🌶 Spicy take: I don't want to be onboarded in communities

When I lived in Colombia and went shopping (in a mall for things like clothes) staff would jump on me and offer to be as helpful as possible. I absolutely hated it. I didn’t want to be approached. I wanted to be left alone to explore and do my own thing in my own time.

I know how to shop, thank you very much.

I feel the same with community onboarding. I don’t want or need it. I can find my own way through in my own time and in my own way.

I’ve been to many communities before. It will take time for me to adjust to the new environment, but I’ll get there in time.

You’re onboarding, and especially your automated onboarding, puts me off.


That is a spicy take!

Communities can be thoughtful and respectful about the onboarding experience.

Are you using the default Discourse bot? You’re doing it wrong.

Are you crafting a unique onboarding experience that highlights unique community tools or features, most commonly requested resources for new users, or how to request help in the most expeditious manner? You’re doing it right.


Good point that onboarding might not be for everyone, but it is still a very much-needed journey for new members. I think that is the beauty of good onboarding, if it is helpful to you then it can really make your experience pleasant and if you don’t need it, then it isn’t a requirement to follow all of the steps!


Just to be clear, I’m not saying ‘no to onboarding’.

It’s more that we don’t have to do it AND we have to remember many people don’t want it.

These are the kind of things that should be considered as inclusive community design practices.

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I’m still using many default Discourse settings. I’m not convinced doing anything else at this stage would add any value.

I do plan to improve things as I go, but at the moment when things are small here, there are other more pressing priorities.

Totally, it would be interesting to see data for this.

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Something I liked to learn from you is that the best way to see a community is a flywheel, not a funnel.

And this makes perfect sense for onboarding as well. Make a circular and open approach versus a more closed and vertical one.

It is like a high-walled hallway or a front garden. Let me explore and get comfortable.

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What would be interesting is to see your own individual community data behind the usage of Discord bot: “in X time frame, how many new users completed all steps suggested by the bot? in X time frame, how many new users ignored or exited the bot?”

Or if you’re @MattM, provide community data to Invision community owners: "in X time frame, how many users completed the onboarding progress?’

We started with a simple premise: “to onboard or not.” But I think the follow-up and better question should be, “for my community strategy, how can I make the onboarding process more effective for my community objectives?” And that depends on community data to fine-tune the onboarding tactics over time.

@rosiesherry Not critiquing you at all LOL ! It was meant as a generic statement. If anything, you’ve opened up an amazing discussion on inclusive design practices, on community strategy, and on the respect and privileges that we take and give from users.

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The initial take for me is to open community builders minds to the fact that not everyone wants to be onboarded. And if they understand this, then more inclusive practices could be considered on how to include these people within the community over a longer period of time.

It doesn’t have to be onboarding. It’s probably more like @fabian said — if we look at community like a flywheel, we should be looking for opportunities everywhere to pull people in. Onboarding is just one potential way.


Onboarding can be quite annoying if it’s over automated or steps you through some of the basic functionality if you prefer self discovery and experimentation.

A few post registration prompts can be useful to set expectations and how to get help.

Spicy, but totally legitimate. This is right on par with “instructions” or “training” for software. If you need to read a manual or watch videos to use the application, the application is not intuitively designed. Same thing with communities.

We all know how to talk with one another, how to be socially expressive, how to collaborate and communicate. It’s an intrinsic human characteristic. But to be “onboarded” to achieve a certain level of “adoption” on a community website? Something is off - either in the user experience or the information architecture or perhaps even the content itself.

I subscribe to the “Ladders of Engagement” or “Engagement Pyramid” philosophy to community-building, and used this a lot when I was a Partner at a political campaigning and non-profit digital agency a decade ago. People have fundamental needs and capabilities of contributing at each major “tier” of engagement, and you cannot ask more of these people at a certain level until you have met their basic needs. Visitors will only go so far to register, for example; you need to make sure that your website / platform / application / community / whatever meets the visitor’s needs easily so that the next-step ask – which should also be super-easy – isn’t seen as a huge leap for people who choose to engage more.

Same thing with new members. You cannot expect brand new members to go through a mandatory onboarding or new member orientation, if it is a heavy handed request; new members are primarily going through self-orientation, observation and exploration, and situational contribution. To move them into an intensive community engagement process better suited to veterans or key influencers in your community will just drive them away, especially when there are so many (too many, perhaps!) friction-less alternative communities and experiences for time-limited people to choose from.

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Yes…and some people will instantly react that this is an ‘anti-onboarding’ spicy take, but really it’s just being mindful about the many different options and diverse needs of people.

Onboarding is not for everyone.


I also hate onboarding. However, I think it’s particularly effective for people who aren’t as tech-savvy to get a hang of adjusting.


I agree that it should be optional – no community is the same and we shouldn’t make assumptions around user preferences as either CMs or product builders. Our philosophy as builders is “everything behind a setting” and I think that’s important.

A learning community for young people and a professional community for community builders will have very different onboarding needs. Similarly, individuals in any group will have different needs and preferences.

Very much agreed here. It can be really subjective. I recently started a new community for a niche demo who aren’t the most tech-savvy folks. Holding their hand and making it as seamless as possible is a big part of it in this case.

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Ohhhhh in terms of automation do you think you would prefer something like:

Hello {Name}, would you like to go through our onboarding process or would you like to find your way around the community in your own time?"

Because I actually 100% agree with this and I think giving community members the option instead of forcing it is a good middle ground. I know some of this has already been talked about but I’m here a bit late haha

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Having a choice is interesting a I think would be good.

I think mostly there should be a place where people know they can go to get the latest on what is happening within the community.

In a very basic way I’ve been working towards this in Rosieland by keeping the /members page up to date with the latest things we are working on. It’s a text page and is updated manually, but the idea is that hopefully members can always go there and know that it will be up to date.

And on that note, I think onboarding is the part at the beginning, things, projects, and activities in communities are always changing. It’s not quite an ‘always be onboarding’ angle, but more like members need to know where to go (perhaps have bookmark to a specific page) to find out what is happening.