Case Study

Onboarding Experience

UX / Onboarding / Research

Grantseeker is a SaaS productivity tool for nonprofits, which helps them track the grants they've received, communicate with funders, and search for new funding opportunities. As a product designer on the Grantseeker team, I helped to design a new onboarding flow that would get new users working with real data in less than a minute.

Problem: New signups struggled to quickly comprehend the value of the Grantseeker platform

Goal: A new onboarding flow to turn casual signups into paying customers in less than 14 days

Team: Myself and 1 other designer, 1 product manager, 2 engineers

Timeline: 2 months

Homepage showing onboarding checklist
Grantseeker "blank slate" homepage with onboarding checklist


Grantseeker's initial open beta was free-to-use for all initial signups. When I joined the team, a pivot to freemium was underway, and the key to turning casual users into paying subscribers was a quick, effective onboarding flow.


Our initial research started with identifying the "real" data that grantees cared about most in their offline work, and innovating ways to get it precisely modeled in the app as quickly as possible.

My design partner and I collaborated with our engineers to identify the types of record creation that correlated most highly with regular visits, and began to sketch friendly ways to nudge new users towards getting these records set up.

Initial versions shepherded new users through value propositions and explained the types of work they'd be doing, along with a homepage checklist.

Initial onboarding walkthrough modal
Initial onboarding walkthrough
Initial onboarding homepage checklist
Initial onboarding homepage checklist

Unfortunately, usage analytics revealed that users rarely engaged with these walkthrough steps, and most new signups were not successfully creating "real" data on their first visit. We'd need to cut the effort required even further to acheive the stickiness we were hoping for.

Solution & Further Considerations

After consultation with marketing and engineering, the value proposition flow was cut in favor of an optional video, and the checklist of "must-do" actions was cut from 5 steps to 3.

Our biggest innovation in getting users onboarded quickly came from leveraging public data. Utilizing government public-records APIs, we were able to architect a flow that would get a user up and running with their first "real" data in less than a minute, borrowing from quick-start social media patterns like "find your friends" or "who to follow".

  1. A user provides the name of their organization at signup
  2. A pre-populated search lets the user select their org from a list
  3. An API call pulls in all the funders that have previously given to that org, according to government records.
  4. The user creates records for all of their funders in a single click
The re-factored onboarding flow
Onboarding modal: public data found
Onboarding modal: public data found!

To shepherd new users through the flow, I designed a new icon library, extending our UI icons with brand colors and transparency effects. Playful, legible, and on-brand.

Onboarding task icons
Final onboarding task icons

After initial onboarding, users are fed a drip campaign of super-lightweight "tips", to nudge them into socializing the app with their coworkers and further integrate Grantseeker's tools with their day-to-day work.

  • Onboarding tip example
  • Onboarding tip example
  • Onboarding tip example

The new onboarding flow is highly effective at getting new users set up quickly, but the built-in logic is rather simplistic. If I had more time and resources on the project, I would have loved to further investigate branching flows for different types of users, prospect scoring, and smarter targeting logic for nudges.