Broadly speaking there are 2 different approaches to User Onboarding:
  1. Either you allow users into your garden straight away to taste and explore the product before buying
  2. Or you fence the garden and run them through a setup before accessing the product.

Intuitively the Open Garden seems best as it allows customers to get to use the core of your product as fast as possible. But speed isn’t everything. For a seamless user journey, a certain amount of setup might be needed in order to personalize the product and build that conversation between the product and the user. 

The Onboarding of Netflix is quick and easy with the most basic information being asked to get started. A conversational tone and constant reassurance keeps users on the right path and builds trust. New users know what Netflix is about (on-demand TV series and Movies) when they get to start the app, so there is no need to trial the app before creating and account. This way Netflix knows the user a bit better and can target the more relevant content and offerings.

Duolingo is a language learning app that does exactly that with no fuss. As soon as users open the app they get started learning the language they want with clear descriptions and positive language. Duolingo puts all the importance on learning before having new users create their accounts.

Learning languages isn’t easy and there are many different approaches to it. That’s new users need a chance to see if the unique approach of Duolingo is something the buy into. Therefore an Open Garden works brilliantly.

After scanning the Onboarding of hundreds of web and mobile apps, I’ve noticed a couple of patterns which might help you to identify the right approach for your product. 

  Closed Garden Open Garden
Good for products which   Are Known Are Unknown
  Repackage known benefits/concepts Are new inventions
  Require user's input to become usable Don't require user input to become usable
 Pros More info on the user is available upfront Fast way to winning moments
  Creates buy-in upfront Avoids drop-offs early in funnel
 Cons Explorative users drop-off Account creation and conversion further away
  Less opportunities to convince the user Communication to new users limited to in-app channels
 Examples

Netflix (video streaming)

Spotify (music streaming)

Slack (team chat)

duolingo (language learning on web)

Subway Surfers (Game)

Clash Royale (Game)

I’ll probably add to this list as I find more patterns. Let me know if you find something that would be valuable to add.