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10 Mobile App Onboarding Best Practices

Amit Ashwini
October 25, 2017

After investing so much time and effort into the mobile app development process, the last thing you want is for the retention rate of your mobile app to disappoint. Unfortunately, if you fail to make a good impression with your mobile app, you can expect to see poor retention rates until you make some drastic changes. One way you can improve how new users perceive your mobile app is by incorporating a well-designed onboarding screen. Here are 10 of the best practices for mobile app onboarding that you should employ.

1. Keep Your Onboarding Screen Focused

While you want to provide your new users with guidance, the last thing you want is to make them experience an information overload. Therefore, you should strive to keep the onboarding screen of your mobile app as focused and streamlined as possible. The main thing you want to incorporate is the value proposition. Mainly, you want to include a sentence or two on the onboarding page that tells new users what they can expect to gain from using your mobile app. Remember to keep it short and sweet. Very few users are willing to read paragraphs, especially when they're eager to try out a new mobile app.

You should give users the opportunity to skip the onboarding screen of the mobile app. This is essential if your onboarding flow happens to be lengthy. Most people are very impatient when it comes to technology and will not hesitate to uninstall your mobile app simply because the onboarding flow is a few seconds too long. Even new users should have the ability to opt-out of the onboarding flow.

2. Show, Don't Tell with Your Onboarding Screen

Nowadays, words alone aren't enough to convince consumers about the merit of a product or service. As a result, mobile app developers need to figure out how to show rather than tell when it comes to their onboarding screen. In fact, the "show, don't tell" philosophy should apply to the mobile app as a whole rather than just the onboarding text.

Many users consider too much text to be a huge turnoff when it comes to the onboarding screen. This is especially true for users who don't learn best by reading long passages of text. Therefore, you should have users learn how to use your mobile via a "learn as you go" approach. You want to immerse your new users in the experience of your mobile app immediately. You can use short bubbles to text to guide their experience and offer tips along the way.

3. Experiment with Login Options

One reason for low retention rates with mobile apps is the friction users encounter with account creation and logins. Most users consider having to create an account a huge hassle, especially if they need to enter a lot of information and activate the account from their email. Therefore, you should experiment with various login options to make the user experience as enjoyable and simple as possible for your users.

Besides the email login, other options you can consider include the social media login and no login at all. If a login isn't essential for your mobile app, you're better off leaving it out. However, this means you may have to incorporate other ways to collect information from your users.

4. Indicate Progress of Onboarding Flow

Onboarding flows can feel like forever to new users. This is particularly the case when it comes to the onboarding flows of more complex apps, as there is far more to explain to a new user. If you want to prevent your users from feeling as if they are on an endless tour, you should incorporate a bar of sorts to indicate progress. Besides a progress bar, you can also incorporate dots at the bottom of the onboarding screen to signify the progress of the user. Each dot will represent an individual page.

The benefit of indicating the progress of onboarding flow is that it will serve as a "light at the end of the tunnel" for your users. That way, they won't end up uninstalling your mobile app right when they're about to finish.

5. Be Personable

Many mobile app developers make the mistake of speaking to their users as if they are robots rather than humans. Therefore, you should strive to use personable language on the onboarding page of your mobile app. If users sense that you are trying to sell them something based on your language alone, you can expect retention rates for your mobile app to be rather low. While it may feel unprofessional at first, you want to talk to your users as if they are friends of yours.

6. Keep the Onboarding Page Brief

When users download your mobile app, they probably want to get immersed in the experience as soon as possible. While an onboarding flow will prove helpful to your users, you want to keep it as brief as possible. Some of your users won't even pay much attention to the onboarding flow.

Education should be an ongoing experience with your mobile app rather than an information overload right at the beginning. Your onboarding flow should only teach the basics to your users. Provide information about advanced features later on once your users are more familiar with the mobile app.

7. Make the Onboarding Page Visually Attractive

While you don't want your onboarding flow to be too complex or over-the-top, you still want it to be visually appealing. People make their decisions based on first impressions all the time. Even though the appearance of your onboarding page shouldn't matter to your users, it will. Therefore, you want to strive to achieve the optimal balance between simplicity and visual appeal. Too much or too little of either will likely spell bad news for the retention rate of your mobile app. You may want to experiment with multiple designs for your onboarding page to see which one is the best for the retention rate of your mobile app.

8. Stick to a Single Concept Per Screen

Most people aren't great at taking in a substantial amount of information at one time. Therefore, when it comes to your onboarding flow, you want to stick to just one concept per page. Not only will this make it so that your users comprehend the information better, but it will also make it easier for you to keep your onboarding flow simple.

Not only do you want to focus on just one concept per screen, but you should also keep your sentences as short as possible. This will also make it easier for your users to follow everything.

9. Track Analytics on Every Screen

You want to use analytics to track the actions of your users on every screen. This will allow you to identify on which pages your users are exiting the mobile app and the onboarding experience. That way, you will be able to make changes on those specific screens to boost user retention. Not only do you want to know the conversion rates for individual screens, but you also want to know how many of your users are making it to the end of the onboarding experience.

10. Pay Attention to Your Users

At the end of the day, you want to pay attention to your users when it comes to your onboarding best practices. Since your users are going to be the ones using your mobile app, you want to cater the experience to their needs and expectations. Getting feedback from your users and responding to these concerns appropriately is the best to improve your mobile app overall.

Without a doubt, onboarding done right can lead to higher retention rates for your mobile app. Fortunately, these ten mobile app onboarding best practices should help you make major improvements to the onboarding flow of your mobile app.

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Amit Ashwini