Mobile App Onboarding: Examples & Best practices from Duolingo, Blinkist, Slack, and Headspace.

As a designer, you want your users to gain as much as possible from your product. However, when faced with an interface that is completely new users can feel lost and overwhelmed. Even if the app can solve all of their problems it will not matter if the people using the platform do not know, how to use it. That problems can be solved with mobile app onboarding.

A process called user onboarding is often used to show how the app works. It is crucial if you want to help your users maximize the value they can get from your app.

What is mobile app onboarding?

User onboarding is a term borrowed from human resources. In UX design, it is a process of getting users familiar with a new interface. It often begins when the app is opened for the first time. Onboarding uses dedicated flows and UI elements that are not a part of the regular app interface.

Three main aspects of the onboarding process are:

  • Feature promotion – introduces the app’s main features and demonstrates its value.
  • Customization components – require personal information from the users. it helps to better tailor the experience to their needs.
  • Instructional elements – provide information on how the application or platform functions. It can be done using all kinds of UI elements. It often appears in the form of contextual instructions or a deck of cards components.

Is mobile app onboarding necessary?

User onboarding is an essential process in every mobile app. It sets the foundation for app success. It introduces new users to the app’s main features. Moreover, it provides them with valuable information on how the application functions.

Additionally, user onboarding allows individuals to customize their experience. This process can be used to tailor the app to users’ needs. It helps them to gain as much as possible from the app. In this article, we will explore some of the best user onboarding practices by examining successful examples from popular apps such as Duolingo, Blinkist, Slack, and Headspace. By understanding these practices app creators can optimize their onboarding process and enhance user satisfaction.

Insights from best mobile app onboarding examples

Insight #1 Blinkist lets you skip onboarding

The onboarding process begins when users open an app. Because of that the process needs to take under consideration both new users and those experienced with the app. It is a good strategy to allow everyone to skip instructional and customization parts of the onboarding. Trust the users and let them experience the application first-hand right away.

Mobile app Blinkist onboarding screen. it shows a progress indicator with "skip" button.
Blinkist app: The “Skip” button located at the top right corner of a screen allows users to skip initial customization and explore the app on their own

Obviously, you don’t want your onboarding to take too long. According to Miller’s Law people can hold only about five to seven items in their short-term working memory, so you want to keep your onboarding process to 7 steps maximum. It is also a good practice to give your users a way to monitor their progress in the form of page indicators.

The Blinkist app acknowledges that and allows users to skip the most lengthy parts of their onboarding process.

Insight #2 Duolingo introduces features gradually

Your application or platform probably has a large amount of features and functionalities. As a designer, you certainly do not want to overwhelm your users by demonstrating all of them right away.

Designers must consider what are the main goals and needs of their users. While designing the onboarding process it needs to focus on demonstrating the app’s features that meet those needs.

Duolingo, a popular language-learning app, provides a great example of the onboarding process. It leverages an approach called progressive disclosure.

The app introduces users to its features gradually. Slowly features are becoming more complex. It creates a sense of accomplishment when users are learning something new about the app. At the same time, Duolingo avoids overwhelming users with information.

Duolingo's onboarding screen, informing users about "streak". Text reads "A streak counts how many days you've practiced in a row. Miss a day, and it resets to 0".
Part of the Duolingo customization process is a language proficiency assessment. It tailors the lesson’s initial difficulty. Afterward, there is a quick walkthrough, explaining the concept of a “streak” to new users.

Insight #3 Slack’s Contextual Tips and Tooltips

The progressive disclosure approach creates a certain problem.

On the one hand, you don’t want to overwhelm your users with information about the application’s features. On the other hand, you want to show all the functionalities and instruct users how to use the product.

A solution to that are contextual instructions, that appear when the probability of them being useful is the highest.

Slack is a popular communication and collaboration platform. It uses contextual tips and tooltips to help users navigate its interface. While offering timely hints and explanations, Slack ensures that users quickly understand key features.

Mobile app Slack's tooltips, informing user about channels, messages and other features of the app.

Instructions appear in the proximity of relevant UI elements. They show how users can create channels, join groups, and integrate Slack with third-party apps. These contextual cues save users time and reduce frustration by providing information when needed.

Insight #4 Customization in Blinkist, Headspace and Duolingo

Apps mentioned above — Blinkist, Duolingo, Headspace—prioritize personalization and customization in their onboarding process. Each asks a series of questions designed to learn more about a singular user.

All of the data is then used to personalize the app. It allows to create more engaging and worthwhile experience. The impact of personalization becomes evident as soon as the onboarding process ends.

Mobile app Blinkits onboarding screen, that focus on the personalization. First screen asks about users interests, second presents a book and asks, whether user is interested in it, last screen shows customize homepage.
Blinkist tailors content recommendations based on user interests.
Screens from Duolingo language proficiency test.
Duolingo adapts the lesson’s difficulty to individual progress and language proficiency.

Insight #5 Duolingo and Headspace include sneak-peek in their onboarding

It is a good strategy to showcase the app first. Only afterward ask users to create an account. This way users can make an informed decision. They can choose whether they want to continue using the app or not. Additionally, it builds trust in the brand.

As mentioned before, an important part of Duolingo onboarding is the language fluency test. It is done in the same form that is later found in the app’s lessons.

This part of the onboarding process has several purposes. At the same time, it teaches how Duolingo functions, demonstrates its value, customizes the experience, and creates in users a sense of ownership of the process they made so far. Only then users are asked to create their profile. This makes users more likely to set up an account.

Screens from Duolingo language proficiency test.
Duolingo’s onboarding process includes a language proficiency assessment, done in the same format as the lessons.

Another example of this approach is Headspace, a meditation and mindfulness app. It incorporates basic breathing exercises in their onboarding process, letting users know what they can expect from their app.

Screens form Headspace's breathing excercise.
Headspace onboarding includes basic breathing exercises and recommendations on the course to take afterward.

Why is mobile app onboarding important?

Effective user onboarding is crucial for driving user engagement. It ensures long-term success for applications and platforms. A lot depends on the app’s first impression users have.

By adopting best practices from apps like Blinkist, Duolingo, Headspace, and Slack, we can learn valuable lessons. it teaches us about the importance of clear and concise onboarding flows. Incorporating these practices into your onboarding process can significantly enhance your user’s satisfaction, retention, and overall user experience.

Kickstart your onboarding wireframe with a free Talebook UI Kit Figma file

If you are currently working on onboarding flow yourself Talebook is a helpful resource to simplify your task.

This article was based on research conducted at Talebook. Here you can access the report based on that research. It was made using, an online research repository.

Furthermore, you can access the link to explore onboarding flow wireframes that are conveniently available for download. Wireframes are fully customizable and offered free of charge, so go on and start designing your user onboarding process today!

Talebook UI Kit – Onboarding Wireframes

Further reading

Best Practices for Onboarding by Nick Babich

Progressive Disclosure by Raluca Budiu

One Simple Psychology Framework To Improve Your Onboarding by Dan Benoni

How Blinkist Increased Trial Conversions by 23% (Ethically) by Dan Benoni

How To Design An Effective User Onboarding Flow by Suzanne Scacca

10 Steps for better Onboarding Experience by Grzegorz Oksiuta