Mobile App Onboarding: Top 10 Tips and Examples

Mobile App Onboarding: Top 10 Tips and Examples

With over 6 million free and paid mobile apps on the Android Play Store and the Apple App Store, developers fight an uphill battle when establishing their apps and marketing their products.

The app experience needs to be nearly flawless for users to give apps a chance, and if the app fails to make a good first impression, users quickly delete it and move on to the numerous other options available to them.

In this environment, the mobile app onboarding process is critical. It helps developers demonstrate the value of their app to potential users, guiding them through key features and services that distinguish them from their competitors.

If you are a new or aspiring app developer, learning how to craft mobile app onboarding initiatives will be one of the most important skills you will learn, and in this article, we'll go over tips that help you design more effective onboarding processes and examples of successful initiatives you can learn from!

Why Is Mobile App Onboarding Important? 5 Reasons

#1 App Onboarding Is Key to Retaining New Users

There are no easier ways to drive away a potential user than by welcoming them with a clunky interface, making them sit through a long and uninspired tutorial, or forcing them to spend minutes creating an account before they get to use your app. The app's onboarding flow is the key to high user retention rates.

In a world with tens of millions of apps competing for a market share, you can't afford to drive away the potential users who try out your mobile app. And function-oriented onboarding processes that guide users through key features are one of the competitive advantages your app will need to stand out and retain users.

#2 Mobile App Onboarding Increase Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

Regardless of the business model, not all users of an app provide the same value to the app developer. If the app relies on products to sell, then users who purchase more products generate more profit for the company. If the app relies on ads for monetization, then users who use the app more create more profit.

The amount of profit a user generates while using an app is called the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). While most app developers understand the value of increasing the size of their user base, perhaps equally as important is increasing the CLV.

Most mobile apps can substantially improve their CLV by adopting efficient onboarding initiatives. They introduce users to key products/services, help users understand your app's unique selling proposition (UPS), and teach users how to create an account, purchase a product, or perform other desirable actions. This will help you expand your business, improve your app, and invest more in your services knowing that you'll get an improved return on investment.

#3 App Onboarding Helps Innovative Startups Shine

Take two scenarios: In the first, an app developer designs a simple calculator. They don't need an onboarding process. Calculators are a known quantity that most people have had experience using. People can start using the calculator and leverage all its features within minutes.

In the second scenario, the app developer designs a revolutionary new app that fills a specific niche. Most people won't have any prior experience with such an app. Some might not even realize they need the app's functions without it being explained to them. The mobile app onboarding scenario, in this case, is far more important. It is the developer's, maybe one, opportunity to demonstrate the value of his app to new users.

If you want to succeed in the highly saturated app market, you need innovation, and to explain innovative ideas to end users, you need a competent app onboarding flow, making it a core part of the recipe for success in the modern tech world.

#4 App Onboarding Is Impactful on Multiple Levels

There is a, sadly popular, misconception that the onboarding process is only relevant to attract new users. This is not at all true for a well-designed onboarding flow. There are many parts of the app, many features, and many design decisions that, while primarily improving the experience of new users, help retain and satisfy existing ones.

When you design a comprehensive and well-written knowledge base for easy reference by new users, this also helps the existing userbase if they ever get confused or forget about a feature. When you design interactive tutorials built-in into the app for all key functionalities, they will also help existing users who have previously only used your app for one specific task.

There are countless examples of how mobile app onboarding can help all types of users. When designing the process, always think about ways to kill two birds with one stone and design inclusive, all-encompassing onboarding initiatives.

#5 Mobile App Onboarding Helps Build the App's Reputation and Brand

Building a large user base is certainly no easy task. It takes innovation, time, marketing, and even luck to create a committed user base and see exponential growth. There's no shortcut, but an important ingredient that will help you on your journey is the reputation of the app.

If your app has a reputation for being difficult to use or unreliable, many potential users will automatically avoid it without giving it a chance. Instead of relying on word of mouth to carry your app in its initial phases when you are short on capital and incapable of investing in marketing, you'll have to watch out for reviews and hope the negative press doesn't kill your app.

