5 Strategies for Effective App-Onboarding

You know when you first open an app, and you come across that welcome menu or tutorial on how to use the app? Well, that's app onboarding! Onboarding is the first point of contact between your product and the user, so it's important to be clear, concise, and explanatory. It's like you are starting a class, but you don't want your student to know you are in school.

In this first moment of contact, you need to demonstrate how your app will "solve this user's problem", it is the moment to align your client's expectations with your product and make him understand how your app will serve him, how it will be useful to him, or how it will entertain him. If at first there is not a good onboarding experience, there are some trends in how your "near-user" may act, for example:

  1. The user will try to use your app, perhaps not understand how it works, and get frustrated, uninstalling the app.

  2. Maybe the user succeeds in using your app, but was not impressed with your onboarding - i.e. the user experience was not pleasant or memorable, and your app will be forgotten in the app gallery until it is needed at some point or also uninstalled.

Uninstalling within the first few moments of contact with an app is recurring, 1 in every 2 apps are uninstalled within the first 30 days of download, and 45% of these uninstalls occur within the first 24 hours.

Users are spending more and more time on their smartphones, approximately 4.8h a day on average according to App Annie's recent State of Mobile 2022 report. In addition, in 2021 there will be more than 230 billion app downloads, meaning that the competition for new users' attention is wilder than ever. Therefore app marketers and app developers cannot afford not to create an excellent user onboarding process and win over newcomers already in the first moments of contact.

The User Journey and Usability

Think about your favorite application, do you remember what it was like the first time you used it? Was it easy or hard to understand how the features of this app worked? Do you use it easily today or not?

App developers and UX designers have probably had to test apps and answer similar questions when creating onboarding processes. At the heart of this process is the user journey.

Basically, the user journey comprises the entire path your user will follow when using your app in order to complete specific actions and achieve the desired goal when he/she decides to use your app. On this path, your user will be affected by your app's UX and UI, your onboarding process and user-friendly interface, and usability in general.

Usability, on the other hand, is understood as to how easy it is for the average person (user) to use your product effectively, efficiently, and satisfactorily. The more your product focuses on user experience, the better the usability tends to be.

Best Practices in Mobile Onboarding

As Steve Krug would say in his book Don't Make Me Think, the first rule of usability for your product should always be "Don't make me think!" Your users hardly want to be taken on a long, tiring and extremely detailed journey the first time they use your app, no one has that much time to spend, or that much focus to stay long in an onboarding process.

So whether your onboarding model is more explanatory, or more focused on collecting user data, or even focused on demonstrating the benefits of your app from the beginning, we've listed here some industry best practices that can enhance the user experience in your onboarding.

  1. Get to the point: don't waste your user's time. Good onboarding is quick and easy to follow, with clear instructions, usually taking less than a minute to complete. Tip: Does your app have a lot of features and can be complex to use the first time around? Instead of creating a very long and intricate onboarding, opt for a short video or optional tutorial within your app.

  2. Offer skip option: It is very common to come across the button to skip onboarding, the famous "skip", or some version of it like "complete later", for example, when we talk about making a registration or login. This option is very important because it gives your user the power to choose at what point they want to do onboarding, or if they don't want to do it at all. Tip: Of course, depending on your app, you may not always be able to skip essential steps, for example fintech apps or banks that need to collect legal data from the user for credit analysis purposes in order to open an account. In these cases you can give the option to skip steps that can be completed later, such as customization of the profile, instructions for using the app, and app benefits.

  3. Transparency about data use: If your app requires user permissions to access personal data or functionality on their smartphone, be transparent about your reasons for asking for these permissions. It's not enough to just have an "Accept Terms of Use" button, because almost no one reads those terms. Explain simply to the user why you are asking for this sensitive information and how it will be used, and if it is not mandatory, also make visible the option to skip this step. We are entering a "privacy-first" world, so this transparency can increase user confidence in your product.

  4. Show them where you're coming from: Onboarding is your moment to officially introduce yourself to your user, align expectations of the capabilities they will have using your product, and what they should expect from your app. So be sure to demonstrate the value of your app by highlighting your app's most important and creative features, and always leaving room for the user to discover more when exploring your app. Tip: You have many special features in your app, but no way to show them all at once during onboarding? Go for an omnichannel and progressive approach, talk about your other features in the future through push notifications, or through cards on your loading screens. If your user shares your email or subscribes to your newsletter, share cases and tutorials of your features through this channel as well. Draw attention to your features through your social networks and through the app store.

  5. Show the user's progress: It is much easier to convince your user to complete onboarding if they have a visual sense of the timeline. If you're going to show the user 5 screens, make that clear with a progress bar or little dots that list the number of screens the user will go through. Humanize your communication with the user whenever possible by thanking or celebrating when the user completes some step or shares some desired data. Tip: Showing user progress doesn't have to be only during the onboarding process. Creating trophies, marking user progress in a visual way (calendar or timeline), creating a small internal social network within your app where your user can interact with other users/friends and share their progress are effective methods of keeping your user's interest, increasing engagement, and building customer loyalty.

A good example of onboarding is Duolingo, a language learning app that has free and premium options.

Duolingo's onboarding is very interactive, from the very beginning Duolingo starts collecting data from the user to better understand what kind of student he will be.

After the student chooses the course he wants to take, his level, and the amount of time he wants to invest in it, Duolingo already takes the user to a first language class or placement test. In this way, the user already understands how the Duolingo classes work in an active way by participating in his or her first experience.

After completing the class, the user is given an animated summary of their progress and points they have received, as well as being informed about other features of the application. Then the user is taken to a screen to sign up for the app manually or by linking their existing Google or Facebook accounts and also has the option to skip the registration and just continue using the app with limited access to its features.

In conclusion, onboarding is extremely important to win over your users, so bet on UX professionals and developers who are thinking in the "user first" methodology. In a mobile world that is becoming more personalized for users, with so many apps appearing daily and more competitive than ever, it is essential to understand what your users need and surprise them with your solutions.

Still don't have a user acquisition and retargeting solution for your app? Don't worry, Rocket Lab can help you with your UA and retargeting strategies in 2022, contact us!