Postmates Onboarding Design

Postmates is an on-demand delivery service that caters to users that want "the best of their city delivered within minutes". So why would Postmates, a product based on speed, want to slow users down on their first engagement with the app? I believe that by onboarding first time users to the simple interface is crucial to increasing the number of users that open the app and make a significant engagement. Below is a gif showing how a quick simple onboarding process could take a user from opening the app, to schedule their first delivery in 30 seconds.

  • The goal was to identify and design an onboarding process that would increase engagement.
  • The process involved guerilla testing the product "as-is" to determine pain points and develop personas based on those tests.
  • The results included an interaction based onboarding flow developed from testing, sketches, wireframes, and high fidelity mock-ups.
  • learned the importance of designing with a particular persona in mind and how to use elegant interaction design to compliment an intentional task flow. 

The Why?

There is currently no onboarding process for brand new users to Postmates. This is generally okay because the app is relatively self explanatory to me, a 27 year old product designer living in San Francisco. What about my Mom; mid-50's living in Ohio who wants her Starbucks delivered to her office during that afternoon lull? Does she inherently "get" a hamburger menu?

Chipotle recently announced that they would be delivering burritos via Postmates and all of America rejoiced- then half of them asked what the hell Postmates was. With the new direction of Postmates, and growth potentially well beyond techie San Francisco, onboarding first time users is an absolute must.


The current process of logging into Postmates for the first time.

The current process of logging into Postmates for the first time.

The What?

Onboarding can mean anything from logging on to engaging consistently for weeks- What exactly does it mean to onboard a user to Postmates? To increase the number of people that schedule a delivery we have to look at how they get there. So, in this case, onboarding a user to Postmates means giving them a mental model, the information they need to schedule a delivery, and where they can schedule it. 

User Interviews

I started by interview potential users. While I wasn't able to travel back to Ohio, I did phone-interview a two contacts from the Midwest. Additionally I interviewed 3 mildly-Luddite users in the Bay. I found that everyone I tested was able to complete the task of "order an item on Postmates". But, all of them struggled to do it in their first try. I got a lot of "I don't know what I am doing, but I will try this?" It was clear that these users could get through this, but they could use a little help.

Postmates' value proposition was clear, the path forward was much less so.

The How?

Research + Sketching

I looked at some of the most effective onboarding processes for inspiration. There a many ways to onboard really well (see: Fitbit), but I think the current champ is Slack. Slack's onboarding process is a perfect example of guiding the user on a path rather than forcing them. I started to explore the methods I could guide users within Postmates' UI.

Lots of potential onboarding methods

Lots of potential onboarding methods

 It was clear from the testing that users didn't need an overly complicated process. A combination of coachmarks, tooltips, and notifications would allow users to maintain control of where they were going, but solid and simple instructions when and where they got lost.


Again looking to Slack inspiration, I looked at how little of coach mark could get users oriented to the state of the system- "Had they already been there? Where else do they need to go?" By utilizing interaction animations the user is directed to locations where they can get directions. These coach marks are small enough to visually not distract the user, but animated enough to make them aware they are there.

By utilizing interactions intentionally, I could let the user know what was left in the process and also that they could skip through at any point.




The one thing I really learned in this process is the value of understanding the user flow, but also considering every possible state of the user flow. How often do people stay in the flow? When do people usually diverge from the flow? Where do they go? When designing an onboarding process its imperative to have a thoughtful process to lead the user from A to B, but equally important to all them to take whatever path they choose. 

Using interaction animation design its possible to direct users attention and show them the state of the system. Using complimentary animations for active and completed, users know where they have been and where they need to go. This gives them a sense of how much is left and therefore will increase their onboarding conversion.

I think the most important thing I learned from this project was that conversion rate is crucial to onboarding design, but without user delight it just becomes an instruction manual. Products like Slack have developed onboarding that seems fun, easy, and compelling-- which not only drives higher conversion, but also gives the user a sense of the experience they are going to get with the product.