App Onboarding


Redesigning the first-time user experience to drive app adoption and repeat behaviors.

Markkit is an early stage eCommerce startup, focused on delivering a mobile, gamified shopping experience. The Markkit girl is in her teens and early twenties. She’s trendy, always on her iPhone, and on the lookout for the latest fashion deals and steals.

Client: Markkit
Date: March 11, 2015
Role Head of Design + UI/UX
Services Mobile App, UI/UX Design


Markkit was in the middle of a pivotal period in its lifespan — we were transitioning from an eCommerce focus to social gamified shopping — cool, right? Yes and no. It was an exciting idea, to take the app to a whole new level, but we had a problem capturing users.

The existing onboarding experience took users through a sign up flow that was disjointed and cumbersome. The data told us that, of the total number of people who installed the Markkit app, only 22% chose to actually sign up. Our goal was to cut down on initial friction after install and push users to complete onboarding. 

No users = no cool, new app direction. We needed to clean up the user experience to introduce our new ideas.


I went through a thorough wireframing exercise to map out the steps necessary to onboard a user. Looking at the first time user experience (FTUE) as a wireframe gave me a high level view of the flow. I was able to make cuts and see friction points immediately, without distraction. The end result was a solid plan for a cleaner sign up.


Stripping it down

The existing onboarding experience was cluttered and generic, so I focused on making the screens feel more personal and engaging. Because the goal was to reduce friction and increase conversion, I limited the screens to ones that felt actionable to the user, converted the initial landing screen into tutorial screens to help sell the value of the app, and implemented shortcuts like Facebook and Instagram connect. If selected, these options would allow the user to bypass each of the following screens and enter the app immediately.

Gamifying the onboarding experience

With new goals in mind and a streamlined sign up flow, we needed to come up with a way to onboard users, educate them about the app, and keep them coming back for more. I helped the team define steps that would most naturally navigate a user throughout the app, and incentives that would keep our girl motivated to do so.

One blocker we noted within the app was that about 20% of users failed to upload a profile photo. We realized that we didn’t make it obvious where their profile could be accessed OR why they should want to create one. We made this (Add A Selfie!) step 1 and saw an immediate rise in the number of users with photos. Why is a selfie so important to a social gaming app? The more you know about the user on the other end of the game, the more invested you’ll be in playing it. Selfies, we found, were very important to Markkit!

The other steps in what we called The Game Board included Connect Yo’ Insta (to make it easier to share and promote the app on social while playing games), and Get a Friend to Score 100% on You (to get current active users to invite friends to play with them). Each of these steps progressed the user further into Markkit and helped make the act of inviting friends and completing your profile feel more purposeful, not to mention rewarding! We offered a fun prize at the end of each set of steps to help motivate users to continue playing.

A bold, new way to onboard users

The design of the Game Board needed to feel like a game board, like this was a path that led you from one point to the next, so that’s how it was designed. I created custom icons for each step and level, which made the feature feel like a complete system in and of itself. That same iconography was implemented on printed cards and stickers, used to promote the app in the Markkit packaging.


Numbers don’t lie

In the first week, shares went from an average of 97 to 328 (more than 3 times!), which we continued to maintain post-launch.

What happened next?

We continued to add steps and levels to guide users through new features as they were added, and our metrics continued to prove out. The Game Board was a game-changer.

Created using Photoshop, Illustrator, Google Analytics, Mixpanel, and Markkit users