You only get one chance at making a first impression with your app, and that’s it. Most mobile users decide whether or not they’ll download an app within seconds. Once they download the app, it takes them a very short time to decide if they’ll keep using it in the future.
Research shows that the initial friction of app usage ranges between 40 and 60%. What does this mean for you?
The job of a mobile app developer only begins with turning the idea into a ready app. The most important step that follows is to make the onboarding process frictionless. A great experience will trigger more downloads, more usage, positive reviews, and much higher engagement.
If you want to learn about the importance of user onboarding and the most useful tips for improving it, keep reading this article.
What is mobile user onboarding?
The user onboarding process is not the first, but the second step that users take when they use your application. The first is downloading your app. If you’ve gotten to this part, that means that you did a great job in attracting and converting leads with your creation.
Mobile app development is very beneficial for a business or a developer looking to make some money, but this will only work if you do the second step right, too. When the user downloads your app, they’ll start the onboarding process.
If you did this right, the third step will be retention and more likely, commitment to your app. If you do it poorly, the users are most likely to leave the app and uninstall it from their Android device.
To put it simply, user onboarding is the process of introducing the person who downloaded your app to what it offers. During this process, you are teaching users how to use your app, offering your products, helping them set up an account, and providing them with important information.
Ideally, this process should make the user familiar with your mobile interface, the basic functionalities of the app, as well as patterns for navigation and gestures.
Why is this important?
Did you know that 25% of users will abandon a new app after a single use? They won’t like the user experience, the app will be a bad fit for them, or they don’t see it as a good choice.
If you manage to create a good onboarding process, you still won’t retain those that didn’t find what they were looking for. However, you’ll reduce this percentage for your product since the user experience will be significantly boosted.
Simply put, quality user onboarding helps users reach that infamous “AHA moment”. It shows that your app has value, ensures that they know how to use them, and motivates them to keep using it. Essentially, it will increase user retention and boost the odds of people making purchases.
Here is what an average retention curve looks like:
Top ways to improve the app onboarding
If you want to bend this curve and retain more people on the first day after the installation, let us introduce you to the best tips to do this.
- Use quality user onboarding tools
Optimizing the onboarding process for your app has never been easier. This surely sounds like a lot of work, but did you know that there are user onboarding tools that automate most of the actions and make this easier?
One such tool is Appcues, a solution that offers everything from advanced data analysis to no-code flow builder. This tool allows you to build an app with amazing onboarding without any coding skills or experience. Marketers can do this, too, without the need to spend a fortune on paying developers. In the meantime, developers can pour all their time into making the product great.
If you use one such tool, you can combine features like product tutorials, slideouts, modals, and tooltips that will assist your users in understanding the app. You can also create multiple paths into the app with persona-based onboarding.
Lastly, Appcues will allow you to customize in-app surveys within minutes. Analytics is the top way to boost an app’s quality, and learning how people feel about your app will tell you a lot about how to improve it.
- Prep a very detailed onboarding goal
You cannot measure the onboarding process unless you’ve set a goal for your app. When doing so, keep things realistic and simple. For example, one general goal can be:
“I want at least 60% of the people who download an app to complete this process and remain the app’s users”.
One very useful trick when creating an onboarding goal and keeping track of it is using mobile events. For example, one event could be the download of the app, and another the sign up. You could track a specific button to see how many users tap on it and compare that number to the ones that downloaded an app. You can track the number of people that paid for something and compare it to the ones that clicked a button to check out your rates.
- Continuously collect and analyze user data
As we mentioned, one of the best ways to improve your user onboarding is to collect relevant user insight. This can be done with the help of surveys that you’ll customize and send out. However, that is not the only way to collect user data.
There are plenty of methods for collecting user data that will help you determine the current quality of the onboarding process, as well as find ways to improve this. Yes, surveys are always a great idea, but what else can you use?
For starters, you’ll need in-app analytics data such as the mobile events described above. Furthermore, you should collect onboarding metrics like conversion rates, and active users throughout a selected period (daily, monthly, or weekly).
Each of these metrics will tell you how many visits you have on the app. Comparing them over time will show you if your efforts are paying off and if you’ve improved the onboarding process over time.
- Give users the option to ‘skip’
No user wants to be forced to watch a video, read through endless pages, and view every part of your onboarding tutorial. You should include things that make the onboarding simple, such as tips and guides, and videos. However, make sure that users have the option to skip, and that it is highly visible.
Not everyone will want to go through your onboarding process. Some will lack the time or have a high level of technical expertise. Others will have used similar apps and know how they work. If you force them to go through the onboarding process without the option to skip it, they are much more likely to leave your app.
Here is a clear example of how TripAdvisor offers the ‘skip’ option to its users.
- Shorten the number of onboarding steps
Let’s say you’ve created a very detailed, useful onboarding process. Analytics still shows that people are leaving your app even before the onboarding process ends. What are you doing wrong?
Very often, the reason for this is that there are too many onboarding steps. The idea is to lead the user to the “AHA” moment as quickly as possible.
If you find yourself in this situation, consider shortening the steps of the onboarding process. Check what part of it leads to the most drop-offs i.e. where users often leave your app, and clarify or eliminate that step entirely.
- Make the onboarding gradual
Have you noticed how gaming apps introduce new information and guide the users while they are playing? This is an amazing way to onboard users since you are allowing them to test the app’s capabilities while learning how it works.
Games usually add the instructions in context boxes.
- Gamify your app
Speaking of games, another great trick to optimize onboarding is to use some gamification elements. Certain elements in gaming apps engage people and motivate them to keep playing. These include levels, awards, and collect points.
Whatever applies to your app, add it to the onboarding process. The satisfaction of fulfilling a goal or getting a reward is irreplaceable and is more likely to attract your users.
Final advice: Never stop working on the onboarding process!
You create an app once, but you update and optimize it on a regular basis. The customer onboarding process is a work in progress, too. You don’t just create a good onboarding plan once and stick with it forever.
Keep analyzing how people respond to your onboarding and tweak it regularly to improve it. Remember – every element’s timing is important. You cannot throw notifications, paywall screens, forms, and surveys at users all at once.
It is your job to make this experience amazing for the user. You’ve already gotten them to the point where they decided: “I’ll download this app”. Now all that’s left to do is make sure that they keep using it.