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How to design a perfect onboarding experience for your users?

Imagine waking up and finding yourself at the controls of an airplane as a pilot. You have no idea what the controls there means, what the blinking light signifies, and what you are expected to do.

This is how your user feels when you onboard the user without guidance on what the product does. As product managers, designers, and researchers we might have a clear idea of how the product flows but our users don’t. Defining the right user onboarding experience is the most crucial step in designing the app experience.

Let’s try and understand what is user onboarding?

Users just saw an ad and landed on your play store or app store page. The onboarding experience starts from there. The Title, the short description, the long description, the reviews create the first impression of the product. This is how users get an idea of how the product is going to be useful to them.

When you meet someone, you judge them by their looks first. No matter what, looks create your first impression. It’s after you talk to the person, you decide whether you would want to continue the relationship or not.

Similarly, the users judge your app (in seconds) by looking at the Play Store page. When the user downloads the app, it is then you are speaking to the user guiding the user on how to use the app. It can be as simple as a greeting and an explanation or as complex as a series of guided tasks for users to complete.

Onboarding helps users give a sense of what they are supposed to do on the app.

In my apps, I always try to think of creating an action <> reward loop. This is inspired by how Duolingo solves it beautifully. Here’s how:

Having an action-reward loop in all your user journeys helps improve the user experience. Creating such loops helps users reach their destination and validate themselves on why they should be keeping this app.

Duolingo does it beautifully by asking the user to perform multiple actions and keeps rewarding them by helping them reach closer to their target of learning a language.

Ending the article with a small exercise:

Send over the onboarding experience of your app at and I’ll help improve it.


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