When users download your mobile app, you have to make a good first impression. 

The initial interaction with your app should help users decide that your app is worth using  regularly.

Introducing new users to your app through messages is called onboarding and it’s an essential part of your app’s success.

There is no magic formula to ensure your app’s success but implementing some of the following best onboarding practices can help to successfully engage and retain users.

The Best Practices for Mobile App Onboarding

Offer Value First

People who download your app do it for a reason and the onboarding process needs to show that you will meet their expectations.

Don’t show off with your app’s best features – it’s more important to explain what users will get from using your app and to promote app’s value via a product tour or feature carousel or any other way.

Users are more interested in what’s in it for them than how your app works – they are driven by their needs and your app should be the tool helping them to achieve their goals.

For example, mobile payment Venmo immediately shows its core value through a live feed of their transactions showcasing diverse use of the app as well as the popularity.


Stick to the key features that are necessary to help users experience the app’s value.



Ask for Essentials Only

When creating any process (signup/registration/payment/onboarding) make it as easy as possible and ask only for essential personal details and permissions.

For example, if you have an event app, you should request a location access (with explanation that it’s needed to find nearby events) but you shouldn’t ask for access to their camera or contacts as it can cause counter effect eventually leading to users abandoning the app.

Make onboarding quick as the past Clutch study shows that 72% of users say that onboarding under a minute is important to decide whether to keep using the app.

Once the users complete brief onboarding, you can later display additional options like signing up for a reward process, promo coupons or other incentives.


Keep it simple and don’t ask for more than you need.



Make it Compact and Simple

People get tired of pages and pages of instructions and it’s important not to overwhelm them with too many input fields at once.

A good choice is to use illustrations and app screenshots to convey the important messages as it will avoid heavy text explanations that can discourage new users.

Some complex apps requiring detailed instructions may use progressive onboarding method as it will break the process into a step-by-step guide that is less tedious.

Make sure the content is short and just tell users what they need to know in as few words as possible.

Ensure Concise Signup

A complicated signup process can be a main cause of churn.

Always keep in mind that people use your app on-the-go and no one wants to spend a long time completing input fields.

You can provide options to sign up via Facebook, Linkedin, Gmail etc. as it will save their time and energy and remove a great deal of friction points from the process.

For example, WhatsApp automatically detects SMS to simplify phone verification so that users don’t have to leave the app for a code to enter. This makes the process super fast along with a great user experience.


Ensure that registration process is as easy as possible.

Always Request for Permission

One of the most crucial parts of the app is asking for permission – keep this in mind especially when you need to use users’ data.

Among various reasons, 30% of apps are being abandoned due to security and privacy issues.  As per Clutch study, 82% of users say it’s important to know WHY an app is asking for information like certain permissions, payment info or personal details.

If your app requires the functionality of the camera or microphone, you should ask for permission to use it.

This type of approach makes people comfortable and helps them to trust your app.


Give your users an idea of exactly what they’re signing up and it can increase opt-in rates.

Promote your app’s content

Sometimes, the signup process itself can represent a barrier between the user and your app.

You should let users jump into your app and experience it before asking them to sign up – it’s a good way to speed up the process of new users recognizing your app’s value.

For instance, if you have an e-commerce app, you should allow users to browse your product catalogue prior to creating an account. If a user tries to purchase a product, then you can ask them to make a new account.

A good example is AirBnB – their users can browse available accommodation and dates but they are only asked to sign up once they’re ready to book a trip.


If you let users see what your app offers beforehand, they will know how worthy your app is to them.

Provide ‘SKIP’ option

Not everyone wants to be hassled through the onboarding process – some people may want to jump right into the app and explore it on their own, without waiting for an app tour to finish.

A good idea is to provide your users an option to skip the process while you can monitor to see what performs better with your users.

Today, many apps offer the ‘SKIP’ option which has been proven worthy – one example is a video streaming app Vevo which added the ‘SKIP’ option and reported increased logins by almost 10%.


Another example is Slack – as opposed to other apps which offer a ‘SKIP’ button at the beginning of the onboarding flow, Slack provided the option on each onboarding screen.

This way, users can leave the process as soon as they feel ready to use the app and it gives them a choice in case they get bored or frustrated – instead of leaving the app, they just exit the onboarding flow.


Providing users with a choice to SKIP onboarding will fit their needs and make them stick around.


Source: slack.com

Motivate First Conversions

If you wish for people who download your app to keep using it, you should offer them certain incentives for completing onboarding tasks.

The ways you can motivate your users will depend on the nature of your app – apps using in-app purchasing as monetization will benefit from time-limited discounts while freemium apps can motivate users by usage-based rewards.

Reward points, coupons, specialized content access, promo codes, free shipping and other offers will help you activate new users and encourage user engagement as well as help drive conversions.

A great example is Starbucks – their app prompts users to create an account where rewards play a major role in the app’s value proposition.

On the following screen, Starbucks even says ‘join rewards’ instead of ‘sign up’ making it clear to users that they can save money by joining their app.


A small incentive from your side can be a great deal for your app’s success.

Use Cross-Channel Messaging

Your app should communicate with your users in a way of short tips and notifications to guide them through the process.

Don’t display unexpected pop-ups or messages but rather communicate how much is left in the process and make users feel welcome and thank them for their time.

Welcome emails, push notifications and in-app messages can work together to help users experience the app’s value and drive them to complete the onboarding process.

You can combine text (e.g. to check out a new feature), emails and push notifications (e.g. to complete a registration process) to engage users and encourage them to open the app again and do specific tasks.


All your onboarding messages should be simple and direct with a visible CTA (call-to-action).


Don’t spam users with numerous messages and don’t try to cover all features or benefits in a single email.



Measure results

In order to achieve an effective onboarding, you’ll have to monitor your metrics.

Analytics is a powerful tool to understand users’ behaviour – you can use various tools for user segmentation which can help you to group users by specific actions and create custom messages for each group.

Monitoring usage and app analytics provide insight into which users experience problems and where. Tracking the pain spot for users can help you mitigate any potential friction points.


There are various platforms to help you monitor app use and track its success. 



Finally, do not forget to test the entire process before offering it to your users. Onboarding experience is as valuable as the app’s experience so make sure that the process is easy and short.

Good onboarding requires a proper blend of educating users on how to use your app and showcasing the value you offer.

The result is a worthwhile user engagement which will increase your app’s success.


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