Top 10 Gamification Techniques to Transform Your Mobile Onboarding

Top 10 Gamification Techniques to Transform Your Mobile Onboarding

Top 10 Gamification Techniques to Transform Your Mobile Onboarding
Polskii Mark
Author @ InAppStory

The first impression is everything, and that's especially true for mobile apps. In today's competitive app market, keeping users engaged from the moment they download your app is crucial. Here's the challenge: a staggering number of users abandon apps within the first few days. This phenomenon, known as user churn, can cripple your app's growth.


But there's a solution! Gamification, the art of incorporating game-like elements into non-game contexts, can revolutionize your mobile user onboarding process. By making onboarding fun, engaging, and rewarding, gamification can significantly improve user retention and ensure your app thrives in the long run. This article explores the top 10 gamification techniques you can use to transform your mobile user onboarding experience.


What is Gamification and Why Does it Work for Onboarding?




Gamification isn't about turning your app into a full-fledged game. Instead, it's about strategically incorporating elements commonly found in games to make your onboarding process more engaging and motivating. This can include things like points, badges, progress bars, and even leaderboards.


So, why does gamification work so well for mobile user onboarding? It all boils down to psychology. Humans are wired to seek rewards, crave a sense of achievement, and enjoy friendly competition. Gamification taps into these innate desires, transforming what could be a dry and tedious onboarding process into a fun and interactive experience.

Here's a closer look at how gamification benefits user onboarding:

  • Increased Motivation: Gamification elements like points and badges create a sense of accomplishment, encouraging users to push through the onboarding steps.
  • Improved Knowledge Retention: Interactive tutorials and gamified challenges make learning more engaging, leading to better information retention.
  • Boosted Engagement: Gamification injects a dose of fun into the onboarding process, keeping users actively involved and interested.
  • Enhanced User Experience: By making onboarding enjoyable, gamification creates a positive first impression and sets the stage for long-term user satisfaction.


Top 10 Gamification Techniques for Mobile Onboarding


1. Progress Bars and Levels: Visualize User Progress


Imagine yourself climbing a mountain. As you ascend, markers along the trail show your progress and motivate you to keep going. Progress bars and levels function similarly in mobile onboarding. They provide users with a clear visual representation of how far they've come in the onboarding journey and how much closer they are to unlocking the app's full potential. This visual feedback keeps users engaged and incentivizes them to complete all the onboarding steps.


Here are some ways to implement progress bars and levels effectively:

  • Segment the onboarding process into stages with clear milestones.
  • Design visually appealing progress bars that update dynamically.
  • Unlock new features or functionalities as users progress through levels.


2. Points and Badges: Reward Users for Completing Onboarding Tasks


Who doesn't love a little recognition for their achievements? Points and badges are powerful motivators in the world of games, and they can be just as effective in mobile onboarding. By awarding points and badges for completing onboarding tasks, you acknowledge user effort and make them feel valued. This system creates a positive reinforcement loop, encouraging users to continue exploring the app and discovering its functionalities.


Here's how to leverage points and badges strategically:

  • Award points for completing key onboarding steps, like setting up a profile or connecting social media accounts.
  • Design unique and visually appealing badges that users can display on their profiles (optional).
  • Offer exclusive rewards or discounts for users who collect a certain number of points.


3. Interactive Tutorials: Turn Tutorials into Engaging Challenges


Traditional text-heavy tutorials can feel like a chore. Gamification can transform these tutorials into interactive challenges that are both informative and engaging. Here are some ideas:

  • Replace passive instructions with interactive exercises. Instead of telling users how to do something, let them experiment through guided tasks.
  • Incorporate quizzes and polls to test user understanding. This reinforces learning and keeps the process dynamic.
  • Introduce gamified scenarios that demonstrate app functionalities. Let users practice using the app in a simulated environment.


4. Challenges and Quests: Provide Mini-Goals to Keep Users Motivated


Who doesn't love a good challenge? Gamification allows you to incorporate mini-goals and quests within the onboarding process. These challenges provide users with a sense of purpose and accomplishment, keeping them motivated to explore the app's features.


Here are some ways to implement challenges and quests effectively:

  • Create time-bound or achievement-based challenges for users to complete during onboarding.
  • Offer rewards like bonus points, badges, or early access to features for completing challenges.
  • Design quests that progressively introduce users to different aspects of the app.


