Building trust during onboarding

Setting up a password manager can feel like dealing with a cold machine. What if we could make it feel more human?

What is Dashlane?

Dashlane is
a password manager

$211 million raised

Our brains were not built to remember passwords. Most of us end up reusing the same password or pattern over and over — which means a hacker who knows it can get access to all of our accounts.

Dashlane can create unique passwords, store them securely, and type them automatically for us. This means we can have 999 passwords and knowing none of them.


The perception of a password manager is that it is destined for tech enthusiasts. The segment suffers from the expectation that the product is going to be cold and hard to use.

On top of that, the current onboarding was confirming that impression by ignoring people's needs. 

How could we make it feel more human and inviting? 


I participated closely in the UX Research, then communicated it with our team.

Using these findings, I organized brainstormings with the entire team. The goal was to make everyone feel involved in solving people's needs.

I designed and user-tested the flow with our UX writer.

UX Research

Defining the problem

Current onboarding flow

These are the screens you would see after creating your account.

As you can see, screens 1 and 2 are focused on what Dashlane needs, rather than what people need — before even seeing the app. 

When finally landing in the app on screen 3, people were left on their own with little guidance.



With our UX researcher, we narrowed down to the root cause of the onboarding problem. We created this TL;DR to easily share our findings with the different stakeholders.


The two islands

How it feels to be distracted by the onboarding

The island on the left represents the current situation, the island on the right is the situation people want to be in. If people chose to download Dashlane, it is because they believed it could take them to that second island. 

They start swimming towards the second island. But on the way, the onboarding distracts people with a bunch of questions about setting up the system. When they're finally done with that, we just leave them on their own in the middle of the ocean, clueless about how they can reach the second island.

It's like an airline that would ask for your credit card number and passport first, but then tells you: "Sorry, we actually don't fly to Tokyo!"

Story of one user interview

We were visiting a young couple in their home. While interviewing the mom, the dad was taking care of the baby. We asked her to install Dashlane on the device of her choice.

To find out how people would install Dashlane, we went out in their natural context of use. Being in their home gave us insights that we wouldn't have collected otherwise.

After some time, something unexpected happened. The mom turned over and said to her husband:

— Weren't you using a password app too?

— Yes, I'm using a password manager at work for the bank. I'm also using a personal one on my phone, but I didn't mention it to you.

— Why not?

— Well... I know you wouldn't be able to handle it.

— What do you mean?

— I know it's not your thing, you would find it too complicated.

— Are you sure? What's the name?

— Let me check...

The dad pulls out his phone, swipes through a few pages and opens a group:

— Here! Dashlane.

At this point, we were sinking into our chairs.

But we maintained our UX research habits. We dig through why he felt this way.

It turned out that he felt like it was part of his identity

He knew his wife enjoys getting value out of the box, without any extensive setup required. However, his hobbies are quite technical and he likes to take time to set up this kind of stuff at home.

In a nutshell, they are fitting the two Dashlane personas 

This interview and many others helped us defining how our two personas interact with each other, as well as the context and mindset when setting up the app.

Defining the Mental Model

Finding out your user's mental model allows you to create intuitive products: you can create a product that fits perfectly with how people think it works.

Sketch Research

Finding out patterns

After using a product, we naturally develop a mental image of how it works. We asked people to draw that image for Dashlane.

We found some patterns in the drawings that allowed us to build the mental model.

We were careful to ask Dashlane users and non-users to see if there was a gap. 


Again, we created a TL;DR. It was designed to be used as a one-pager you could refer to during the design process.

Each point was built as a fun slogan to make them memorable.


Building a united team

Our 3 psychological focuses

Leading people on the best path for them

Showing people we can help them before they commit
Letting people know when Dashlane is set up and let them go about their day

Using a doctor metaphor as a vision

How could we create trust the same way a doctor does it with his patients?

This metaphor was our inspiration and a good communication tool within Dashlane: people immediately grasped what we were trying to do.

Creating empathy

Some of the team members went to user interviews with our UX researcher. I also shared a clip of a user interview with the rest of the team. 

We also opened the perspectives — getting away from tech — by adding inspirations from 🎴 Japanese hospitality (Omotenashi) and from 💡 Pixar's storytelling principles.


Everyone is involved from the beginning

PMs, Developers, UX Writers, Data analysts, User Researchers were involved to build the concept. Building the concept together was key in uniting the team: we had a common problem to solve.

This got the devs to surpass themselves

‣  That happened because they were building the concepts with us — and as a result, wanted to give the best experience to people as possible.

‣  In contrast, when they didn't work on the user problem they were usually handed off the solution at the last moment — thus, under time pressure, they would stay in what they knew, they no longer had the time to push their skills.


Switching the focus from Dashlane to People


We knew we needed to give value as early as possible. The onboarding shouldn't be about what the system needs from people — but about how it can help them solve their problems.

  We wouldn't feel like we're making any progress if a doctor told us right away:

 We wouldn't feel like we're making any progress if a doctor told us right away:

I need your social security number. And I don't accept credit cards.

  Instead, questions like this makes us feel welcomed and understood:

 Instead, questions like this makes us feel welcomed and understood:

What brings you here? What kind of symptoms appeared?

The first 2 steps are our own version of that. After each question, we reassure the newcomer that we can help him/her.

Getting set up

Each card was built as a tiny landing page

The personal plan is designed to make you feel like you're walking on a safe path. When you're done with it, you know that Dashlane is doing what it is supposed to do.

Header = main benefit

Button = clear call-to-action that complements the header (the two together should be self-sufficient)

Subheader = clarification if needed

Animation = helps to picture the benefit and it helps to build the mental model

Building trust with the right timing

This section was very appreciated during our user-tests. When people try Dashlane, there are always 2 main concerns:

‣  What if Dashlane is hacked?

‣  What if Dashlane is hacked?

‣  I'm afraid of putting all my password in one place

We made sure to address those. It was sometimes surprising to people that Dashlane can't see their passwords.

  We didn't place this section after the first one. How would you feel if a doctor told you right away:

 We wouldn't feel like we're making any progress if a doctor told us right away:

I've never hurt anyone and here are my diplomas!

  Suspicious, right? We made sure the first two screens would be dedicated to getting to know you — just like a doctor would ask:

 Instead, questions like this makes us feel welcomed and understood:

What brings you here? When have these symptoms appeared?

An iterative process

It took us some time to land on sometimes we were satisfied with. Many user-tests and rounds of feedback were necessary.



It paid off

During user-tests


felt their expectations were excedeed

"It's more friendly than what I thought it would be"


felt motivated to continue with the app

"I'm going to check out this app after this test!"


felt guided

"I feel like this app cares about me"

After launch


lift in retention


probability of being better than control