Mobile App Onboarding Best Practices: Key to Increase App Engagement

Mobile App Onboarding Best Practices: Key to Increase App Engagement

Effective app onboarding is crucial for a successful app of any kind. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to keep users engaged in the long term, or even in the short term. Just consider the app onboarding statistics out there: 25% of users abandon apps following one use. On the other hand, retention rates go up by as much as 50% with strong app onboarding. If you want your app to excel, you need to implement good onboarding practices.

The following is a complete user onboarding guide, serving as a course on app onboarding 101. Here you’ll learn all about what app onboarding is, how you can develop an app onboarding strategy, and some new user onboarding tips to help guide your strategies.

What Is Mobile App Onboarding?

Mobile app onboarding is the process of introducing new users to your app and helping them understand how it works. This typically involves a series of screens or tutorials that guide users through the app's features and functionality. The goal of onboarding is to help users feel comfortable and confident using your app so that they continue to use it regularly. Effective onboarding can help reduce churn and increase user retention.

Why Is App Onboarding Important for App Engagement?

App onboarding is important for app engagement because it provides a positive user experience, helps users understand the app's features and benefits, and increases the likelihood of users returning to the app. By guiding users through the app's functionality and providing helpful tips and instructions, onboarding can reduce user frustration and increase user retention. Effective onboarding can also help build trust and loyalty with users, which can lead to increased engagement and improved app reviews and ratings. In short, app onboarding is crucial for ensuring that users have a positive experience with an app, which can have a significant impact on app engagement and success.

Types of App Onboarding

Brands can implement different types of onboarding according to the needs and objectives of the app. Here are some of the most common types of app onboarding: 

Interactive onboarding

During onboarding, brands can utilize interactive elements like animations, tutorials and videos to help users master the app’s functions and fetures. Apps with complex or distinctive features may benefit most from this kind of onboarding.

Progressive onboarding

Progressive onboarding refers to giving users onboarding information throughout time, as they use the app. This type of onboarding can help prevent overwhelming users with too much information. Also, it can ensure that users understand the functions of the app when they start using them.

Gamified onboarding

Gamified onboarding refers to creating an engaging and fun experience to introduce to app’s features and functions. It can especially be suitable for apps whose user base consists of young people. 

Minimalist onboarding

Minimalist onboarding is providing users with only the essential information they need to use the app. It is an effective type of onboarding if the app has a simple and intuitive user interface. 

Personalized onboarding

Personalized onboarding consists of onboarding information that is tailored to the particular needs and preferences of users. It can be suitable for apps that have various features and functionalities. It can help present information about the aspects of the app that are most relevant to the user.

Benefits of App Onboarding

The following is a list of some key benefits of app onboarding: 

  1. Drives user engagement
  2. Improves user retention
  3. Enhances user experience
  4. Drives revenue

Drives user engagement

The opportunity to increase user engagement is one of the main advantages of app onboarding. Users understand the way the app works and how they can make full use of it as they embark on a guided tour of the app. They can become more comfortable using the app if they are presented a good onboarding process that introduces the app’s layout, navigation and functionality. This can drive user engagement since users tend to explore the app’s features and stick with the app over time. Moreover, an effective onboarding process can help gain user trust and build loyalty, which contribute to increased user engagement and long-term success. 

Improves user retention

User retention indicates the percentage of users who keep using the app after the initial download. By ensuring that users have a great first experience with the app, a well-designed onboarding process can help to increase user retention. Brands can build strong connections between the user and the app in different ways. They can guide users through the app’s functions and demonstrate how the app can help users accomplish their goals. Users can be more likely to continue using the app in the long run when they establish a connection with the app. This can result in higher user retention rates. Additionally, an effective onboarding process can help determine areas of confusion or frustration for users early on. Then, brands can focus on these issues to prevent users from abandoning the app. In general, an app onboarding process plays a fundamental role in improving user retention and establishing loyalty. 

Enhances user experience

An effective onboarding process can make the app more approachable and user-friendly, which can improve the user experience and make it more enjoyable. Brands may assist users understand the features and functionalities of the app quickly by offering consumers clear and concise instructions, interactive elements, and visual aids. In turn, users can be more comfortable using the app and have a positive experience. Also, a well-designed onboarding process can facilitate a smooth transition from the user's first app experience to continued app use. This may promote user loyalty and trust, which will improve the user experience overall and help the app succeed in the long run. Generally, app onboarding is a significant part of generating a positive user experience and building a robust connection between the user and the app. 

Drives revenue

App onboarding can drive sales if the app manages to turn users into paying customers. Brands can strengthen the connection between the user and the app by providing users a positive first experience. This can increase the possibility of turning the user into a loyal customer and getting them invest in the app. Also, a well-planned onboarding process can display how the app can benefit the users, which can incentivize upgrading to premium features or services.  This can increase the app’s revenue and create a more sustainable business model. In addition, an efficient onboarding process can help reduce churn, which may also lead to increased revenue. Addressing users’ concerns earlier and avoiding user frustration can help retain more users. In turn, brands can establish a larger user base and increase revenue throughout the time. 