5. Avatars and Personalization: Allow Users to personalize their app experience


People connect with things they can personalize. Gamification allows you to introduce avatars or user profiles that users can customize. This could involve choosing avatars, customizing backgrounds, or unlocking new features for their profiles.


Here's how personalization can enhance mobile onboarding:

  • Offer a selection of avatars or profile pictures for users to choose from.
  • Allow users to personalize their app interface with themes or color schemes.
  • Reward users with customization options for completing onboarding tasks.


6. Leaderboards and Social Comparison: Foster Healthy Competition Among Users 


A little friendly competition can go a long way in boosting engagement. Leaderboards allow users to compare their progress with others, fostering a sense of healthy competition. This technique can be particularly effective for apps that involve social interaction or fitness tracking. However, it's important to use leaderboards strategically. Here are some things to consider:

  • Ensure leaderboards are relevant to your app's core functionalities.
  • Provide clear information about how rankings are determined.
  • Offer multiple leaderboards to cater to different user segments (optional).
  • Focus on positive reinforcement and celebrate achievements.


While leaderboards can be a powerful tool, they should be implemented thoughtfully to avoid discouraging new users.


7. Storytelling and Gamified Narratives: Frame Onboarding as a Story or Adventure


People are naturally drawn to stories. Gamification allows you to frame the onboarding process as a narrative or an adventure. By weaving a storyline into the onboarding flow, you can capture users' attention and make them invested in the journey. Here are some ways to implement storytelling in onboarding:

  • Create a narrative around the app's functionalities, introducing features through characters or scenarios.
  • Set onboarding tasks within the context of the story, making them feel like challenges or quests.
  • Provide feedback and rewards within the narrative framework, keeping users engaged in the story.


8. Bonus Points and Streaks: Encourage Continued Engagement After Onboarding


The goal of gamification isn't just to get users through onboarding; it's to keep them engaged in the long run. Bonus points and streaks are excellent tools for achieving this.

  • Offer bonus points for actions users take beyond the initial onboarding process. This could include logging in daily, completing specific tasks, or referring friends.
  • Implement a streak system that rewards users for consistently using the app. Streaks create a sense of momentum and motivate users to maintain engagement.
  • Allow users to "bank" bonus points and redeem them for exclusive rewards or discounts.


9. Easter Eggs and Hidden Features: Add a Touch of Discovery and Surprise

Easter eggs and hidden features are like little treasures waiting to be discovered within your app. They add a playful element to the user experience and create a sense of discovery.

  • Embed hidden features or functionalities within the app that users can uncover through exploration.
  • Offer bonus points or rewards for finding these hidden features.
  • Create a sense of community around discovering easter eggs by encouraging users to share their finds on social media (optional).


Easter eggs and hidden features inject a dose of fun and surprise into the user experience, fostering a sense of connection with the app.


10. Feedback Loops and Progress Reports: Provide Users with a Sense of Accomplishment


Gamification thrives on positive reinforcement. Feedback loops and progress reports are crucial for acknowledging user progress and keeping them motivated.

  • Provide clear and concise feedback throughout the onboarding process. Let users know how far they've come and what they've achieved.
  • Offer personalized progress reports that highlight user accomplishments and areas for improvement.
  • Celebrate milestones and completed tasks with congratulatory messages or visual cues.


Examples of Successful Mobile App Onboarding with Gamification




Here are a few examples of mobile apps that have effectively used gamification techniques in their onboarding process:

  1. Duolingo: This language learning app uses points, badges, and leaderboards to keep users motivated and engaged. Completing daily lessons earns points and unlocks new levels, fostering a sense of accomplishment.
  2. Elevate: This meditation app uses a gamified onboarding process that feels like a guided journey. Users unlock new meditation practices and calming environments as they progress, making the learning process engaging and rewarding.
  3. Sweatcoin: This fitness app rewards users with "sweatcoins" for walking and running. These sweatcoins can be redeemed for discounts on various products and services, adding a fun and motivational twist to staying active.




In today's competitive mobile app market, a well-designed onboarding process is essential for user acquisition and retention. Gamification offers a powerful set of tools to transform your onboarding experience from a chore into a fun and engaging adventure. By incorporating elements like progress bars, points, badges, and challenges, you can motivate users, improve knowledge retention, and foster a positive first impression. Remember, the key is to tailor your gamification strategy to your specific app and audience.


Don't be afraid to experiment and have fun! By implementing these gamification techniques, you can create a mobile user onboarding experience that sets the stage for long-term user engagement and app success.