Integrating new employees with company culture even before they start.

Engaging employees before their first day with their teammates, while providing them with everything they need to feel ready to start.

All while taking the heavy lifting off HR.

Get in touch for a full design report

What was the project about?

Design a desktop web app for companies to use internally for their onboarding process

As a starting point, we assumed we were working for a start-up creating a new product: a software as a service (SaaS) desktop web app for companies to use internally for onboarding new employees.

Based on market and user research, business needs were established to develop the MVP (minimum viable product).


  • Individual
  • 1O days


  • Pen & paper
  • Mural
  • Figma

UX Techniques

  • Interviews
  • Competitive & comparative analysis
  • Establishing business goals
  • Roadmapping
  • Problem statement
  • Personas & scenarios
  • Prototyping
  • Usability testing

What is onboarding?

The integration of a new employee into an organisation

From signing the contract until becoming effective in their new role

Before getting into the depth of the research, I wanted to define what exactly onboarding was.

There are three stages to the onboarding process (as seen below): pre-start (from when the new starter signs their contract to their first day), induction (initial introduction to the company, this may be done on the first day or through a formal induction process), and full integration (the time it takes for the new starter to become effective in their role).

This project focussed on the pre-start (otherwise known as preboarding). How this decision was made is outlined during the research process.


What are people’s current behaviours?

Key insights from 8 initial interviews & contextual inquiries

Insights were gained from interviews and contextual inquiries with people who: head HR at large organisations, run recruitment companies, work at back office service companies, who have recently hired someone new or started a new position themselves.

For this research it was important to get three perspectives: new starter, HR and manager. With these interviews, the insights were analysed (through affinity diagramming) and consolidated into the key insights you see to the right.

Big organisations have problems with making the experience personal
Good onboarding = happy employees = higher productivity
HR needs a paper trails to ensure compliance when auditors come
HR wastes time chasing paperwork & doing repetitive jobs
New starters feel lost before starting, then nervous on their first day


Feature comparison

Looking at comparable apps gave a good overview of where the market is currently at: what’s working, what’s not working and what’s currently missing.

The three features that appeared most were: tracking onboarding progress, automated checklists and ability to send and fill paperwork. As an addition to the initial user interviews, this highlighted the importance of these three functionalities.


Colleague challenges

An application that came up during a user interview was YuLife. YuLife provide company life insurance, and they enhance an otherwise mundane experience with an element of gamification.

Through contextual inquiry, the following screenshots were gained from initial user research.

Why do you think a good onboarding experience is important?

“It’s pretty simple. Happy employees are more productive.”

Emma, HR Advisor, London

The above quote from an HR Advisor in London made it really clear to me that the whole point of a good onboarding experience is employee engagement.


Direction: Employee Engagement

What is Employee Engagement?

Before understanding how a product can positively affect employee engagement, first we need to define what that is.

According to Engage for Success, employee engagement can be defined as:

Employee engagement is a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organisation to give of their best each day, committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.
Employee Engagement: The Four Enablers

Also according to Engage for Success, there are four common themes that make successful employee engagement.

1. Strategic Narrative

Leadership providing a strong strategic narrative about the organisation, where it’s come from and where it’s going.

2. Engaging Managers

Managers focus and give scope to their subordinates, treating everyone as individuals, and coaching if possible.

3. Employee Voice

Employees seen as central to finding solutions, involved, listened to and invited to contribute experience, expertise and ideas.

4. Integrity

The values on the wall are reflected in day to day behaviours. There is no ‘say –do’ gap.


What did people need from an onboarding tool?

Through using Red Routes, I analysed the value to the three key user types: new starter, HR and manager.

  • The three priorities for the new starter were knowing who’s whounderstanding what needs to be done & understanding the company.
  • The three priorities for HR were paperworkensuring compliance with auditors & preparing for a new starter’s first day or week.
  • The three priorities for the manager were paperworkassigning primary contacts & team structure.

What could make a viable onboarding product?

In terms of profit, employee engagement and social benefits. What would have the most value to the business?

Comparing user priorities against value to the business, four main priorities for the MVP arose:

  • Knowing who’s who
  • Paperwork
  • Team bonding
  • Understanding what needs to be done


What were the opportunities?

With user and business needs in mind, what are we tackling with this product?

With business and user needs and goals evaluated, two opportunities were decided on for this product’s MVP. Each of which with a measurable way to gauge whether or not the product is having the desired effect.

Engage new employees even before their first day

Problem: People not knowing who to turn to, nervous & lost in new workplace

Solution: Make fun team integration

KPI: Employee / manager satisfaction (survey)

Seamless pre-boarding experience for both new starter and HR

Problem: HR wasting time on repetitive tasks and chasing paperwork. New starters confused by the process

Solution: Clear pro-boarding process that’s easy to navigate & complete

KPI: Average handling time (HR side)


Who is Interlude for?

