App User Onboarding: 5 Best Practices to Ace Your First Aha! Moment
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App User Onboarding: 5 Best Practices to Ace Your First Aha! Moment

Published : February 7, 2019

You’ve created an amazing app, integrated the best push notification platform to complement your marketing strategy, and bagged over a million downloads!

But what next?

Have you managed to successfully activate a user? Or have you succeeded in driving up your user retention metrics? How do you go about creating a great first impression post app download?

A user’s first interaction with your app can be a make or break moment. It lays the foundation for you to deliver a fantastic user experience. Even more reason to conceptualise and create a seamless user onboarding experience. Successful user onboarding is critical to your app’s success, delivering your new users’ first Aha! Moment, as you aim to build a sustainable customer relationship.

Why is User Onboarding Important for Your Mobile App?

According to Go-Globe, mobile apps account for 52% of all time spent on digital media. This indicates that there’s a huge opportunity to nudge users not only to launch the app but also to consume and convert. But unfortunately, more than 20% of mobile apps are not opened after the first visit.

According to, mobile apps lose 77% of their active users in the first 3 days after install, resulting in a huge loss of money. Hence, user onboarding is essential to deliver the message about the value that the user should expect to receive from an app and to generate the need to reuse it.

One of the toughest challenges for mobile marketers is to convince users to stick around, to relaunch the app and instill a habit-building repeat usage. Rich push notifications and real-time notification capabilities can be pivotal in persuading users to re-engage.

Samuel Hulick

How Do You Build a Great User Onboarding Experience?

User onboarding is critical to your app’s success. While there are no set rules on how to onboard a user, these 5 best user onboarding practices will ensure that your app helps you power higher user engagement and retention:

1. Keep it simple and offer multiple sign up options

Most apps these days require a sign up. So, remember to give users multiple options to register via channels such as Gmail, other email, mobile number, social login etc. Nearly 72% of users think that the app onboarding process should take 60 seconds. Your onboarding really has to be short, simple, and seamless to ensure that carefully acquired users don’t drop off on first-time app launch itself.

Don’t ask for too many personal details from a user during sign up. Asking your users to enter personal information such as their name, email, phone number, age, etc. often wastes precious time and prevents first-time users from actually putting your app to use immediately. Do it only if necessary and if the purpose of the app demands. Almost 82% of users state that they want clear reasons behind an apps’ request for information and 76% of users  indicate that the safety of their personal information is very important.

You don’t want to annoy your users right at the onset, do you?

So, keep the initial onboarding as simple as possible. For instance, (now TikTok) offers users the freedom to sign up through multiple options.

TikTok Welcome Screen Example

2. Pre-briefing app user permissions 

You only get one shot when you trigger the generic push notification opt-in prompt on first-time app launch on iOS. If the user declines to give you the app push permission, you can no longer send him/her a re-prompt ever again. Pre-prompts tend to improve opt-ins on your mobile app push notifications.

In fact, almost 4 out of 5 users consider it to be an important step during onboarding and are eager to understand the reasoning behind requests, whether for browser push notifications, geolocation, camera, or microphone access.

One major hack in this case to re-prompt a user is to include it on your in-app onboarding slider. This gives you the opportunity to effectively communicate why a user should enable push notifications.

Take a look at Curiosity’s user onboarding flow.

Curiosity’s onboarding flow illustrates communication preferences before requesting push notification api permissions. This gives user a two factor validation before giving the push permissions.

Curosity Onboarding Screen

3. Persona-based User Onboarding

You must’ve created the app to solve a problem of a specific target audience but your app evolves and now caters to a wide array of audience personas.

Your marketing approach needs to be tailor-made to target different user personas. The same needs to be the case with your app onboarding flow. This lends a high degree of personalisation during the first-time user experience.

Gathering your user’s app usage preferences will help you deliver a seamless and personalised experience throughout the app journey. This plays an important role in customising the app experience and the choice of content that can be pushed to different user segments.

The Headspace app specialises in meditation and does a great job in understanding it’s user personas, creating an onboarding experience based on the users’ inputs. This helps it in creating a seamless user experience that is expected out of a meditation app.

Headspace brings different levels and types of meditating suggestions and experience based on the kind of input a user selects. For example, if a user selects “Personal Growth” as their area of interest, then it suggests growth related meditation exercises.

Another app that does user onboarding exceptionally well is Calm, a voice enhanced productivity app.

Headspace Onboarding screen

4. Gamify the user onboarding flow

One key challenge while onboarding a user is to keep them engaged and not lose interest in your app. Nearly 44% of the users download a mobile app for fun, undoubtedly making it the most popular reason to app downloads. Since app user onboarding is crucial to convert first time users into long-term returning users, gamification plays an important role in achieving that.

For example, Memrise, a fun language learning app, also app of the year 2017, does a great job at gamifying the app user onboarding. It adds progress bars, badges, level-ups, and redeemable awards to gamify the onboarding flow. This directly helps improve app user engagement by increasing app sessions and increases user retention.

Memrise Onbboarding Screen

Duolingo is another great example of gamifying its user onboarding by creating an interactive onboarding flow. It has a guided tour of the app where it’s mascot explains how to use the product in an intuitive way. This encourages app users to take a particular action and keeps them engaged while driving long term retention.


5. Give users the power to “Skip”

A lengthy onboarding flow exponentially increases the chances of app abandonment and eventual churn. Certain users can become frustrated when they are forcefully handheld, preventing them from diving into the app immediately.

Avoid long upfront static/dynamic walkthroughs and tutorials. While the walkthrough’s aim is to introduce the app and effectively communicate value to the user, you might be literally stopping them from doing what they want to do. Using a “Skip” button on your app user walkthroughs will improve your user onboarding.

Not every user wants to be handheld, right?

The video streaming app, Vevo, increased its logins by 10% by simply adding a “Skip” button to its existing onboarding flow. And the number of successful sign-ups jumped by almost 6%.

Most apps have different kinds of onboarding flows. Some have static slider images and some have dynamic screens. But not every app gives users an option to skip every screen.

Take a look at Slack. It gives users greater control by giving them the option to skip the onboarding on all the screens. Slack’s UX team deserves credit for giving due thought to all possible first-time user segments during the onboarding process.


Let’s now look at Blinkist, an audio book app. Its user onboarding allows users to “Get Started” on every screen of the onboarding flow. This definitely gives users the power to steer their way right into the app if they want to avoid the tutorial walkthrough.


Achieving Long-term User Retention with Successful User Onboarding

Onboarding is a process that happens at many different times throughout the app user lifecycle. It is not limited to first time app launch but is an ongoing process as your app continues to evolve.

Users have to be handheld with the new features that get updated to your app. You don’t want to annoy your users and lose them at such an early stage.

While creating app awareness and having good number of installs won’t define an app’s success. It has to be complemented with seamless user onboarding that not only educates the user on how to use the app but also adds value. All this is aimed at elevating user engagement and retention rates in the long run.

To learn just how you can supplement your user onboarding with an effective mobile marketing strategy, get in touch, today!

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