Three learnings from Duolingo's onboarding

October 2020

Among all the applications that we benchmarked, Duolingo has one of the best onboardings. We analyzed for you three main ways to improve an onboarding. It's all about customization, retention and monetization.

Duolingo is a mobile application created in 2011 in the United States to learn 35 foreign languages through short daily sessions to learn speaking, reading and writing. Duolingo raised €135m in funding with prominent investors like USV, New Enterprise Associates, Kleiner Perkins, CapitalG and General Atlantic. The app has been downloaded more than 300m times.

Learning #1 - Start by customizing the core pages depending on user's goals

When you open Duolingo for the first time, you will start by customizing your experience depending on the language you want to learn, the reason why you want to learn it, the level you have and the daily commitment you are ready to put into the app.

You don't start by filling a sign up flow which is pushed at a later stage in the onboarding process even after having played with the core app through a small test to adapt the experience to your real level.

Learning #2 - Introduce key elements early on driving user retention beyond the first day

Once you have completed the initial test, Duolinguo will give your rewards nudging the user to come back to the app on the next days:

  • an XP bar with a daily goal to achieve by completing other exercises,
  • a weekly streak that is starting to push you to come back using the app on the next days.

Learning #3 - Be pedagogical to monetize your application

Duolinguo is using two revenue channels to monetize its applications: advertising and subscription. Both channels are not promoted aggressively but only once the user has played with the core pages of the application.

On the advertising side, Duolinguo promotes small format ads that don't take the full screen and displays a short message explaining that advertising is key to "fund Duolingo's mission."

On the subscription side, Duolingo does not display the pricing immediately but shows a carrousel detailing the key paying features (more engagement to finish courses, no advertising, offline mode, more quiz, no limitation to learn, etc.). Beyond this education, Duolingo also offer a generous 14-day free trial and pushes its users to subscribe to the annual plan which is half as expensive as the monthly paying plan.

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