Best Practices

6 free tools for building your product-led onboarding process

Published May 3, 2022

Having a well-designed user onboarding process is a hallmark of being product led, and it can pay dividends for any organization no matter what type of software they’re building, or whether they’ve built it themselves or bought it for their org’s use.

When users are met with a streamlined experience for getting started with a new digital tool from the moment they first log in, they feel supported and realize the platform’s value much more quickly. Better yet, when that experience is personalized down to their role or unique job-to-be-done, they feel seen and valued, and that leads to better user outcomes, higher adoption, and long-term retention.

Good news: You can get started right away. We’ve put together this list of tools that have free plans and work together to help you build the best possible onboarding process, whether it’s at first login or to help users learn to use newly released features.

Product analytics and in-app guides: Pendo Free

Pendo Free should be the first tool you install when getting started with in-app onboarding. Pendo’s product analytics and in-app guidance capabilities work in tandem to form the user-facing backbone of all of your onboarding infrastructure.

Pendo’s in-app guides, the primary way users will interface with your onboarding content, are super easy to build and deploy. You don’t need to lean on any dev or engineering resources at all—it’s just click, point, drag, and drop.

Pendo’s retroactive analytics live under the same roof as the guides, and that’s a huge advantage over other point-solution in-app messaging tools. Usage and behavioral data will let you examine exactly how users navigate through your platform, so you can figure out which have the most optimal workflows and use in-app guides to nudge others down the same paths.

You’ll also be able to see the most common places users get stuck and frustrated, so you can deliver more in-app guides to help them past those points, or have your engineers fix them. Usage data is also the component that will allow you to personalize your onboarding by looking at how different segments of users work on your platform and delivering differentiated guides to each group.

Pendo Free is extremely easy to install, too. It just requires copying and pasting a snippet of JavaScript into your pages.

Free terms: Includes use of Pendo analytics and in-app guides for free, up to 1,000 monthly average users on web and mobile.

Heat mapping and session replay: Hotjar

Sometimes, you just need to get a real-time look at how people are interacting with a page, where they linger and where they rage-click a broken button into oblivion. Hotjar gives you that capability. 

Hotjar lets you examine heat maps of interactions on your product’s pages and access full session playback recordings, so you can get into the most granular details of why a spot causes friction or how your power users work in your tool.

Pair that with Pendo Free’s data and guides, you’ll be able to obtain—and act on—a complete understanding of product usage.

Free terms: Free up to 2,000 pageviews per day.

Digital whiteboard: Miro

Want to know the absolute worst way to build an onboarding strategy? Going in and building a ton of random guides without any plan, rhyme, or reason. Taking that route could actually make it harder for your users to learn your platform, and may frustrate them enough to make them abandon it altogether.

That’s where Miro comes in. Miro is a digital whiteboard, which you can use to map out your onboarding flows and visualize your progressions for multi-step guides based on your Pendo and Hotjar data. This helps make sure everyone in your org is on the same page about how guides should be used and what the overall onboarding experience will look like. 

Then, you can translate that over to Pendo and push it all live.

Free terms: Free with 3 editable boards, pre-made templates, and core integrations.

Video hosting and embedding: Wistia

For the visual learners among us, Wistia is a great option for hosting videos that you can embed in your in-app guides to create video walkthroughs of key functionality. Pendo supports Wistia embedding natively, so all you’ll need to do is film the clip, upload it, and embed the link in your guide.

Free terms: Free up to 50 videos.

CRM: HubSpot

Hubspot is a leading CRM for sales, customer service, and marketing automation. They offer a free version of each of those platforms. In this case, it’s imperative that you have systems in place for things like analyzing support ticket volumes to look for places Pendo in-app guides can be used to smooth out your UX, host support materials to deliver in-app, and automate email marketing and support based on in-app user interactions, so you can bridge the gap between in-app and off-app support. Hubspot checks all of these boxes.

Free terms: Free CRM, email and forms, and help desk tools.

Data infrastructure: Segment

All of your data needs to be able to speak with each other to make your onboarding strategy work. Segment is a top data integration platform for making that happen.

Free terms: Free up to 1,000 visitors per month, connect two sources, 1,000+ integrations.


Learn more about getting started with in-app onboarding.

Looking for more inspiration and resources for becoming product led? Check out our Product-led Hub.