Onboarding in mobile apps

When a user launches a mobile app for the first time, it is important to become familiar with the variety of features and functionality, as well as how to manage the app in general, before enjoying all the privileges. For some, this comes easily, and for some, it is impossible to do without help. This help is in-app onboarding. How necessary it is, what it gives and what options and techniques of onboarding exist in general – let’s figure it out together. 

How do you know if your app needs onboarding?

does your app need onboarding

Before drawing any conclusions, let’s find out what onboarding is in general. Onboarding is the process of familiarizing the user with the application, its functions, capabilities, management, as well as customizing the application and its functions, and so on. At the same time, the application is onboarded in two cases: when the user first entered the application and needs to be explained what and how to do, and when some updates came out that significantly changed the usual appearance, the chain of actions, or simply added new functionality. In both cases, the user gets acquainted with the application again. 

And although at this stage you may think that the onboarding process is useful and completely necessary, in fact this is not always the case. Let’s take a look at its pros and cons. The positive features of onboarding include: 

  • a detailed explanation of how the user interacts with the application;
  • clarification of non-standard icons, actions, functions; 
  • the ability to customize the application; 
  • confidence that the necessary data will be filled immediately; 
  • highlighting the benefits of the application and engaging users. 

However, there are also negatives: 

  • this process takes the user’s time and forces them to perform additional actions; 
  • many users prefer to understand the application on their own; 
  • these are additional costs, both financial and time, during development; 
  • There are cases when, by abusing onboarding, companies, on the contrary, repel users.

As you can see, it is necessary to carefully approach the issue of familiarizing users with the application, accurately weighing whether it is necessary at all, and, if so, what technique to resort to. Not necessarily what works for others will be as successful and effective for you, so it’s better to choose custom onboarding. 

When is onboarding necessary in mobile applications? 

To develop onboarding or not depends on the characteristics of your business, your application and your audience. So, for example, if certain information is required for the correct execution of the functions of the application, which the user may forget to enter, you can direct him using certain onboarding techniques, so all the necessary steps will be completed immediately and the user will be able to start working with the application without restrictions. 

Regarding the application itself: if your application has a fairly simple structure and performs only one function, it is natural that you do not need to implement additional hints in the interface. If the functionality is complex, and the achievement of the target action requires many steps, or you decide to resort to rather unusual design techniques that may not be intuitively understood, onboarding will help your users familiarize themselves. Also, if the application requires some customization, the setup requires certain actions, entering information and making a choice, then it is also better to resort to onboarding so that the user does not have to look for where and how to do it. 

And the last important factor is the audience. If your users are generally quite advanced, preferring to take action on their own and quickly, onboarding will only distract them. If your application is designed for a wide audience, and at the same time it is not so easy to understand a lot of functions, it will not be out of place to help those categories that are not too familiar with digital technologies, it is convenient to understand your application. But it’s also important to provide an option to skip onboarding for those who don’t need it (unless it’s necessary for the app to function correctly). 

Onboarding methods

Onboarding methods

When it comes to an onboarding campaign and you already know exactly what you need, it’s important to carefully choose it, taking into account all of the above factors. Let’s take a look at the different onboarding techniques and their features. 

Benefit oriented benefits

This way of onboarding quickly and effectively introduces the user to the benefits of your application. Your task is to demonstrate the maximum benefit and benefit to the audience from using your tool. 

It is very important here to select only the key benefits that set you apart from a huge number of other applications, and which will instantly prove to users that your application is worth it. At the same time, you should not be scattered on trifles, talking about insignificant details or those features that are not unique, as you risk tiring the user, and he will not even reach the end of onboarding. Concentrating on the most important and significant aspects, it is also important not to overpraise yourself, because this can also spoil the impression of users, besides, there is a risk that reality will not live up to expectations, and you will only make it worse for yourself and your business. 

If this type of onboarding is carried out correctly, your users will already clearly know at the very beginning of their acquaintance with the application what tasks they will be able to solve with its help, which means they will be aware of the full value of your application. And this significantly raises the level of engagement and retention. 

Consumer portrait

Use portraits of different segments of your target audience to create a custom onboarding for each of them. The fact is that when your application is designed for a wide audience, and its functionality is as diverse as possible, universal onboarding for everyone may not be the best idea. Of course, you can still choose it to save money. But let’s look at an alternative. 

Using personalized onboarding for different groups of users, you automatically focus their attention on the functionality that they will need, thus reducing the time to understand the application. It’s also a good way to build on the previous onboarding technique: you get to tell users about the benefits that apply to them, not just the general benefits of the app, which can sound completely unconvincing. 

