What is User On-boarding for Mobile Apps and How to Improve it

A3Logics 10 Jul 2023


The user on-boarding experience for new users of your mobile app will make or break their first impression and determine whether they become long-term engaged customers. Unfortunately, many apps overlook or under-prioritize user on-boarding, failing to recognize its outsized impact on customer acquisition, retention, and satisfaction. But done well, user on-boarding can set the stage for a positive relationship between your app and the user that lasts far beyond those critical first moments.

This begins with designing a user onboarding experience that is intuitive, effortless, and instantly valuable for the user. Top mobile application developers  should properly introduce key features and functions in a logical progression that maps to the user’s goals and mental model. User onboarding should minimize friction through simple and concise instructions, exemplary visual design, and eliminating anything that does not immediately prove useful. And it should provide the right amount of context and guidance to give new users the knowledge they need to start accomplishing real tasks from the very beginning.


Here we will discuss what constitutes effective user onboarding for the best mobile app development company and how to design a user onboarding experience that maximizes value for both new users and your business. We’ll cover topics like simplicity, personalization, gamification, tutorials, social login, and more. The ultimate goal is to give you actionable suggestions for analyzing and improving your user onboarding to create a welcome experience that turns first-time users into loyal customers.


What is mobile app user onboarding?


User onboarding refers to the process of preparing new users to use an app or website effectively immediately after they sign up or download it. The user onboarding experience for a mobile app encompasses everything a new user sees from the moment they install the app until they start using its core features.

The main goal of user onboarding is to quickly and easily transition new users from being unfamiliar strangers to becoming productive members. A good user onboarding process orients users by clearly explaining how the app works, what it does, and how to accomplish tasks. Mobile app development company sets expectations for the overall user experience and helps users understand the value the app provides.

User onboarding for mobile apps typically consists of a few key parts:

  • An app tour or walkthrough that introduces core screens and functions
  • Concise instructions and explanations for how to perform tasks
  • Context-sensitive tooltips that appear when users need assistance
  • Suggestions for popular actions new users may want to take first
  • A basic tutorial or training module for learning the ropes
  • Recommendations tailored to the new user’s interests and goals


Why a good customer-user onboarding experience is so essential


A good user onboarding experience makes or breaks a customer’s first impression of your app. A user who struggles during user onboarding or finds it confusing is unlikely to continue using your app. Mobile app development companies only have one chance to make a first impression, so your user onboarding experience must be frictionless, simple, and intuitive.


During user onboarding, Top mobile application developers in USA are trying to understand how your app works and what value it provides. If they have to struggle or search for information, they may quickly become frustrated and uninstall the app. Users expect user onboarding to be self-explanatory and guide them through necessary steps in a logical progression.


After user onboarding, customers will compare their user onboarding experience to those of other apps they use. A poor user onboarding experience could make them lose confidence in your ability to create a high-quality app. On the other hand, frictionless user onboarding could make them eager to explore more of your app’s features.


The Benefits of User Onboarding

User onboarding provides several key benefits for both users and businesses:

For users:


  • Reduced confusion – Users are guided through the initial steps by the mobile app development company to understand how the app works and what they can do with it. This reduces uncertainty and frustration.
  • Increased ability to take useful actions – With proper user onboarding, users can start accomplishing meaningful tasks right away instead of floundering.
  • Greater sense of progress – User onboarding sets the stage for continued progress as users move beyond the basics.

For businesses:


  • Higher conversion rates – Users who smoothly progress through user onboarding are more likely to complete the process and become paying customers.
  • Increased retention – When users can quickly see the value of an app, they are more likely to continue using it over time.
  • More engagement – A good user onboarding helps motivate users to explore more of what the app has to offer.
  • Positive word of mouth- When users have a frictionless user onboarding experience, they are more likely to recommend the app to others.
  • Access to user data – User onboarding often requires users to provide details by the best mobile app development company that gives insight into how to improve the app.


Well-designed user onboarding benefits both users and businesses. For users, it reduces confusion, enables faster progress, and improves the overall experience. For businesses, it leads to more conversions, higher retention, greater engagement, positive PR, and valuable user data. 


Understanding Your Users


When user onboarding users, the content you provide is crucial. The user onboarding content should:

  • Explain the core value or benefits of using your app simply and concisely. Show users why your app will make their life easier.
  • Familiarize users with key features and functions through descriptions, images, videos, and interactive demos. Focus on the 2-3 most important features first.
  • Provide context around how and when users should utilize certain features. Give practical examples and illustrations.
  • Use a friendly, conversational, and helpful tone that builds trust in your app.
  • Segment content for different user types based on their goals, roles, or experience.
  • Keep content brief, scannable, and focused on users’ immediate needs. Avoid overwhelming users with too much information upfront.

