15 User Onboarding Techniques I Found In Consumer Mobile Appsby@malkovko
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32,996 reads

15 User Onboarding Techniques I Found In Consumer Mobile Apps

by Konstantin MalkovMarch 27th, 2024
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See how communication medium, interface metaphors, social proof, associative coherence, pledge of responsibility, or emotional touch all help onboarding new users in top-rated mobile apps.
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Every product is different in the problem it solves, solution it applies, or customer segment it targets. You can’t blindly benchmark successful practices from one product to another. What you can do is constantly train your eye and taste to identify patterns, find inspiration, and connect the dots for your product. In this article, I explore the techniques that 15 popular mobile applications use to onboard new customers.


Metacast is a new podcast app that is currently in public beta. While it’s not exactly the stage where companies think about perfecting onboarding, Metacast chose the medium that only feels right for a podcast app — audio. In 5 minutes intro, the team behind the product explains how to use the app. Since Metacast provides a listener with podcast transcripts, it’s especially handy to be able to follow the story and explore the app with both eyes and ears.


The inspirational note-taking app Craft welcomes new users by quoting what its most loyal customers think about the tool. I don’t know whether the company collected this feedback from reviews or through a Product / Market fit survey (a powerful tool to find out how customers perceive value) but it’s a beautiful application of social proof, a psychological phenomenon coined by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book Influence: Science and Practice that describes how people tend to copy the behaviors of others when deciding how to respond to a particular situation. It is also an example of Daniel Kahneman’s associative coherence: in the same way that holding a warm cup of coffee makes you more likely to think well of a stranger, social proof of an app increases the chances a new user will like it.

ten ten

ten ten is a social walkie-talkie app that allows reaching out to friends anytime, without prior notice, even when their phone is in their pocket with a screen locked. Yes, you read it right. Sounds weird? Wait until the app starts talking to you through phone speakers to onboard you! While many people might not be ready for such an open relationship, it’s only right for a product like this to strike with its key value proposition right away.


Session is an end-to-end encrypted messenger with a focus on privacy and anonymity. To emphasize the product’s mission, the company actively uses interface metaphors during the onboarding phase. The very first product intro is presented through a chat interface, native to a messenger product. A new user then receives a Session ID, delivered through a simulation of a random selection of characters and numbers. Finally, the allure of protected experience is topped off with a unique recovery phrase hidden under a long tap.


This one is brilliantly simple. Headspace is a meditation and mindfulness app. While most companies use a splash screen to show off their logo, Headspace begins like any meditation does — with a deep breath in and a slow breath out.

Zing Coach

Zing Coach is an AI-powered fitness app. Like most popular apps in the health & fitness category, Zing Coach starts with an interactive survey on a new user’s lifestyle and goals to create a supposedly personalized training program. What the app does differently is its fitness level measuring test. By asking a new user to go through a real 5-minute test workout to adjust the intensity for future exercises, Zing Coach brings new users to the first a-ha! moment faster, breaking the very first barrier of starting regular training.


Shuffles is a Pinterest app for creating striking animated collages. While the use of video in onboarding is rarely justified by utility, in this case, it only feels right to show off the crazy amount of creativity embedded in the app compared to most competitors, while simultaneously demonstrating what it’s capable of.


Me+ is a planner app striving to turn daily routines into habits. Throughout the whole onboarding journey, the app consistently backs its value proposition with different forms of social proof: a high percentage of customers achieving positive change, App Store rating, and reviews.

Me+ uses social proof in int onboarding flow

Insight Timer

The meditation app Insight Timer takes a step further by binding social proof with a sense of belonging. Not only does the app boast impressive metrics such as the number of customers and reviews, but it also supports new users by showing they are not alone in their struggles and there are lots of other people who go through the very same challenges.

Insight Timer binds social proof with a sense of belonging


Must is another example of an app where the use of video in onboarding feels only natural. The app lets its customers discover, track, and review movies as well as connect with friends around a common passion. By welcoming new users with a full-screen showreel of everyone’s favorite hits, Must immerses newcomers into the movie experience from the get-go.


Woofz is a dog-training app that provides its customers with professional advice on care, health, and fitness monitoring. One of the first steps that the app takes a new user through is pledging for a dog parent’s commitments and stamping that pledge into the owner’s training passport, thus formally signifying responsibility to a pet.


While for some products a native communication medium is visuals or haptics, BetterSleep opens up with a calm, dreamy sleepcast that sets up a new user for an unwinding experience from the get-go.


While many health-related apps claim to provide training programs personalized according to user preferences and goals, rarely do they make clear how personalization actually works. Yazio at least explicitly shows the parameters its personalization takes into account. After a personalized program is ready, Yazio explains how it will help a new user to achieve goals.


Most mobile applications seek notification permission from new users during the very first session to be able to return them later. The food-tracking app Fastic incentivizes users to enable notifications by both showing the types of messages they will receive and social proofing with an increased probability of achieving dieting goals.


While most products focus on productivity, some rely on emotions. Brickit is an app that suggests new ideas to build from your existing Lego bricks. To enhance creativity and playfulness from the very beginning, Brickit onboards new users with the help of a brick mascot that combines a robot-like appearance with humane mimics.


What this exploration proves is that there is no just one singular pattern to onboard new customers. Instead, look for what feels natural to your product, be it communication medium, interface metaphors, social proof, associative coherence, pledge of responsibility, or immersive, emotional touch. Hopefully, these examples will give you new angles to look at familiar topics.

If you are just getting started with onboarding, check out the general approach that I worked out while building onboarding for three popular consumer mobile apps.

Thank you for giving this a read. Please share your thoughts in the comments. Would love to hear what other techniques you tried to make onboarding successful.