5 Deadly       Onboarding Mistakes

Use your keyboard arrows
to see the story!

Tiny Product Tips by Growth.Design — 4 min

Pro tip: Use landscape mode!

It was 10:03 PM...

...An alarm clock that wakes you up at the optimal time according to your sleep cycles!

When I found something reaaaally promising on the App Store...

Avatar displaying current emotion

After downloading the app, I was pumped to give it a try...

Just imagine if I could wake up refreshed every day... 

Psych level: 80!

Sadly, the best part of the experience was...

...waiting for the app to load in my bed...

Psych Level: 80%

Avatar displaying current emotion

Earn Trust first

Timing is everything. Never ask for reciprocity if you haven't given anything.

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.

1Lynn Perkins, How You Get People to Trust Your Product (2018)

99% of the time, that's a no for me... but I really want to wake up happy!

I'll give it a chance... {TAP}

Sadly, that wasn't the last "surprise"...

Oof... Notification screen right away...

Be Specific in your Copy

Another way to earn people's trust is to be very specific with the words you use on screen. 

In this case, why not list all the different notifications instead of keeping the user guessing?

...And what does "relevant notifications" mean?

That makes me worry... Ironic!


At least, they explain why you need them, but...

Avatar displaying current emotion

...What is this at the bot... { }

the promised land

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

In this case, I wanted to wake up refreshed every day, and at this point, it's hard to see how I'll get to this benefit.

PS: Headspace is really good at showing the promised land! Want to be notified when we release a case study on it?

I couldn't finish that thought before getting crushed by...


...I was expecting a bit more details about that optimal wake-up time?

Avatar displaying current emotion

...Are they pushing sales within the first 10 seconds of the experience? 

The worst part is... It probably works, since they're using all the psychological tricks in the book —

Big discount... Limited time offer... The countdown... GET IT NOW!

Scarcity - Dark Patterns

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. 1

⚠️ Beware:  Never use this pattern if you fake the scarce!

Unfortunately, nothing here justifies the sudden urgency.

1 Nielsen Norman Group, Scarcity Principle (2014)

Nice try... but no thanks... {TAP}

...I'm sort of afraid now.

Plus, they use the image of an innocent sleeping child with a small cat to ease people into the scarcity trap...

...an unsolicited fullscreen pop-up.

Avatar displaying current emotion

Sorry but my Psych is all gone now. I don't want to wake up with ads...

Can you guess my next move?


Nudging can be a powerful way to change people's behavior. However, when they feel they lost control of their freedom, it can trigger an angry motivation to regain it. 1

1 Wikipedia, Reactance Psychology Theory (2007)

Uh-oh. Is that a "gift"? ...Or the same URGENT offer?

My psych is so low that I don't want to take a chance...

...And are they punishing me with ads because I didn't buy?

21% churn on the 1st use

Almost 1 out of 4 people1 will delete your app after the first use. Make sure you deliver value and don't force them into something they don't want to do!

1 Localytics, Mobile Apps: Retention Rate (2018)

Long press Delete!

Such a sweet promised land... wasted.

Avatar displaying current emotion

Hopefully, you won't repeat the same mistakes...

One last thing for you! ➡️

Psych Level

Customer Journey

5 costly Onboarding mistakes to avoid:

  1. ⏰ Early Notifications





✏️ Vague Copy

🏔 Missing the Promised Land

💀 Faking Scarce for Profits

🚧 Nudging Users Too Hard

Waking up refreshed and happy is an enticing promised land!

1st mistake:

Asking for notification permission before earning the user's trust.

2nd mistake:

Not being specific enough in the copy. That made me more suspicious!

4th mistake:

Selling the premium version in the first 10 seconds with false urgency.

3rd mistake:

Not emphasizing the reason why I came to the app during my first use.

5th mistake:

Still pushing for sales with a "gift" when you're back in the experience.


Let's summarize all onboarding mistakes you should avoid...


You completed Growth.Design's Case Study #007:
"Deadly Onboarding Mistakes"