, value, and focus—companies can create a seamless entry into their product, fostering user engagement and driving product adoption. By setting the stage for success, guiding users along their journey, and delivering immediate value, companies can make a lasting impression on users, laying a solid foundation for their continued engagement and satisfaction.