Redesigning the First-time User Experience at PopSlide

To comply with my non-disclosure agreement, I have omitted confidential information in this case study. The content here is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of PopSlide.

PopSlide is an Android app that rewards users with free airtime by incentivizing app installs, shopping, and answering of surveys. It has over 2 million users across four countries in Asia.

As the head of product design, I am responsible for the experience strategy and design of the Android app. I lead the UX work, producing design deliverables and carrying out usability tests to discover user pain-points.

I have worked alongside the Product Owner, engineers, and a small team of designers based in the Philippines since the outset of the project in June 2014.

As of 2016, the PopSlide team is focused on the Indonesian market and discontinued support for Philippines, Vietnam, and India.

The Challenge

Drive retention by improving the First-Time User Experience (FTUE)

Early in 2016, CPI (Cost Per Install) campaigns, which was PopSlide's bread and butter, started to decline. Meanwhile, e-commerce in Southeast Asia (especially in Indonesia) was getting traction and we saw the rapid rise of cashback services like Shopback and VIP Diskon. We needed to adapt to the changing market.

Our strategy was to incrementally roll out a new shopping and cashback feature before the end of 2016. We thought that introducing a big feature in phases would give our users time to acclimate.

Boy, were we wrong!

The UI evolved into shopping UI

Once we fully integrated the shopping feature, our retention rate for new users dropped. More people were uninstalling the app within 24 hours.

Unsure of what was going on, I coordinated with the Indonesian team to conduct interviews and surveys. In addition, we collected a huge amount of user sentiments from Google Play reviews and from our customer support.

The Discovery

I summarized our raw findings and clustered learnings and similarities to themes. These were the key insights that helped us identify the root of the problem and build opportunity areas:

  • New users think it's a shopping app and they need to purchase something to earn points
  • New users do not know how to navigate to the other features
  • New users earn very little points, which frustrated them

The Design Process

I gathered the team for a design thinking session with the goal to align everyone around a common purpose. We began with “How Might We…” statements that served as the starting point for brainstorming and to define the problem space. By the end of the session, the team had established three “How Might We…” statements and generated over a hundred great ideas.

  • How might we design a better onboarding experience
  • How might we make the app easy to navigate
  • How might we delight users on their first use
Brainstorming session (diverging) during Design Thinking workshop in YOYO

With a ton of ideas available to us, I let the team vote for the best ones. I used the sticker technique where each member gets a set of stickers and individually marks the ideas they would like to work on.

After we had narrowed down our options, the team democratically selected the top idea. We ultimately decided to overhaul the app's onboarding and navigation.

Analysis of the Current FTUE

To help make better sense of the situation, I mapped the onboarding process and checked our data to identify where we could help minimize user frustration, as well as highlight opportunities for improvements.

Users need to go through twenty screens (20!) before they can explore the app by themselves

The onboarding process at that time was loaded with information that users didn't need. In addition, the app tutorial had too much text that was trying to explain everything upfront. A user would have to go through 20 screens before he can freely explore the app.

I set the following principles to help me construct a more controlled and well-designed first-time user experience:

  • Just-in-time approach - provide helpful information at the point of action
  • Interact, not tell - reinforce learning by doing
  • Guide users to first win - make users feel successful, accomplished
The new onboarding flow

Sketching Interfaces

I opted to sketch my designs on paper first before diving into detailed mockups. This helped me work rapidly and also led to more ideas. Sketching many concepts helped me explore different patterns and ultimately form a more cohesive design.

Rapid paper prototype

After going through a cycle of consensus and approvals with the Product Owner, I pieced my concepts together with Sketch and created a prototype with Marvel.

Detailed Design

It’s best to think about the first-time experience in terms of helping users improve their lives. The goal is NOT to get users to tap around and familiarize themselves with the interface, but to help them complete a task in the shortest amount of time possible.

Value Proposition

We opted to show a welcome screen that reinforces our value proposition. This is the first screen the users see so it's vital to set their expectations upfront.

The walkthroughs and tutorials were removed since our user testing showed that users skip or otherwise ignore the tutorials. When asked why, they said they simply wanted to get in the app and start exploring.

Springboard Navigation

The previous navigation was scrollable with the default tab set to the shopping feature. This gave the impression that the app was primarily for shopping. By changing to a springboard navigation, we provide users quick access to every category and also leave an impression that there are many ways to earn reward points.

Notification Badge

The daily roulette is the most popular feature in PopSlide and it's the easiest way to earn rewards points. To make users feel successful and accomplished, we used a notification badge (red dot) to guide users to play the daily roulette. The game algorithm is set so that new users either win the jackpot or the 2nd prize on their first gameplay.

Just-in-time information

We don’t want to overload users with all the information they will ever need. So we now give it to them in bite-sized chunks, just where and when they need it. We only show helpful tips during the user’s first experience.

The Impact

The results have exceeded our expectations. Since we released the new onboarding design, PopSlide's retention rate has increased by 52%. We've validated that a well-constructed FTUE can drive the retention of the app.


Design thinking can develop a common ground in teams

By bringing the team together, we were able to align expectations and establish a common goal. This shared understanding allowed us to focus on the target instead of wasting time in disagreement.

FTUE can make or break your app

As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a lasting first impression. It's crucial to get the first-time user experience right because it will shape users' continued engagement and loyalty.