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How To Amaze Your Users On The First Date

Going on the first date with someone is a lot like downloading a new app.

Someone is giving you their time to test whether you deserve to be a continued part of their life. The first date can be the preface to a lasting relationship.

This is the exact same process as creating a successful app.

First impressions are everything.

Whether it’s a web app, mobile app, or a dashing woman at the bar – when you introduce yourself, you need to be delicate with your approach.

In the first date, your goal is to make sure you linger in his/her mind when you two go your separate ways.

Creating an app with 5 star reviews on the app store is no different.

Remember, you are the one who sets the tone of every user’s journey – make sure it’s unforgettable.

Much like a pickup artist’s playbook, there are plenty of ways to onboard your users to make a lasting first impression.

These are the most common user onboarding methods I’ve seen:


1. Intro Slide Guide

In the dating world, this will give you the same amount of success as buying someone a drink. Sometimes it works, most times it doesn’t.

However if it is well executed, you can leave a lasting impression.

How this method works is companies will take screenshots of their app and show them to new users with a description talking about the app in further detail.

I’m not a huge fan of this style. It’s overdone, and people likely do it because they fail to think of a creative way to guide users through the app.

The biggest problem I have with this style is people fail to remember most of the information presented on the slides. The point of your introduction slides is to help your users navigate through your app as if they’re return visitors.

Aside from one or two slides, most information is lost because the you’re not using the talked about feature at that moment. Therefore, we will read it and say “ah cool!” then forget about it.

This style can carry a benefit. It’s a large one too. If done well, introduction slides can inform your user of the unique value proposition of your app. Imagine getting every one of your users to your app’s “A-HA! Moment” before they even create an account.

Mailbox app - 5 star app reviews

Mailbox does an incredible job with their introduction screens. Instead of swiping through to the next tutorial, they force you to interact with the screenshot as if it’s your own e-mail.

I’ve seen this wow people before they connect their own e-mail accounts. That’s what you want. Interactive and educational introduction screens like this turn friction into dust. Get people excited at this stage and they’ll be begging to you to let them be users.

With intro slides, you can explain to your users why you’re so special with deeper depth than any of the other methods I list below.

2. UI Overlays

If introduction slides is the simple thoughtless introduction, this next one is the dating equivalent of peacocking.

Like a male peacock uses his feathers to attract a mate, peacocking involves using a man’s clothing and adapting his behavior in an over the top and flashy manner, for the purpose of attracting women — but not necessarily a mate.

I’m a big fan of this onboarding method, but only if it’s very clear what your app does. If you have a complicated app with multiple use cases, I would steer clear of only relying on this.

What’s great about these is they are not distracting at all, and only come up when it’s relevant. In Slack’s case they’re little circles you can choose to ignore until you choose to make an action with said element.

Slack UI Overly - High App Store Reviews

A flaw with the previous method was giving information before people have expressed any interest in the feature. This method solves that. If a person is about to make a search with Slack, they will be notified of additional information the user will be extra attentive to because it’s directly relevant to helping them achieve their goal.

Once they use it, it’ll be much harder to forget because they’ve practiced in the application – therefore the value of that feature is immediately presented.

Slack UI Overlay (clicked) - 5 Star App Reviews

There’s a caveat with using this method though. I would not recommend using this unless your app can be summed up in less than a few words (ex: Slack – Chat service). Your goal at this point is not stressed on the value of your app, but rather the features which set you apart from your competitors.

3. Open Instructions

I would compare this onboarding method to impressing someone on the dance floor or with an instrument.

It can work really well, but only if you have the ability.

These are incredibly cool. If the goal of your onboarding process is to teach how to be a basic user of your app, this is the way to go.

When a user opens your app for the first time, they are shown the home page, however there are instructions that require them to interact with the app. This method is like a love child between methods #1 and 2. Think of it as learning on the job.

FB Paper Onboarding - How To Get High App Reviews

Facebook did a great job here. Given that Paper an entirely gesture driven design, they knew it was very important to teach their users how to navigate.

This method teaches users how to use your app better than any other way.

The flaws this method have are the same as UI Overlays. In that, you won’t be able to go too deep in communicating the unique value of your app.

4. Nothing

Seriously. Nothing. This is a method.

This is like going to a bar/club sitting back and expecting attractive members of the opposite sex to come to you.

In your app, the probability of users immediately understanding its value has about the same probability as the situation previously stated.

However it happens, and if you do this, you better be damn sure of one of two things (though preferably both):

  1. People know without a doubt what you do before they download your app.
  2. Your app is dead simple.

If you can take #1 then you already show signs of being a unicorn.

When people can come to your app and already know who you are and the value you will bring to them then you’re in a good position. You could require them to give you their bank account and social security information and they won’t be deterred from signing up.

If you can take #2 then you better be sure it’s as simple as you think.

Signs of a dead simple app tend to entail a dominant element on the front page of your screen and a single clear action you can take.

Examples of this are Instagram and Snapchat.

When you log into Instagram, you’re presented a feed of photos which take up the vast majority of the screen real estate. There’s one of two things they want you to do, swipe up or take a photo yourself.

With Snapchat there’s a camera. Given you have already imported your contacts, there are two actions they want you to do – take a photo or look at your friend’s stories. Both of which drive value to your user’s experience.

The clear problem with using this method is if the previously mentioned conditions aren’t met. If they aren’t, you’re throwing your users into a blackhole.

If you expect your users to figure your app out on their own then you shouldn’t expect a second date with them.


Treat every new user like the first date with the mate of your dreams. Let them know who you are and why you deserve a piece of their thoughts. On the first date, the first impression is everything.

I’ve encountered four main ways to make that initial first impression go smoothly, however each one have their pros and cons.

  1. Introduction Screenshots
  2. UI Overlays
  3. Open Instructions
  4. Nothing

Each method has their own pros and cons. Be sure you fully evaluate your app before sticking with a single one. If you need help figuring that out, feel free to send a tweet to me @willietran_ and I’ll be more than happy to take a look at your app with you.

Thanks a ton to Samuel Hulick at for the awesome cover photo. That site has always been an awesome source of information on how to think for my user in mind.