The onboarding process can help improve users' perception of your app and brand. By cleanly explaining the app's features, offering interactive tutorials, and making the essential processes as smooth and painless as possible, you create a much better first impression with the users, helping you gain better reviews, get recommended through word of mouth, and have your app's name and brand be associated with positive qualities.

5 App Onboarding Best Practices

Creating onboarding initiatives is as complex as it is important. Many app developers, especially those managing small and medium-sized apps, don't have a proper understanding of mobile app onboarding and lack a vision regarding how to approach it.

These are tips and best practices that help you achieve a great mobile onboarding flow that helps mobile users progress through your app and introduce them to important features, in this section, we'll go over the most important tips.

#1 Onboarding as a Core Business Process

Due to its importance to the overall success of your business, products, and services, onboarding needs to become a core part of your processes that is taken into consideration at every stage of planning, developing, and marketing.

When introducing a new product, updating an existing feature, and targeting a new market, there are several core questions you need to ask:

  • How easy can new users understand and leverage this new product/update?
  • Are there ways to simplify the design of the new feature without losing out on any of its functionality?
  • Are there sufficient documentation, logs, and tutorials to help both new and existing users to learn about the changes?

by routinely asking these questions during the planning, designing, and development phases, you make the mobile app onboarding process part of your business's DNA, helping you see much better success at drawing and retaining users.

#2 Simplifying Core Functions As Much As Possible

Depending on the industry, user demographic, business model, and company size, there are different conceptions of when onboarding begins and when it ends. Regardless of the metrics your company cares about, there are almost certainly specific actions you want a new user to perform as part of the mobile onboarding flows. This could be creating an account, signing up for a service, completing a purchase, or a myriad of other actions your company cares about.

To make the app onboarding experiences smooth and painless, these actions must be easy to perform. If it is vital for your business model that the user sign up, then your company needs to put a lot of thought into making the signup forums easy to understand and quick to fill out. If your company lives and dies by your users making purchases, then adding products to a cart, payment options, and live customer support need to be ironed out.

Carefully consider the key actions new users need to take and try to quantify them based on the time they take to complete, the actions users need to perform, the amount of information the users need to take in, and other relevant metrics. Part of improving the onboarding journey will necessarily be rethinking, tweaking, redesigning, and even replacing these core functions to make them easier to understand and easier to use.

#3 Creating a Proper Onboarding Flow

The onboarding process isn't just a single interactive tutorial, it isn't just a helpful FAQ section, and it isn't just comprehensive changelogs: Onboarding needs to be a multipronged approach that's comprised of many layers that familiarize and inform users of key features and products while all having a coherent flow and rhythm to them.

To gauge the rhythm and flow of your onboarding process, ask these questions:

  • How do your various onboarding initiatives complement each other? Is there a unifying approach or theme?
  • Does the user onboarding process cover every important aspect of your app?
  • Are there ways you can better integrate the various onboarding initiatives together to create a more unified experience?

Think of onboarding as one single process that flows together and guides new app users through your mobile app and its most important functions while introducing them to your products, services, or brand.

#4 Allowing User Behavior and Data to Lead Changes to the Onboarding Process

Designing the best app onboarding experience is simply not possible without careful data collection and analysis. There are core processes that require competent and comprehensive use of data:

  • Understanding user behavior: To create a proper onboarding experience, you need to understand how new users interact with your app. What features do they find complicated? How much time do they spend trying to create an account or purchase a product? Are there any core functionality new users avoid? These are all questions that are fundamental to creating an onboarding process and can only be answered by collecting user data and understanding user behavior.
  • Measuring the success of your onboarding initiatives: Onboarding is a continuous process that needs to change and be refined over time as you introduce new features, target new users, and create more products. Without properly collecting and analyzing data, however, app developers have no way of knowing which of their onboarding initiatives are working and which are slowly becoming outdated and need tweaks or makeovers. To measure the success of your initiatives, you need to gauge how users interact with your tutorials, FAQs, and documentation and make changes accordingly.
  • Catering the app experience to different demographics: The ideal onboarding procedure is one that's personalized for each user depending on their knowledge of the industry, their technical know-how, their familiarity with your product, and more. Each day, larger companies, by leveraging large amounts of data, get closer to that ideal with individualized onboarding flows for a variety of user archetypes. Startups and mid-sized companies need to slowly adopt a similar process if they want to compete in the app market.

