Skip the intro, don’t skip onboarding!

Have you downloaded an app recently? There appears to be an increasing trend of apps inserting marketing slides into their initial experience and calling that “onboarding”. Usually what follows next is a set of form fields to set up your account.

Like the “Flash intros” of yore, this trend is completely horrible. 🙂 Read on to find out why!

True onboarding can’t be skipped!

If you’re trying to get someone on board with your product, you’re putting them through a process where they transform from a passively curious app downloader into a passionate, engaged devotee of your company’s mission.

This is a critical process that cannot be skipped!

If you find that you’re inserting things into your “onboarding” that could be skipped, then it’s probably a good idea to rethink your onboarding process.

Show!! don’t tell …

As I mentioned, onboarding is a process where you transform a passive app downloader into a passionate and devoted member of your community. You can achieve this far more successfully with the basic principle of “Show, don’t tell”.

The above apps use a multi-slide presentation to continue marketing to new users about how great they are at what they do.

They are opting to “Tell, don’t show” and quite frankly, nobody wants to listen.

If I have already downloaded the app, the marketing portion of the funnel has done its job. Re-marketing to me again is absolutely unnecessary! A better design would focus on proving value throughout the onboarding process, rather than just telling me about the value, and letting me skip the “tell”.

The above app has done something really amazing by transforming an otherwise dull account setup process into an engaging onboarding process. I’m only talking about it now because I enjoyed it so much. The way the UI provides feedback based on changes you make shows the user SO much more about what experiences they will get from this product.

Now I’m not saying that you should always be whimsical like this app is, but this is a far better onboarding experience than just walking me through a marketing slide deck!

I would go even further — there’s show, then tell, then act. Better to have them take actions in the app that help set them up for success — inviting friends, filling out their profile, etc. Letting them use the core UX of the app can be good, but the worry is that you’re losing vital onboarding actions that you won’t be able to ask them to do later.

Andrew Chen, via Quibb

This is an excellent point, to push people even further in the onboarding process to do things that really aren’t possible at any other time. You have a limited window of opportunity to get people to do things right up front, and pushing them to act (in a nice way) is really important for product design and growth. All the more reason to not waste the opportunity on unimportant slideshows!

Let me play!

Believe it or not, even adults enjoy a little play time. It’s just that our toys are a bit different than when we were children. This same idea is true for your onboarding. Letting people play with your app (and maybe you can gently guide them through it) is a great way to onboard your new users.


The above image is from a camera app. Before I could even try taking a video, I had to endure an unskippable sequence of 8 (!!) slides (not to mention the fact that the arrow is utterly redundant, since there are page indicators…) None of these slides heightened my enjoyment. None of these slides helped me learn anything about the app. They simply just interfered with my ability to play with the tool by forcing me to swipe through a bunch of “capture tips” that weren’t actually tips on how to capture better photos.

Would it surprise you to know that this app was designed by IDEO?

Onboarding is ultimately about value

In the end, your onboarding process is about value. You should convey the “Why” clearly and expressively through a fun or engaging user experience. By showing people the value you offer, and letting them play and experience that value right up front, it will definitely go a long way into transforming a new user that downloads your app out of curiosity into a fiercely passionate evangelist of your product!

UPDATE: I added some excellent feedback from the great Andrew Chen! Thanks Andrew for providing your expertise!

For more information on this topic, please check out our discussion of onboarding on the Design Review Podcast!

Skip the intro, don’t skip onboarding!

3 thoughts on “Skip the intro, don’t skip onboarding!

  1. So… you just don’t like the side arrows matched with page indicators or is that a unanimous designer’s logic?

    I’m genuinely curious because I like both haha.
    the arrows guy you for a more fluid clicking location, while the page indicators let the view ponder what other opportunities lie on those 6! other pages that could be beneficial to me. Assuming you grab their attention with the first two.

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