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322: Designing App Onboarding Experiences

November 13, 2019

This week, we dive deep into the perils and triumphs of designing an onboarding experience for mobile. Strap in for a big brain dump as we discuss everything from App Store screenshots to sign-in methods to device permissions to user education. And as always, we share a couple cool things like a privacy-minded daily read and a post-post-apocalyptic streaming series.


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Golden Microphone Patrons:

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  • Shoutouts and much appreciation to our newest patrons!
    • Roy Stanfield
    • Eden Wulf
    • Joan Disho
    • Damian Bilski
  • We released the first episode of Bonusland, our extra content just for subscribers!
    • For the inaugural Bonusland, we review Airpods Pro, Apple's latest new-fangled ear speakers
    • And we're simplifying our Patreon tiers; basically, you get access to all of our perks for just a buck (or more) a month!
  • We got some nice replies about our last two episodes on illustration with Pablo and with Meg and Ryan
  • Brian plans to go through all of our past episodes that have crazy titles and rename them to be a bit more obvious and searchable. For you :)

Listener Question:

  • Q: Mannnny asks, "What's the best onboarding experience?"
    • A: "Before you even get to onboarding, you should think about your marketing site and your App/Play Store video and screenshots, because that's how a lot of users will first learn about your app. For the video, pack the first few seconds with a good hook, and make sure it works without sound, since these videos are muted by default. Once the user is in your app, consider the barrier to entry that any sign-in flow will present; using Oauth or a phone number is a great way to streamline sign-in, but you may want to allow users to play around in a signed-out state until they try to do something that actually requires signing in. Please don't ask for device permissions without priming the user for which permissions you'll need to access, why you need to access them, and what the user needs to do to enable them. Once you're ready to do some real user education, the easy (and probably wrong) thing to do is to have a paginated series of feature explanations, but you should never expect anyone to read those. No one reads. Instead, we prefer onboarding experiences that either 1) abstract the interface in a way that allows users to learn without the risk of experimenting on their own data, or 2) use their own interface to teach you how to use the interface. So meta. The most important thing to remember is that you only get one shot at a first impression, so make sure you're putting in the work to make that first run experience as grokkable as possible."
  • Here are some examples:
    • Todoist utilizes app previews that that span multiple screenshots
    • Reddit prompts you for permissions immediately, but you can still use the app signed out
    • Clear Todos (despite having a paginated onboarding flow) starts users with a sample list full of tasks that describe all the gestures in the app
    • Mailbox used abstraction and task-completion to educate users without the risk of experimenting on their own data
    • Notion provides users with a pre-populated document that itself shows user how to start documenting
    • Descript includes a sample podcast project that, using a podcast format and its own interface, walks users through how to navigate and edit the sample project
    • Superhuman has a white glove service where a human on the phone personally walks you through how to use the app
  • User Onboard is an outstanding resource for thoroughly detailed analyses of onboarding flows in many different apps and services

One Cool Thing:

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