To develop custom onboarding, you just need to define your target audience in detail, as well as break it down into the most specific segments. Further, when opening the application, the user selects the segment to which it belongs, and the relevant onboarding script is automatically launched in the application.  

Ease of first start

When a user downloads an application, he does it for a reason: there are always certain reasons and needs that drive him, whether it is the search for entertainment, or the need to complete a certain task. Your goal is to make sure that at the first launch, the user can complete this task as quickly and simply as possible, achieve something and get a result. 

The fact is that psychologically success affects our nervous system in such a way that we want more and more. That is, some state of excitement in the user is activated. And if you show that it’s easy to achieve success in your app, you’ll give the user that winning feeling that’s definitely addictive. 

Using this onboarding technique will help to engage users from the very first opening, and if you think over the system of achievements along the way of using the application, the retention rate will skyrocket. 

Manuals, instructions

The main reason why users may refuse to use the application is if they failed to achieve their goal. Often this happens due to the fact that the user could not figure out how the application works and take all the necessary steps. To avoid this, complex applications use this onboarding technique. 

You literally need to create instructions for achieving the goal. Show the user how to achieve that very coveted first success. However, this can be done in many ways. For example, you can immediately show users how to use the application functionality immediately after opening, or vice versa, use interactive tips that appear when the user performs an action for the first time. You need to choose the method of instruction based on the characteristics of your application and the target audience. 

But remember that you should always leave room for independent research, because users are also interested and involved. Therefore, when creating instructions, focus on the most important or most difficult actions, but do not literally explain all the functionality and every button. 

Simplify the registration process

Registration is important for customization, saving settings if the application is installed on another device, synchronizing the application and the website, as well as for working with users via email. On the one hand, this is a very useful and convenient feature for users, but on the other hand, some do not want to leave their data in all applications in a row, or simply consider registration a tedious waste of time. It is in your interest to make sure that users easily pass it and get even more involved. 

There are three options when you can add a registration form. The first option is to display the registration form at the very beginning, right after opening the application. Then the user is immediately forced to perform certain actions, and only after that the application functionality will be opened to him. This option is still popular, but we do not recommend doing this, because if the level of motivation is not too high or if there are certain doubts, this step can push users away and they will not continue using the application. The second option is to register after familiarizing yourself with the application or after achieving the first success. When the user has already understood the value of your application, and even received it, he is more likely to subscribe. And the third option is to allow the user to subscribe at any time convenient for him, without forcing him to do it at the beginning, 

Whichever option you choose, always keep in mind that the shorter the registration form, the more willingly your users will fill it out. Ask for only the most necessary information. It would be a good idea to request, for example, only an email during registration, and then prompt the user to enter all other data in their personal account. At the same time, filling out a complete questionnaire can be carried out at any time convenient for the user, or not carried out at all.

Push notifications

Push notifications are a great way to communicate with users. Use them to remind you of work in progress, or opportunities that will add value to your audience. So, for example, you can use notifications to remind users to register if they like the app, or complete registration by filling out a full questionnaire in your account. You can also be reminded of promotions, or special opportunities for a certain day, the best time to perform some action, and so on. It’s also a good idea to allow the user to set up in-app reminders that will be related to in-app activities and come in push notifications.

Email messages

When users first get to know the app, it’s also a good idea to send them emails with instructions and reminders. Some information from onboarding may not be assimilated immediately, and you can recall it. You can also talk about new additional features that were not mentioned in the original onboarding, but the user shows interest in them. Emails can also contain reminders to visit the application, complete an action, and even suggest how to achieve the next success. 

This approach will increase the engagement of your users. And periodically reminding them about the benefits of an application that they have not yet had time to get used to, you will increase the level of user retention at times. 


Onboarding in mobile apps

Onboarding in mobile apps is an important part of the user experience, and a very useful feature if not abused. We recommend that you carefully consider whether you need to implement it specifically for you, while studying your target audience, as well as weighing all the features of the business, application, and users themselves. It is important not to scare, but to take your users on an interesting journey of relief with your application. 

To meet this challenge, it is important to choose the right onboarding techniques that are right for you. The choice is quite large, and each has its own characteristics, but by choosing one or more techniques correctly, you will get the desired (or even better) effect. 

User engagement and retention are indicators that can and should be influenced. And when used correctly, onboarding is a good way to achieve high results. When developing applications for our clients, we at Agilie always carefully analyze and select the necessary onboarding techniques (if it turns out to be necessary at all). 

If you have any questions or want to discuss the development in Agilie – leave a request on the site, our manager will call you back as soon as possible and advise you.


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