16 Mobile App Onboarding Best Practices

If you want to make sure that users continue to use your app long after the first time they load it, there are some crucial user onboarding best practices to implement. Here we’ll review some of these if you want to learn how to onboard users and keep them loyal:

  • Simplify the Signup Process
  • Introduce Your App's Value
  • Don't Try to Say Everything at Once
  • Keep It Brief
  • Offer Users an Option to Skip
  • Show Users Their Progress in App Onboarding Flow
  • Use Animations Only if They Have a Function
  • Ask for Permission Only if You Really Need It (And Always Reveal Why)
  • Keep It Accessible so Users Can Revisit
  • Keep Onboarding Your Users as Long as Your App Evolves
  • Use social proof
  • Provide customer support
  • Utilize feedback and progress indicators
  • Engage and entertain users with interactive elements
  • Let users customize their onboarding experience 
  • Get users ready to use the app through tips and tricks

1. Simplify the Signup Process

One key issue that can keep users from continuing past the first app onboarding screen is a difficult signup process. Always keep this simple and enable users to easily create login credentials. If possible, allow users to sign up via social media apps, which can make the signup process even more efficient. The sooner users can get into your app, the less likely they are to turn away from the start. Once people get through that first gate, you can begin leading them through the onboarding user journey.

2. Introduce Your App's Value

The next step of the new user onboarding process entails value proposition. Here you’ll want to make it clear what your app can do for users, from detailing ways in which it can improve their daily lives to showing how an app can provide hours of entertainment. The more the app establishes what value it brings, the more you’ll keep users engaged to continue the user onboarding process.

3. Don't Try to Say Everything at Once

In addition to the value your app offers, only highlight core features at the beginning. The last thing you should do is overwhelm new users during the app onboarding process with too much information. If your app goes into too much detail with features, particularly more obscure features that many users may not need, users are likely to grow bored or become lost. Ultimately, an overloaded app onboarding solution will probably deter rather than attract users. Keep things consistently simple from the start, and introduce new features or information as users continue to explore. This provides a much more natural user onboarding journey that informs rather than annoys.

4. Keep It Brief

Again, simple is best when onboarding new users. This goes for messaging. Don’t push long paragraphs of information or multiple pages of text through your app. If you feel that certain features and functions require more explanation, you can introduce tidbits gradually as users interact with them. You can also direct users to a website with additional information, which will provide a better platform for longer app onboarding tutorials. You can even create videos to explain things more in-depth. Regardless, try to keep the in-app experience simple but effective.

5. Offer Users an Option to Skip

Some users may be quicker to figure things out than others during the mobile user onboarding process. They may also not want to complete certain tasks at a particular time. If you’re providing information through the app that users already know or don’t care to know, always give them the option to skip. Many users may also prefer to learn about your app entirely on their own, so consider enabling them to skip the entire tutorial or signup process.

6. Show Users Their Progress in App Onboarding Flow

When going through the app onboarding process, users will also want to know where they are along the journey. If users suspect that they have many more steps to follow before getting into the app, this could cause them to drop it. Through app onboarding flows, you can indicate where people are and how much farther they have to go before completing the onboarding process. A couple of app onboarding examples include:

  • A series of screens requesting personal user data, with messages toward the end stating something like “You’re almost done!”
  • A progress bar that visualizes where customers are throughout the user onboarding journey

7. Use Animations Only if They Have a Function

You might be tempted to include in-app animations that attract and hold users’ attention, but animations can become more tedious than entertaining to view. This is especially true when taking users through the app onboarding experience. Knowing how to properly use animations in your app can mean the difference between discouraged and engaged users. Try to refrain from long and flashy animations, and only include them if they serve a particular function, such as animating a button or transitioning to the next app onboarding screen.

8. Ask for Permission Only if You Really Need It (And Always Reveal Why)

Developers may need to ask permission to collect certain pieces of information, but only ask if you truly need to ask. At the same time, you should disclose specifically why you need to ask. This can help maintain both compliance and transparency to avoid any potential legal repercussions while showing that you value users’ consent.

9. Keep It Accessible so Users Can Revisit

Your onboarding flow should also always remain accessible to users if they skip it at first or decide to revisit it later. Whether a user frequently opens your app or a user is returning to it for the first time after a period of disuse, users will likely want to check on their progress at some point when using your app.

10. Keep Onboarding Your Users as Long as Your App Evolves

Over time, your app is likely to undergo changes as you make updates and modifications. As your app evolves, feel free to extend the app onboarding experience for users to introduce them to new features or options. This will keep users in the know regarding your app and ensure they use those new features. Users will also appreciate the details, particularly if a feature is designed with them in mind. While onboarding at the start for new users is important, long-time users will also benefit from continued onboarding practices.

11. Use social proof

Social proof can increase trust towards the brand and make it more credible in the eyes of the user. To achieve this, businesses can utilize customer reviews and ratings, testimonials and success stories. Users may get more confident to continue using an app if they see positive reviews from other customers who have used the same app. Moreover, social proof can help display the effectiveness and the value of the app. Users may tend to invest their time and effort in learning how to effectively use an app if they see others who have successfully used the app to accomplish their objectives. In general, utilizing social proof can help increase user engagement and get users to adopt more easily to the product.

