9 Things I Wish I Knew Before Designing our Onboarding Email Flow

Last updated on June 10th, 2023

Minh Saggers
Minh Saggers

Hours of designing condensed into a four-minute read that will save you a
great deal of pain


Design is frustrating. It’s hair pulling, stay up til 1am thinking about it,

It’s also slightly (extremely) terrifying knowing that once you put it out
there, hundreds of people will end up seeing it.

I’ve recently had the pleasure of re-designing our onboarding email flow(no,
seriously, I discovered I have a bizarre excitement for it), which was
something I’d never done before. I’m going to share what I learned to the
people out there who are in the same position as I was.

Make it easy for yourself and visualise

This is something that seems obvious, but having no experience in creating an
onboarding journey, I had to so some research until I realised I needed to
create and draw out an ‘email flow’.

Map it out, use the beginning and end of the flow as anchor points. You know
where your customers begin and where you want them to be, so use that and fill
in the parts in-between. This will let you see how parts will interact with
one another, and visualise the journey as whole.

There are simple softwares out there, I used draw.io,
which integrates with Google Docs and gives you basic shapes that allowed me
the creative freedom I love.

To know the customer, you must become them

Where can they lose interest? What kind of indirect approaches can you use to
put them back on track? Is the way I’m addressing them fitting to the company

Everyone is a customer of somewhere, you most likely are part of an emailing
campaign of some site you signed up to half-mindedly whilst trialing other
similar products.

Now take the attitude you have towards their marketing emails, and remind
yourself that this is the same mindset that some of your customers will have.

This presents you the frame of mind you have to consider when designing the
flow and writing the emails, giving you the chance to counteract the
indifference some will have towards your product.

Plug that funnel and rescue those slipping away

There will be multiple points where your users can disappear in the abyss of
lost leads — such as installation of your app, taking the first steps, filling
in personal information, and just before purchasing.

Have someone who knows your customers best point them out so you can set up
reminder emails and feedback requests —* they may have just simply forgotten
about you*, so don’t be scared to follow up and get them back on track.

One tiny trip now, one massive face plant later

Make sure you don’t have places where the customer can get stuck in a loop or
their campaign abruptly ends because of a paradox.

There have been times where I’ve realised I’ve looped it, so they would just
never receive an email again after re-engagement campaigns — so, go through
each path and check that it makes sense!

Make it easier for yourself, map it out

Have a key on your diagram, put as much detail as you can, I included the
delays between emails, what template they’ll take on, and any thoughts were
recorded as a note.

Break things down — this makes it so much easier to organise what can become
quite a complex system.

Consider what platform you’re transferring to

Every email campaigning platform has their own capabilities, be sure you can
match up the conditions on both the chart and software, otherwise you won’t be
able to carry out the flow.

You’ll end up having to re-do parts and the process just becomes a pain.

Select templates carefully

Don’t use templates where they’re not needed, if you want a response, follow
ups and check-ups are personalised messages and so should be kept to a

Using a template screams ‘this is definitely a generic email that everyone
. And sometimes that’s okay, but not when the whole point of an email
is to get a reply.

For notifications, blog posts, and surveys, they are formatted, however, with
trial check-ups and reminders, keep the format simple

Play out scenarios

Play out every path that your leads could take, and send yourself test emails.
Here, you’ll realise if you’re sending out emails too often, whether the tone
is off, and if everything is working properly.

We’ve had our share of tone screw-ups (we’re pretty sure our old welcome email
may have offended a few), as well as broken links being sent out.

Quadruple check EVERYTHING

One mistake can lead to someone getting an email when they weren’t meant to,
this isn’t so bad but isn’t the best impression you can give when presenting
the company for the first time.

Check each step on the chart before writing out the emails, sending out broken
links is useless (trust me, we’ve done it before and spent more time fixing it
and writing an apology email). It’s better to spend the time testing than

NOTE: I’ve still yet to finish transferring and writing the emails, but this
is what I have so far in terms of lessons I’ve learned during the designing

You can find our current onboarding here: Intercom email

Minh Saggers
Minh Saggers

Minh Saggers is Upscope's Head of Operations