Onboarding in mobile applications: what is it

Onboarding in mobile applications: what is it

Onboarding in mobile applications: why is it needed

While companies understand the importance of retaining new leads, not all of them understand what mobile app onboarding is and why it is needed. This process is about adapting new users to the application interface as quickly as possible and showing them its key features. The faster people get to the core value of the product (or WOW moment), the more likely they are to convert into loyal paying users.

When onboarding is needed

The main reason for using onboarding is the high churn rate of new or existing subscribers. If people cannot benefit from the application within 1-2 sessions, they quickly become frustrated and go looking for alternative ways to solve their problem. To avoid this scenario, you need to work out competent onboarding in the application, which would help subscribers quickly master the main features of the product.

Types of onboarding applications:

  • Presentation. The essence of this method is that new users are guided through a series of presentation screens that make it easier for them to familiarize themselves with the application. As a rule, developers use 3-5 welcome screens and design them in the style of the product interface.
  • Personalization. To provide “newbies” with a unique experience of interacting with the application, companies take into account their personal data. Most often, people are asked to complete a mini-survey, including 2-3 items, immediately after registration. Thanks to this approach, they get the best first impression of the product and learn its functions with great interest.
  • Tour of the application. Such onboarding in a mobile application comes down to using a series of sequential instructions that describe key functions to users in a specific order. The duration of the tours depends on the complexity of the product, but usually companies include no more than 5-6 steps in these guides.
  • Hints and tips. Here, training is assigned to pop-up text prompts that are displayed on the screen when users perform some action, for example, click on a button or open a section.
  • Update. This method focuses on existing subscribers who need to be informed about new features in the application or features that they overlooked. People receive notifications with a call to evaluate the innovations right in the product, or they are sent letters with descriptions of new features.

Good practices in onboarding:

  1. Don’t make the training too long. Nobody wants to spend a lot of time on mastering all the functions of the application, so onboarding should be focused only on 4-5 key “chips” of the product.
  2. Give an opportunity to skip the tutorial. Since “beginners” are often experienced users, they should be left with the option to skip the tutorial. Otherwise, they may uninstall the application without ever seeing the interface.
  3. Use context. Contextual clues can not only help a person understand a new feature, but also increase their loyalty to the creators of the application. By tracking subscriber behavior in a product through heatmaps and other analytics tools, you can make recommendations to them at the most appropriate times.
  4. Use start pages and empty states. Welcome start pages can explain the value of an app to people in a few steps, and blank states can effectively encourage people to provide personal information or take other actions.
  5. Don’t ask to sign up or buy a subscription right away. If people have time to realize the value of an app even before they make a commitment, they are more likely to become long-term customers.

6 onboarding techniques that drive app user engagement:

  1. Benefit-based onboarding. As part of this approach, you need to highlight several key WOW moments of the application and show them to new users;
  2. Consumer portrait. This technique consists of developing one or more user persona (image of an ideal client) for the target users of the application. Onboarding then adjusts to the needs of each of these “personas”, thereby providing different segments of subscribers with a more personalized experience when they get to know the product.
  3. User manuals, instructions. Provide subscribers with step-by-step guides or instructions for specific features that require more attention. They can be displayed both in the interface and in a separate section of the application.
  4. Simplify your subscription. The fewer steps people need to complete to sign up for the app, the more likely they are to complete the process. This is where registration via social networks or a Google account will come in handy.
  5. Push notifications. These notifications can effectively nudge people to interact with the app. For example, if you see that after the first session the “newbie” has never logged into the account, you can try to return it with a message about an important function or an upcoming update.
  6. Series of email messages. You can teach subscribers the basics of the application not only in the product itself, but also outside it – using onboarding mailings. In such letters, people are described the main functions of the product and whet their interest in learning even a few days after registration.
6 onboarding techniques that drive app user engagement:


Considering that the number of mobile users is growing rapidly and applications are gradually becoming more complex, onboarding is an important factor in the promotion of such digital products. Web giants like Facebook and Google have long relied on this process for better customer retention, and companies looking to achieve at least a fraction of their success should follow suit.

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