12. Provide customer support

Providing support is a significant onboarding best practice. It is essential that businesses provide support to new users during the onboarding process in order to clarify their questions and concerns. To do so, businesses can provide a FAQ section, offer life chat or email support, and make available other resources like video tutorials and guides. Additionally, being timely and responsive is crucial to respond to any issues users may face. As businesses provide robust support, users can be motivated to continue using the app and may even convert to loyal customers. 

Overall, users will feel more confident to use the app and even turn into loyal customers if apps provide robust customer support.

13. Utilize feedback and progress indicators

Using progress indicators and providing feedback can motivate users and help them track their progress on the onboarding process. As an example, you may display a progress bar that demonstrates the progress of the user in the onboarding process. This can motivate users to complete the process. Moreover, you may provide feedback after users complete specific tasks in order to bolster positive behaviors and emphasize areas for improvement. Users may be more likely to stay engaged and motivated to continue using the app if you provide regular feedback and progress indicators. In general, utilizing feedback and progress indicators is a powerful way to help users accomplish their goals and create a positive user experience.

14. Engage and entertain users with interactive elements

Interactive elements, such as quizzes, surveys, and animations, offer a more engaging and entertaining experience to app users. These elements are more likely to keep users engaged and offer a better way to learn and retain information. For instance, a quiz can be an effective way to test the user’s knowledge after they complete a module. This can strengthen the key concepts learned and assure that the user has understood them. Also, animations can be effective to explain complex concepts and make the onboarding process more entertaining. Brands that utilize interactive elements can offer a positive user experience and boost user engagement.

15. Let users customize their onboarding experience

Another significant onboarding practice is letting users customize their own onboarding process. Since each user has their own demands and preferences, the app can become more user-friendly and attractive if they allow customization. Apps can customize onboarding in a variety of ways, such as letting users decide which features or functionalities they want to learn about or offering alternatives for various levels of complexity and detail during the onboarding process.

Also, allowing users to customize the app's settings or user interface can boost their satisfaction with the app and encourage user retention. Brands can show that they care about their users and are devoted to providing an effective user experience.

16. Get users ready to use the app through tips and tricks

Giving users tips and techniques can help them use the app more efficiently and take full advantage of all of its features. There are numerous different ways to offer tips and techniques, including pop-up messages, contextual tooltips, and a separate tips section.

Tips and tricks can help users overcome any learning issues regarding the app, build user confidence, and establish a positive user experience. Brands can ensure an engaging and loyal user base by simplifying users’ access to relevant information and guidance.

Why Should You Use In-App Stories for App Onboarding?

Storyly enables app owners to have mobile stories in their apps through a quick integration. These in-app stories can help you with increasing engagement and retention thanks to interactive components and the personalization feature. Besides, they are also great for creating a perfect app onboarding flow.

1) They offer a full-screen experience.

First things first, an onboarding experience needs to be immersive so that the user doesn’t get distracted and can totally focus on what the app introduces. In-app stories meet this requirement and deliver an immersive experience.

2) You can prepare custom onboarding scenarios.

The sky is the limit if you want to personalize the user journey on your app as much as possible. In-app stories offer an excellent opportunity to customize the onboarding flow. Let’s say you are A/B testing different texts and creatives on various user acquisition channels. Wouldn’t it be great to welcome new users with a custom message based on the value prop that drives them to the app?

3) You can create an interactive app onboarding flow with in-app stories.

When users take their first steps to your app, you might have crucial things that you need to tell them. But don’t forget that they might have something to tell you as well. You can allow them to do so by utilizing many interactives such as polls, quizzes, and emoji reactions, sliders, or bars.

4) It is possible to pin the onboarding story group for later uses.

Onboarding is not just for a moment. It needs to continue as long as the user needs it to do. With Storyly, you can create pinned story groups so that users can revisit whenever they wish.

5) You can maximize permission opt-ins by telling the story first.

It is more than significant to ask for access only to relevant user data, as we mentioned above. To convince users to give permission, you can always explain the story behind it, meaning why you need this access. As you can imagine, mobile stories are always great for this type of storytelling.

Final Thoughts

Keeping these and other app onboarding best practices in mind can help guide your user onboarding strategy, but it’s always important to remember that each app will have different requirements. Based on your app’s unique needs, some practices may be more ideal to implement than others. It all depends on the type of app you’re developing and the needs of its corresponding users.

Eventually, you’ll learn what works and what requires improvement to streamline the process. With a fully functional app onboarding UX, you’ll be able to retain more users and efficiently introduce them to your app. This can help make sure your app stands apart from many others with less user-friendly interfaces and overall experiences.

Want to learn more about how to create solid onboarding flows for your users? There are many ways to approach these app onboarding solutions. For more information, check out our articles on user onboarding lessons and apps with the best user onboarding flow to get you started. You can also contact us to learn more about how our app growth platform can fuel your app’s success.


Deniz Tasyürek

Content & Brand Marketing Strategist at Storyly. Writes about mobile user behavior, user engagement, and retention. A genuine Potterhead. She also loves succulents, cats, and aerial yoga.

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