Mobile application designers use onboarding task flows to help first time users learn and engage with key application functionality. Although some guidelines for designing onboarding flows have been offered by practitioners, a systematic, research-informed approach is needed. In this paper, we present the creation of a method for designing mobile application onboarding experiences. We used the minimalist instruction framework to engage twelve university students in an iterative set of design and evaluation activities. Participants interacted with a physical prototype of an educational badging mobile application through a semi-structured exploration and reflection activity, bookended by structured mini-interviews. We found that this method facilitated engagement with participants’ meaning-making processes, resulting in useful design insights and the creation of an onboarding task flow. Research opportunities for integrating instructional design and learning approaches in HCI in the context of onboarding are considered.