Exploring onboarding to increase Polco’s retention rate

Polco is a community platform that enables representatives to gather actionable input and data to better serve their community.
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Polco was having trouble retaining their users and maintaining active users. Our goal was to explore an onboarding idea on top of the existing product as a way to educate users on how to use the platform. The scope was 3 weeks and I collaborated with another designer and the co-founder.


Project manager
Interaction design


Expert review, competitive analysis, secondary research, stakeholder interviews, synthesis, wireframing, rapid prototyping, moderated in-person usability testing


This exploration confirmed that the onboarding needed to be a contextualized approach such as tooltips, progressive reveal, empty states, and good narrative with ux copy. We presented and delivered the work to the client and they took it back to their team to discuss next steps. After this, I continued to think through the interaction design (see below).

“Working with Tiffany was a fantastic experience from end to end. Even in the relatively short duration of the project, she conducted user interviews and was able to quickly internalize many of the unique nuances of our target audience and incorporate that knowledge into the design.”— Alex Pedersen, COO at Polco

Design research

Our objective in research was to: 

  • learn how other multi-sided products, including Polco’s competitors, were onboarding their users.
  • understand the context and challenges representatives face when working with antiquated processes to serve their community.
  • evaluate the Polco platform experience for both users and the problems.
Multi-sided platform relationship ERAF diagram

We learned that our biggest challenge was the constraint that limited us to exploring ideas for a platform that wasn’t connecting users to the value of the product.

Path to value

The insights helped us form an opinion that the main use cases—posting a policy and viewing the policy reactions—are also the most valuable to the users should be called out in onboarding. The priority was teaching the users how to post a policy.

We determined an ideal onboarding flow that revealed features at specific moments and then retrofitted it to the state of the product. From there we thought about how to compartmentalize the flow into three clean steps for the user.

Onboarding flow retrofitted for the platform from an ideal flow

Testing assumptions

We tested the flows to identify points of confusion, understand how the users interacted with the onboarding elements, and the narrative to identify how informative the experience was.

Wireframes that we tested. These show how the onboarding interaction was visualized.

We learned that:


The co-founder was very pleased with our approach, reported learnings, and recommendation. He took out work to his team to discuss next steps.

Wireframes given to the client. These show how we iterated from the previous wireframes.

Reflection and taking it further

In hindsight, a better way to measure success would be to first observe how users would post a policy without any guidance and then compare this to our ideas. This would reveal mental models that would better inform our design direction.

This project allowed me to understand that the rapport we had with the stakeholder and including them throughout the process paid off in multitudes when solving the problem.

I was interested in taking this challenge a further after the project ended with the same constraint of designing for the existing product. Note that these designs below weren't tested and I would prioritize redesigning the IA if I was to take it another step further.

View prototype

Final designs shipped
I went back to weigh the pros, cons, and assumed risks to reevaluate the onboarding flow. This flow teaches the user how to access the search feature in a more valuable way.
Final designs shipped
Iterating on visual hierarchy and designing with visual anchors in mind
Final designs shipped
Brainstorming for the narrative and tone for the onboarding experience
Final designs shipped
Select screens from the reworked onboarding flow and a visual refresh
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