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How Proper App Onboarding Helps Improve UX

Posted by Nikki Tabberrah
November 17, 2022

Getting the lay of the land when it comes to mobile app familiarization can be quite tricky, especially for those who are digitally challenged. Lucky are the younger generations for having the skills to easily navigate through mobile apps, especially those that qualify as social media platforms. While not everyone is gifted the ability to be social media savvy, app developers have found a way to make sure everyone, regardless of age, can navigate through the apps that they create. 

An average user spends almost 3 hours on their phone on a daily basis. In 2020, a study estimated that there are around 260 million unique mobile users in the US, and a smartphone usually houses 40-80 mobile applications. Quite a number isn’t it? Especially if you multiply how many mobile applications overall have been downloaded since. 

While the mobile application user population looks steep, only 18 across a pool of 40 apps are being utilized. With that being said, how do you ensure that your app is part of the 45% that users keep coming back to? One of the best ways to ensure usability is by making sure users get a good grasp of how your app works. You might have probably encountered skippable how-to’s when using an app you just downloaded — this is called the app onboarding process.

An app onboarding process teaches the user how to navigate your app in a simple way. These would usually include arrows and definitions and would pop up as soon as the mobile app is opened for the first time. As an app developer or if you're a business owner looking to release your own app, there are three approaches to how you can onboard a user and improve user experience.

The Progressive Approach

As the name suggests, progressive onboarding allows the user to learn as they go. Slowly unfolding the features of the application, pop-up balloons explain how a certain facet works as the user operates the application. 


Image Source: UXCam

One example of a progressive onboarding approach is when an app helps you use the in-app camera option. Specific instructions will appear on the screen on how to take a photo, how to use a geotag, or even how to edit to name a few. This is also common among games such as Candy Crush which guides you on new features that come along with the game as soon as you level up. These types of apps guide you at certain stages of your use to introduce new features that would make sure you still linger longer.

The Benefit-Oriented Approach

Mobile apps that use this approach focus on highlighting the benefits they would receive once they use the app. It is said that this approach appeals more to the emotions of the user which is correct because whether you like it or not, people would not care what your mobile app does but what it can do for them.

One of the best examples of a mobile app with a benefit-oriented approach is Airbnb. In three slides, you are instantly informed of what the app can do for you, unlike the progressive approach that focuses more on how you can get a better grasp of how the app works little by little.

Image Source: Airbnb

The Functional Approach

The functional approach gives users the load down on the essential “how-to-use” of a mobile app. One of the most famous apps to ever use a functional approach which we probably all know is TikTok. While most people think that only the young know the ins and outs of the app, TikTok actually has its fair share of older users, especially those who run a business. Of course, as adults, it would be easier for us to get step-by-step instructions whether in text or video format. In the case of TikTok, text bubbles would usually appear to give you the basics on how to shoot your video.

The functional approach is also commonly seen in blogs and websites with their listicle approach to how to use a certain mobile app but in this article. We are focusing on mobile apps.

Man Holding Phone

There is no shame in admitting that there were times when we could not for the life of us understand how a certain app works. It is either that customers are not that digitally savvy and they can always choose to pursue other means of satisfying their needs. But as business owners who have or are planning to develop their own mobile apps, you must make sure that you are bridging your customers with the evolution your business is going through. You do not want to lose customers just because they could not figure out how to tinker with your mobile app right? With that being said, we have also compiled for you, dear business owner, the best practices you can implement on a user’s mobile app onboarding to improve user experience. As well as a list of trends you might want to try!

Best Practices When It Comes To Mobile App Onboarding Experience


Know Your Mobile App and Your Onboarding Strategy

A lot of business owners would leave it to their app developers to design and launch their mobile apps for them. Of course, we want to leave it to the experts but it is also great if you work with them every step of the way since you know your customers best. Will your current customer population keep up with your business with a mobile app? Should your approach be progressive? Functional? Or benefit-oriented? Only you as a business owner would know which suits your customers best and while you won’t have as much knowledge on how to develop a mobile app, there is still a valuable contribution that you can make while your product takes shape.

Include the option to SKIP

With the statistic that around 80 mobile applications are downloaded on a single smartphone, there would also be a probability that someone will know how to navigate your mobile app with no help needed. While you want to ensure the best experience for your user, make sure to also include a SKIP button. If you force a user to sit down through the whole onboarding process even if they do not need it, there is a chance that they would rather stop using your app.

Make sure you don’t put too much information on the screen

The essence of a pleasant mobile app onboarding experience is to make sure your user does not get too overwhelmed with everything they need to know in order to use your platform. While a certain group of people could navigate and easily go about their business on your app, a certain population won’t and you also have to cater to them. Putting too much information on their screen would not make communication easier, the right amount of words would get the job done to tell them what to do.

Find ways how to redirect customers back to your app

Now that you got over the hill of making sure your users and customers acclimatize to how to use your mobile app, you need to make sure they come back. Of course, there are multiple ways how you can make this happen. One is ensuring your push notifications game is strong. Whenever your app pops up on the notification center of your user’s phone, you have to make sure that the headline and subtlest would make them want to click and get diverted to your mobile app. Another strategy is connecting your posts on social media platforms especially if it is a product or service listing, they would be given the option to run it in the app.


Use metrics to determine if your onboarding process is a success

Lastly, one of the things you need to find out if your onboarding process was effective is to measure using metrics or tools. For websites and mobile apps, we have this thing called bounce rate

Bounce rate measures how long a user stays on your website or app’s landing page before making an exit. Investing in websites and mobile apps involves money and you want to make sure that your hard-earned dollars are being reinvested into your company. A good onboarding experience would not just equip your users with the skills they need to maximize their mobile app users but it should also entice them to explore the other parts of your mobile app ultimately leading to a sale.


Getting users and customers aboard your mobile app is just the first step to ensuring they have a pleasant purchasing journey. Developing your app that addresses the needs of your users not just in the interface but from the very first time they set foot on it dictates how their experience would be — they may or may not be fond of seeking your service through this tool. As a business owner, with the end goal to make a sale in mind, you must also map out how to encourage your customers or users to reinvest back the time, money, and effort you put into your mobile app. With a good onboarding strategy, you are well on your way to achieving that goal and more!


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