With the user research in hand, some specific traits and behaviours have been collated into these fictional characters for whom the product was developed.

Hannah is a representative of the user (traits, behaviours & patterns of a bigger body of people) on the side of the new starter. Other personas were made, please get in touch for the full design report to see more in depth.

Meet Hannah

New starter persona


How is Hannah currently completing the tasks?

Before designing anything, understanding what the user currently does and how they do it makes clears where improvements could be made in their experience.

Completing paperwork

  • Contract signed
  • Waits to hear from HR with next steps
  • Receives some policies and other forms to sign via email
  • Waits to hear from HR if anything else needs to be done
  • Receives the details for the first day (point of contact, address & time) a week before starting
  • Starts work

Knowing who’s who

  • Contract signed
  • Speaks to HR but no one from her team until a week before starting
  • A week before, she receives an email from her boss with a few job specific details
  • Starts work without knowing anyone on the team
How might we engage new employees with a company’s culture, even before their first day, to put them at ease in their new workplace?
With 7 days until starting her new job, Hannah is getting excited to meet her teammates. She receives an email from HR checking her progress on various tasks she needs to complete before her first day.

Let’s see Hannah’s experience of Interlude

Want to see the design from the point of view of HR?

Get in touch for the full design report.


What the project looked like from afar…


Some key highlights along the way

With usability testing on 14 people, here are a few of the changes that were made and why.

User feedback:

Company view was too big for a new starter, people wanted to know who they’d be directly working with

Changes made:

Team view prioritised over company view and made more personal

User feedback:

  • Long hesitation on finding relevant information, confused by categorising of tasks
  • What is the primary task on this page?

Changes made:

  • Categories made clearer and hierarchy of information cleaned up
  • De-prioritising secondary task

User feedback:

  • Not seeing where to retrieve new starters’ files

  • Key info confused with action

Changes made:

  • Received files brought onto the new starter’s progress page

  • Key info brought out into bottom bar for clarity

User feedback:

  • Doesn’t need to see so much info about herself if already working there

  • Key info confused with action is the priority

Changes made:

  • Personal info de-prioritised

  • Primary action prioritised


Getting the tone right


When choosing the colours, the biggest challenge was considering white labelling. If the company using the app wants to have their own brand and logo used, how might the colours allow for that?

The decision made was to use a muted colour scheme with one accent colour. This accent colour would then be customisable, as well as the logo, for the user company. The accent colour is used for actions or navigation.

Furthermore, the light (white or off white based) primary colours used allow for two things: consistency and clean design (even with white labelling).

White labelling

What might the colour scheme look like if the company using the app customised it to their brands?

Grid system

Throughout the design, a 5 column grid system was used: one column for the side navigation and four for the main content. This allowed for coherency throughout the design.


What would I do next?

This design is a MVP (minimum viable product) and therefore there are definitely areas in which this could be pushed further.

First of which is to test with people in HR. During iterations, there were usability tests done with managers, new starters and back office outsourcers. A primary user is HR, the designs were developed based on initial research done with people in HR, however to validate the usefulness of the product further testing needs to be done.

The challenges aspect at the moment only has the capability of three options for the MVP. This could be pushed further. How would organisations with different company culture or values approach this?

In terms of progressing with additional functionality, the opportunities outlined with the MoSCoW prioritisation could be reviewed to look for future opportunities that weren’t possible to develop in the MVP.

Step 1

Test with people in HR

Step 2

Develop the ‘challenges’ to suit a wider range of company profiles

Step 3

Looking forward, evaluate the opportunities that couldn’t be tackled with the MVP

What did I learn from all this?

Lesson 1

Comparative research is really useful to ideate solutions more broadly

Lesson 2

Prioritising features for the MVP is essential to good execution

Lesson 3

How branding can enhance an experience
(white labelling)

What would I do differently?

This is a short 10 day project. With that in mind, reflecting on the process and outcome, I am overall happy with the result.

The two primary opportunities outlined, that this product aimed to tackle, have been included in the MVP. From usability testing, the desired responses and results are happening. To really understand how well the product is working, further testing (with the KPIs in mind) would be needed.

If I were to do the project over, what would I do differently? Firstly, it would be great to get some HR insight on the final design. Their understanding of the utility of the product would be essential to the products success. Secondly, I have done the product from two perspectives (HR & new starter), having the managers’ needs and goals considered in the final design would allow for a more well rounded experience.

Other than that, on the whole, time management and process was generally approached well with sticking to an initial plan. This lead to an outcome that, at this point in the product’s life cycle, I believe is a good starting point.

Thank you for reading! If you have any feedback or comment don’t hesitate to contact me on LinkedIn or at