United Healthcare
First-time User Experience

The existing onboarding experience for users logging into United Healthcare's insurance website for the first time did not set them up for success for the digital experience. Instead, the flow focused on collecting communication preferences. I was tasked to design an onboarding flow that would welcome and engage users to understand, maximize and enjoy their health insurance benefits.

Role: Product Designer

Platform: Responsive Web

Year: 2020

The Problem

Over 200,000 users were opting out of UHC's health insurance plan shortly after logging in. We needed a dramatic transformation to the onboarding flow to increase retention by helping users ease into the experience and better understand their benefits.

KPI: Members who complete the dynamic onboarding experience will be two times more likely to return to their digital experience than someone who did not go through the tour.

The existing flow focused solely on collecting communication preferences

My Role

I was the lead designer of the new onboarding flow.

Research & Discovery

I began the research process by auditing over 60 onboarding flows in web apps, responsive and native mobile to get a sense of how other designers have solved the problem of easing users into a new product. There were many different methods including swipe-through screens for mobile apps, guided task completion, tooltip tutorials and survey question for personalization.

Audit of over 60 onboarding fows in responsive web and native mobile applications.

Spreadsheet with a list of onboarding patterns used for each product


I also looked for sources away from the computer. Krystal Higgins, an interaction designer at Google, had recently published a book on onboarding that went into depth on how we learn. She argued that the best way for people to become core users of a product is by guided task completion in which guidance is weaved into the interactions of the product. "New users can immerse themselves into the experience and have the support they need to be successful". I frequently referred back to this book as I worked toward a solution.

Guided Interaction Patterns

Based on the audit and information in the book, I narrowed the onboarding patterns to two basic patterns that would work best with the UHC web app. The callout would work as an overlay on the interface and the inline cues could be integrated into the existing dashboard.

A callout pattern used by Dropbox to emphasize different subtasks of transferring a file as users move through the action for the first time. Example from "Better Onboarding"

Inline cues to insert occasional tips on Skyscanner and Slack. Example from "Better Onboarding"

User Personas

In order to gain a better understanding of who we are designing for, I wrote out 3 user personas that cover their expectations, concerns and motivations. For onboarding to be successful, it was necessary to satisfy as many users' needs as possible.

User Journeys

Using Figjam I mapped out every possible experience a user could have to make sure that every outcome was accounted for. This addressed questions such as, what happens when a user skips the guided tour? Will users be able to re-access the tour later? What happens if users skip in the middle of the guided tour? How often would they be prompted to complete the tour if at all?

User journey scenarios on Figjam


I sketched out two possible directions in both desktop and responsive formats - 1 with activation cards and the other with the callout.

Direction 1: Onboarding is integrated into the dashboard where users can complete tasks by selecting an activation card.

Direction 2: Users are taken through a sequence of callouts that point to a specific area on the dashboard. A progress tracker orients the user to where they are in the flow.

Usability Testing

I worked with the research team to test 2 different directions: activation cards and a guided tour. The goal was to understand which flow users preferred. We found that the majority of users preferred Direction 2 because it was in-context of the interface they would be seeing.

Research Insights

88% of participants preferred the guided tour.

“A walkthrough that helped me more easily understand the web page”

“I like that I can join on the guided tour when I want and see the items that will be covered.”


Since this would be a new pattern outside of our existing design system, we included the accessibility engineers and knowledge leads early in the process. I wanted to ensure that users of all assistive technology including keyboard and screenreaders could readily experience the onboarding flow.

High-fidelity Prototype

The solution was a personalized guided tour where users are asked what they're logging in to accomplish on the website. Based on the their response, they're taken through a brief tour using callouts that highlight the areas that will be most useful to the user when completing a task.

Users indicate what their logging in for

The overlay points to the target area

Success screen

The Future

The new onboarding flow is currently in development and due to launch Q1 2022 for Medicare members. We plan to monitor whether there’s a difference in retention for first-time users of the web app. We also plan to embed the dialogs into the experience itself as an extention of onboarding. I’m currently working with native mobile designers to create an onboarding experience in the UnitedHealthcare app.