5 Product Onboarding Mistakes to Avoid

Source: All information is directly from this case study

Almost 1 out of 4 people will delete your app after the first use (source). This makes onboarding arguably the most important interaction you have with a user.

What should you do in an onboarding flow? Make sure you deliver value and don’t force them into something they don’t want to do.

What shouldn’t you do in an onboarding flow? Here are 5 product onboarding mistakes to avoid.



Onboarding to an alarm clock app with that wakes you up at the optimal time according to your sleep cycles

Mistake 1: Early Notifications

After downloading the app there was a notification screen right away 😩

Timing is everything.

Ask for notifications after users have their first Aha-moment.

That’s when they’ll trust you the most to have the keys to their attention.

Mistake 2: Vague Copy

Furthermore, the vagueness of “relevant notifications” actually makes a user worry (ironically) because what is a “relevant notification”?

Be very specific with the words you use on screen.

Instead of saying “don’t worry” why not list all the different notifications vs keeping the user guessing?

Mistake 3: Missing the Promised Land

After giving notifications a chance, the user comes to the main app screen and… doesn’t see the main benefit or value proposition.

Users come to your app with a specific intent. Always remind them why they should use your app during their first experience.

The value proposition here is: waking up refreshed every day

From this landing screen its hard to see how to get this benefit.

Mistake 4: Faking Scarce for Profits

While on the app main screen… a full screen pop up add appears 😬

This screen makes use of a dark pattern: tricks used in websites and apps that make you buy or sign up for things that you didn’t mean to.

The dark pattern utilized here is scarcity. We value things more when they’re in limited supply. Scarcity is typically used to encourage purchasing behaviors and it comes in different forms: Time, Quantity, or Access limitation.

Never use this pattern if you fake the scarce. Here, nothing justifies the sudden urgency.

Mistake 5: Nudging Users Too Hard

There’s nothing inherently wrong with an offer (gift box) or an advertisement (“EAT LOCAL”) … but if user psych is low (in this case after experiencing a dark pattern) they might be more suspicious about what you are offering.

Gift Box: Is this actually a gift or is it going to be another URGENT offer?

Advertisement: Are they punishing me with ads because I didn’t buy?

Nudging users (with ads or offers) can be a powerful way to change people’s behavior. But if they feel they lost control of their freedom, it can trigger an angry motivation to regain it

… which in this case could be deleting your app entirely (which, again, happens almost 25% of the time after first use).

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