Onboarding in mobile apps: what it is

While companies understand the importance of retaining potential customers, not all realize what mobile app onboarding is and why it's necessary. Onboarding is the process of quickly adapting new users to the application's interface and showcasing its key features. The faster people reach the main value of the product (or the WOW moment), the higher the likelihood that they will convert into loyal paying users.

When Onboarding is Needed?

The primary reason for using onboarding is a high churn rate among new or existing subscribers. If people cannot derive value from the app within 1-2 sessions, they quickly become disillusioned and seek alternative solutions to their problems. To avoid this scenario, it is essential to design effective onboarding in the app, helping subscribers quickly grasp the product's main features.

Types of App Onboarding

Types of App Onboarding

Presentation: This method involves guiding new users through a series of presentation screens that familiarize them with the app. Developers typically use 3-5 welcome screens designed in the app's interface style.

  1. Personalization: To provide newcomers with a unique interaction experience with the app, companies take their personal data into account. Users are often asked to complete a brief survey, consisting of 2-3 questions, immediately after registration. This approach gives users a better first impression of the product, and they are more eager to explore its features.

  2. App Tour: This type of mobile app onboarding consists of a series of sequential instructions that describe key app functions in a specific order. The duration of these tours depends on the complexity of the product, but companies usually include no more than 5-6 steps in these guides.

  3. Tips and Hints: In this approach, learning relies on popup text hints displayed on the screen when users perform certain actions, such as pressing a button or opening a section.

  4. Updates: This method focuses on existing subscribers who need to be informed about new app features or functions they may have missed. People receive notifications inviting them to evaluate new features directly in the app, or they are sent emails describing the new functions.

Best Practices in Onboarding

Keep onboarding brief: Nobody wants to spend a lot of time learning all the app's functions, so focus on just 4-5 key features of the product.

  1. Offer the option to skip onboarding: Since newcomers often have experience using similar apps, allow them to skip onboarding. Otherwise, they might delete the app without even seeing the interface.

  2. Use context: Contextual hints can not only help people understand a new function but also increase their loyalty to the app's creators. You can provide recommendations at the most appropriate times by tracking subscribers' behavior within the app through heatmaps and other analytical tools.

  3. Use starting pages and empty states: Welcome screens can explain the app's main value in a few steps, and empty states effectively encourage people to provide personal information or take other actions.

  4. Don't ask for registration or a subscription immediately: If people have a chance to realize the app's value before committing, they are more likely to become long-term customers.

6 Onboarding Techniques That Boost User Engagement

  1. Benefits-driven onboarding: This approach involves highlighting several key WOW moments of the app and showing them to new users.

  2. User persona: Develop one or more user personas representing your target audience. Customize onboarding to meet the needs of each persona, providing different segments of subscribers with a more personalized introduction to the product.

  3. User guides and tutorials: Provide step-by-step guides or tutorials for specific features that require more attention. These guides can be displayed within the app's interface or in a separate section.

  4. Streamline subscription sign-up: The fewer steps required for registration in the app, the more likely users will complete the process. Consider allowing registration through social networks or Google accounts.

  5. Push notifications: These notifications can effectively prompt users to interact with the app. For example, if you see that a new user hasn't returned to the app after the first session, you can try to re-engage them with a message about an important feature or an upcoming update.

  6. Email series: Teach users the basics of the app not only within the product but also through onboarding emails. In these emails, describe the app's key functions and maintain users' interest in learning, even several days after registration.


Given the rapid growth in the number of mobile users and the increasing complexity of apps, onboarding is a critical factor in promoting digital products. Industry giants like Facebook and Google have long relied on this process to improve customer retention. Companies aiming to achieve even a fraction of their success should follow suit.

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