These are all the ways integrating data collection and data analysis is Fundamental to the design of app onboarding experience. Integrating them into the process from the very early stages is an important ingredient for success.

#5 Fully Leveraging the Tools and Features Available to You in the Medium

Mobile apps operate in a unique medium with their own tools, communication methods, and best practices. Trying to replicate one-to-one onboarding strategies of brick-and-mortar giants, successful websites, and multimedia companies isn't a recipe for success. App developers need to fully leverage the medium they are operating in to create the best onboarding experience for their app users.

Unique tools available to app developers include push notifications, in-app messaging, interactive elements, graphic-intensive features, and gamified designs. You don't need to integrate all of these features into your app onboarding flow. However, your strategy will be incomplete if you don't at least carefully consider each one and whether or not they can contribute to a better user onboarding flow.

At Releasecat, we offer our clients tools that allow them to design unique in-app messages, create push notifications on the fly, and write and catalog comprehensive changelogs. These allow you to fully leverage the mobile medium to communicate with and guide users through the app's key functions.

Successful Mobile App Onboarding Examples

The key to creating a competent and reliable mobile onboarding process is to look at past experiences of successful approaches. From tech giants to startups, many success stories are worth studying and learning from.

In this section, we'll go over a few prominent successful onboarding processes, how they achieved their success, and what we could learn from their experiences.

#1 Duolingo

Duolingo is the most popular language-learning app in the world, and while a lot of its success has to do with the quality of its programs, its ease of use and onboarding initiatives are a masterclass in how you ease in mobile users into learning about your app.

While needing an account to save your progress and interact with core features of the app, Duolingo demonstrates the value it offers to its users by immediately throwing them into a language course they are interested in.

They get to experience Duolingo and what it has to offer before being asked to create an account. This significantly increases retention rates and is an important lesson for app developers who are looking to create educational services.

#2 Audible

Audible is a premium service that allows users to purchase and listen to audiobooks on the fly. It operates through both a subscription model and a direct sales platform.

Audible understands asking users to sign up for a premium service is a significant ask, and to sweeten the deal, they have several mobile app onboarding initiatives: They have a free trial that lets the user listen to an entire audiobook for free once they sign up, they offer integration with Kindle and Amazon, which most potential customers already use, and they offer samples of most audiobooks on their store, allowing potential customers to check out the tone and quality of the narration.

None of these mobile app onboarding initiatives alone is likely enough to convince potential customers to sign up with Audible, but together they create meaningful in-app onboarding flows that make Audible's offer irresistible, and this is part of the reason why it is the indisputable king of the audiobook market.

#3 Google Pay

A mobile payment service developed by Google, Pay's sales pitch is handling both in-person and online payments for its users securely. Google faced two challenges when trying to market Google Pay: One, there are tens of other mobile payment services available on all platforms. Two, a large portion of the intended market already used payment services, and convincing them to switch would not be an easy task.

The solution Google came up with is among the best app onboarding flow examples for apps that have significant sign-up friction. Their approach was two-pronged:

  • Google Pay decided to support many payment services and digital wallets, and all the initial onboarding screens make this clear. This reduced friction significantly and helped users who already use other payment services to try out Google Pay knowing that they could always integrate both.
  • the Pay developers understand that there is no need to overwhelm users regardless of the type of service the app offers, so instead of technical details about how Pay is better than its competitors, they decided to keep the onboarding screen simple and demonstrate how Pay can make the lives of its potential customers easier.

- Releasecat Team

Releasecat Team


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