A Guide on Engaging App Onboarding for Gen Z Users

App Onboarding

App onboarding is the critical first step in introducing new users to an application showcasing its features, functionality, and overall value. A well-executed onboarding process can significantly influence user satisfaction, retention, and long-term engagement. 

Onboarding Gen Z users, born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s, presents unique challenges due to their distinct digital behaviors and expectations. According to a study by Business Insider, Gen Z spends an average of 10 hours per day online, making their first interaction with an app crucial. 

This guide explores strategies for creating an engaging onboarding experience tailored specifically to Gen Z.

What is App Onboarding?

App onboarding is a process of guiding new users through an application and introducing them to its key features, functionality, and overall value. This initial experience is necessary for setting the tone of the user’s journey with the app and can significantly impact user retention and engagement. 

Effective onboarding aims to reduce friction, increase user satisfaction, and encourage users to continue using the app by demonstrating its value early on. 

The key elements of app onboarding typically include:

  • Welcome Screen: A friendly introduction to the app.
  • Tutorials: Step-by-step guides to help users understand how to use the app.
  • Registration and Account Setup: These are easy steps for users to create an account and personalize their experience.
  • Feature Highlights: Showcasing the app’s most important features.
  • Permission Requests: Asking for necessary permissions in a user-friendly way.
  • Initial Tasks: Encouraging users to perform actions demonstrating the app’s value.
  • Feedback and Support Channels: Providing ways for users to get help and give feedback.

Few Facts About Gen Z Users

Here are some facts about Gen Z users, using which app development service provider can adapt their onboarding strategies.

Demographics and Psychographics

Generation Z comprises individuals aged roughly 10 to 28 as of 2024. They have grown up in a digital-first world, making them highly technologically adept. A report by McKinsey & Company describes Gen Z as the “True Gen,” characterized by their focus on individual expression and preference for dialogue over monologue. They value authenticity, diversity, and immediate access to information.

App Usage Habits and Preferences

Gen Z’s app usage habits are defined by short attention spans and a preference for visual content. Research from Adobe reveals that 52% of Gen Z users say they have the shortest attention span compared to other generations. They like intuitive, visually appealing apps that offer smooth navigation. Additionally, social influence heavily impacts their app choices, with 85% of Gen Z discovering new products through social media, according to GlobalWebIndex.

Expectations from Apps

Gen Z expects apps to be authentic, personalized, and socially connected. They seek experiences that resonate with their values and offer a sense of community. Personalization, interactive elements, and social integration are critical components that Gen Z looks for in their app experiences. According to IBM, 74% of Gen Z feel that brands should provide personalized experiences.

Strategies for Engaging Gen Z App Onboarding

Keep it Short and Sweet

Conciseness is key when onboarding Gen Z users. Overloading them with information can lead to frustration and abandonment. Instead, break down the onboarding process into bite-sized steps that quickly demonstrate the app’s core value. For example, Snapchat’s brief onboarding process focuses on essential features like camera access and friend connections, allowing users to start exploring immediately.

Add Visuals and Interactivity

Gen Z is drawn to visually rich and interactive content. Incorporate animations, micro-interactions, and short videos to create a dynamic onboarding experience. These elements capture attention and make the information more digestible and engaging. TikTok, for instance, uses engaging tutorials and short video clips to guide new users, making the onboarding process feel like an extension of the app experience.

Personalize the Experience

Personalization is a powerful tool for engaging Gen Z users. Use data-driven insights to customize the onboarding process based on user preferences and behaviors. Allow users to customize their experience from the start, making them feel valued and understood. Spotify excels in this area by asking users about their music preferences and changing playlists according to their tastes right from the beginning. 

Leverage Social Proof

Social proof is highly effective in building trust with Gen Z. Showcase user testimonials, integrate social media features, and incorporate gamification elements to highlight peer achievements. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family and all other forms of advertising. Apps like Instagram and TikTok integrate social proof seamlessly by showcasing popular trends and user-generated content.

Focus on the Value Proposition

Communicate the app’s benefits and how it addresses users’ needs and problems. Gen Z users want to know how the app will improve their lives or solve specific issues. Highlighting the value proposition upfront can significantly increase their willingness to invest time in exploring the app. Duolingo, for instance, emphasizes its unique approach to language learning, making it clear how users can benefit from the app.

Prioritize Micro-Wins

Offering small wins or achievements early in onboarding can boost motivation and satisfaction. These micro-wins can be as simple as completing a profile setup or achieving the first milestone within the app. They provide a sense of accomplishment and encourage continued engagement. For example, fitness apps like Nike Training Club reward users for completing initial workouts, fostering a sense of achievement early on.

Offer In-App Guidance

Interactive tutorials and tooltips can help Gen Z users navigate the app effortlessly. In-app guidance ensures that users understand how to use the app’s features effectively without feeling overwhelmed. This approach can reduce friction and enhance the overall user experience. Apps like Canva offer interactive guides that walk users through the design process, making it easier for them to get started.

Examples of Successful Gen Z Onboarding

Example 1: TikTok

TikTok excels in onboarding Gen Z users by keeping the process short, interactive, and visually appealing. The app quickly showcases its core features through engaging tutorials, allowing users to start creating and exploring content immediately. Integrating social proof through popular trends and user-generated content further enhances the experience.

Example 2: Snapchat

Snapchat’s onboarding is designed to be quick and intuitive, leveraging visuals and interactivity. The app uses animations and simple prompts to guide users through its features. The personalization options and integration with social media accounts make the experience seamless and engaging for Gen Z users.

Example 3: Spotify

Spotify personalizes the onboarding experience by asking users about their music preferences and suggesting playlists tailored to their tastes. Micro-wins, such as creating the first playlist, keep users motivated. The integration of social proof through sharing music and playlists with friends enhances social connection.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Information Overload: Bombarding users with too much information at once can lead to frustration.
  • Lack of Personalization: Failing to tailor the experience can make users feel undervalued.
  • Ignoring Social Proof: Not leveraging social influence can reduce credibility and engagement.

A/B Testing Strategies

  • Test Onboarding Steps: Experiment with different onboarding flows to identify the most effective sequence.
  • Evaluate Visual Elements: A/B test animations, videos, and interactive elements to see what resonates best with users.
  • Personalization Tactics: Try various personalization methods to determine what drives higher engagement and satisfaction.

By continuously optimizing the onboarding process through A/B testing, apps can ensure they meet the evolving expectations of Gen Z users, creating a more engaging and successful user experience.


Creating an engaging onboarding experience for Gen Z requires deeply understanding their preferences and behaviors. By keeping the process concise, visually appealing, and personalized, apps can capture the attention of Gen Z users and foster long-term engagement. Effective onboarding not only enhances user satisfaction but also significantly improves retention rates.

App developers can create a compelling app onboarding experience that resonates with this tech-savvy generation. The positive impact of a well-crafted onboarding process extends beyond initial engagement, fostering long-term loyalty and satisfaction among Gen Z users.

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