5 Tips to Improve Your Mobile App User Onboarding Process

81% of users claim an app needs to make a good first impression if they are to continue using it.

The first impression for a mobile app is the user onboarding screens. These are often the first set of screens which users interact with, get familiarized with the functionality and also set the expectations from the app.

User onboarding is also the process of transforming first time users into valued customers. Getting a user to download your app is half the battle. If your user doesn’t use the app, it will just gather dust on the phone.

The first few minutes of a user’s experience often determines which side your app is headed. You really don’t want to screw up the user onboarding process: 25% of users abandon an app after a single session.

So here are 5 tips for improving your mobile onboarding process to ensure you capture the attention of your users better than your competitors.

#1 Convey the benefits to the users clearly

Most of the apps commit this mistake: they try to sell the features of their product instead of how it actually improves the user’s life.

Samuel Hulick of User Onboarding wrote a blog post on Features vs. Benefits, pointing out the clear difference between the two with an incredible graphic:

User Onboarding checklist

Samuel explained the above image by saying:

“People don’t buy products; they buy better versions of themselves. When you’re trying to win customers, are you listing the attributes of the flower or describing how awesome it is to throw fireballs?”

He also included this Tweet from Jason Fried on the topic:

So, the bottomline here is: ‘Present the benefits or the value of the app to the users.’

Here’s how the web service platform, IFTTT does it:

The iOS app for IFTTT uses simple coach marks and swipe buttons to explain the value of the app. It explains one simple statement of ‘If this then that’ with 3 recipe examples and the resulting action.

#2 Keep the onboarding process short

An average human can concentrate on a particular activity or subject for just 8 seconds. Only!

Onboarding is all about quickly demonstrating the app’s core values and what added benefits the app will provide to a user. So, make sure you show the key strengths of your app by utilizing as few screens as possible during the onboarding process. Essentially, reduce the time to convey value.

In the above example of IFTTT, the app used just 6 screens to explain its whole functionality. If the user immediately understands and finds value in your app, they will become an active and engaged user.

Don’t go on and on with your tutorials and walkthrough about how your app functions. The users might just feel exhausted by the end of the onboarding process.

Pocket app onboarding experience is pretty lean. In a series of 5 static screens they demonstrate how to use the app.

mobile user onboarding

#3 Give them an option to skip

Yes, there is no harm in this.

Not all users need to be spoon-fed. For instance, the millennial generation are more accustomed to onboarding. They can figure out the most complicated functionality of an app in less than few minutes. However, it doesn’t work the same way for the baby boomers.

Consider another scenario, your new app user has seen your demo videos, or visited your landing page, or have heard about your functionality through word of mouth.

So, everyone doesn’t necessarily need an onboarding process.

A simple ‘Skip-button’, can be very helpful here.

Here’s how AirBnB does it:

how to onboard new app user

The small skip button ensures both groups get what they want.

#4 Simplify logins and your user’s life

Logins and registrations can be a tedious task and most of the users hate it. They can be a big turnoff for your new app users.

In a research conducted with UK mobile users, 56% of users said they have not signed up for an app or mobile service because the registration process was too time consuming.

Here’s your solution: Social logins. This is the fastest way they can connect with your app in seconds. Instruct your mobile app development company to give them an option to link their account to social networks.

Here’s how 500px app has done their logins:

mobile apps onboarding process

500px app gives 3 options for social logins and an option alongside to create an account with an Email address and password. Users can choose according to their convenience.

Another way of doing this.

The Slack app takes the user convenience even one step ahead. They use Email based identity verification for users to even avoid typing their passwords. That makes the sign in process smooth.

user onboarding best examples

Another tip, if your app can function without creating a user login, then give users an option to sign in later. You can take inspiration from the newsreading app, Circa. Current news: the app has announced that it’s shutting down soon.

what are the best examples of user onboarding

#5 Personalise and be human

Your app is a software, but the mind behind it is human, and so are your users.

Using familiar language or addressing them by their name is a great way to engage users during the onboarding process.

Here’s an example:

Remember in one of our blog we spoke about app deep linking?

Recommendation app Gogobot leveraged that. So, when a new user comes via any social platform they fetch and remember their personal details to personalize their onboarding process, making new users 78% more likely to register in the app.

best user onboarding techniques

Here’s another way of doing it.

Be human by talking like one or interacting with your users.

app user retention tactics

Mailbox uses very interactive language while onboarding their new users. By using terms like ‘Great job!’ they not only motivate the new user but also make the onboarding experience emotionally engaging.

You can also get inspired by the Pocket app:

onboarding strategies of popular apps

Notice, the way they greeted their users with a ‘Hi’. They are talking to people like they’re people, or even a friend. This makes a lot of difference.


User onboarding is a process which can make or break your app. So, start testing out the suggestions above and take steps to optimize your user onboarding process.

Image credits: Sodastudio, Optimizely, Branch Blog, my.umbc

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