Improving User Onboarding

May 3, 2020

Work in progress

I'm currently collecting my thoughts and research on user onboarding. Check it out!


Every product is different, principles are the same Two Gulfs by NN With every (from first seeing the app to frequent user) interaction (that includes onboarding), users must overcome understanding current state of a system and how to change it


Uncertainty + flexibility = resilience

Weak option - Tooltip onboarding

Integrated (Opposite of distracting) Timely, relevant guidance

Empowering (Opposite of controlling) Who cares about the UI, teach them how to accomplish what they came for Do work for the user, make it easier for them

Steadfast (Opposite of flaky) It shouldn't only be the first few minutes

Onboarding Lenses

Are they better off? What happens in between? (mind-the-gap) How to help between a and b Break down every step '"User figures it out" is always a losting strategy' 'Counting on your users to care more about your product than you do results in the erosion of both.'

Do work for the users

Limited options on Duolingo vs. Canva Provided information they already had (like their email)

Align to user's motiviation (Gamification)

Duolingo Offer a challenge and awesome success states Help the user set a goal (make a commitment) Included goal in the sign up menu Ownership of experience ("I want to learn...") - Tie it into their goals

Frontload value

Momentum is built in wins, at least two in a row. Then you're on a hot streak "Is the user actually better off for having made it through the onboarding flow?"

Challenging onboarding is okay

Sister Pattern - Gradual Engagement Postpone registration to create a low barrier to entry


Empty States

Show only what's relevant

Progress System

Give them options to skip ahead and come back (No one likes being stuck in a tutorial) Include steps Show progress from the beginning

Success States

More than congrats Use it to keep users engaged - That's the right step, here's step two, …

Lifecycle Email or Push Notifications

Permission Priming

Associate access to value - let them know why something is needed

"Signal their intent" by doing something Many apps only ask to access photos when you click "Upload a photo" or whatever

Pre-permission dialog, only show system dialog if they accept Only trigger the ask when needed

Copy and Micro-Copy

Make it quick and easy to understand - The product is clearly defined Netflix only has 1 maybe 2 sentences per step Clearly defined product is clear Make things discoverable (signifiers and labels) Offer more information where appropriate Clear commands


Nice personality (Duo the Owl)


I'm Connor Lindsey, a developer and designer building web and mobile apps. Thanks for reading! Stay up to date with what I'm building by following me on Twitter.