The goal is to give users just the right amount of contextual guidance and inspiration through your user onboarding content to motivate them to continue their journey with your app.


Setting Clear User Onboarding Goals


Setting clear and measurable goals is essential for creating a successful user onboarding experience. Some example user onboarding goals may include:

  • Reduce early churn by 50%: Ensure users understand the app’s value and know how to complete basic tasks within the first 3 days.
  • Achieve an 80% task completion rate for initial onboarded tasks: Provide guidance and prompts to help users complete important onboarded actions.
  • Receive 4 out of 5-star ratings for user onboarding usefulness from 20% of new users: Gather feedback to improve the user onboarding continuously.
  • Reach 50% activation of key features within the first week: Showcase and encourage the use of features that deliver the most value.

The more specific and quantifiable the user onboarding goals are, the easier it is to design the right experience, measure progress and optimize. Clear goals also provide alignment across teams on what constitutes a successful user onboarding. Periodically revisiting the goals allows mobile app development companies to refine and improve user onboarding over time.


Designing a Seamless User Onboarding Experience


The user onboarding experience sets the tone for your entire user experience. Designing a seamless user onboarding experience requires careful thought, simplicity, and relevant information.

Only ask for essential information during user onboarding. Avoid asking for too much information upfront as it can overwhelm and confuse users. Top mobile application developers in the USA should focus on getting the minimum required for the core features to work. More details can be gathered over time.


Use a progressive user onboarding approach where you expose features gradually. Don’t overload users with all the information at once. Introduce new features and information as they become relevant to the user. This helps simplify the initial user onboarding.


In conclusion, a seamless user onboarding experience is well-designed for simplicity and relevance. The best mobile app development company gently guides users through the essential steps and information in a progressive, easy-to-understand manner. This ensures users have a smooth start using your mobile app.


Providing Concise and Contextual Guidance


User onboarding guidance is essential in helping new users navigate your mobile app and acquire the skills they need to start using it productively. To be effective, your user onboarding guidance should be concise and contextual.

Concise guidance means communicating exactly what the user needs to know in as few words as possible. Avoid long explanations that overload the user’s working memory. Top mobile app developers in the USA can explain one idea at a time and allow the user to process the information before moving on.

Contextual guidance means providing information at the moment the user needs it most. If guidance is provided too early, the user may forget it by the time it becomes relevant. But if it’s provided too late, the user may already be lost or frustrated. Align guidance closely with the user’s workflow and mobile app development services.

Tools like user onboarding walkthroughs, tooltips, and simple instructions can help deliver concise and contextual guidance. Walkthroughs demonstrate app features step-by-step as the user performs tasks. Tooltips provide brief explanations for interface elements as the user encounters them. Instructions outline the steps to accomplish a specific goal.


Personalizing the User Onboarding Experience


Personalizing the user onboarding experience for your users shows them you care and helps create a feeling of connection. Even simple personalization can make user onboarding more engaging and memorable. Gather essential information from users during signup to get started. Ask for their name, location, interests, and goals for using the app. Avoid asking for too much too soon.

During user onboarding, use the customer’s name in greetings, walkthroughs, and instructions. Mobile app development company in the USA creates a sense of personalization that the experience is tailored just for them. Show recommendations and suggestions based on the user’s stated interests to make the app feel relevant.

As users proceed through user onboarding and reveal more preferences, continue to personalize based on the information collected. Align notifications, recommendations, and primary tasks to the goals the user shared. Personalized experiences increase trust that the app truly understands and can assist the customer.


Gamifying the User Onboarding Process


Gamification is the use of game elements and design techniques in non-game contexts to motivate users. Adding gamification to your mobile app’s user onboarding process can engage and excite new users, reducing friction and improving retention.

Some simple gamification elements top mobile app development companies in the USA can use are:

  • Badges or achievements for completing user onboarding tasks and tutorials
  • Levels or progress bar showing how much user onboarding is remaining
  • Challenges to unlock additional features or content
  • Leaderboards showing how the user compares to others
  • Collectible or customization options to be “unlocked” through user onboarding

These elements tap into human desires for achievement, progress, competition, and self-expression in mobile app development services. They can motivate users to engage more deeply with your user onboarding process and learn about all your app has to offer.


When implementing gamification, keep the elements appropriate and relevant to your app. Avoid mechanics that feel tacked on or gimmicky. Focus on incentives that align with the primary benefits users seek from your app.


A well-designed gamified user onboarding process can increase user delight and engagement during those crucial first moments with your app. It can help transform what might otherwise be a bland tutorial into a fun experience that motivates users to continue their journey.


Simplifying User Onboarding with Social Login


Social login, also known as one-click login, allows users to register or sign in to their mobile app using an existing social media account like Facebook, Google, or Twitter. This simplifies and speeds up the user onboarding process.

With traditional signup forms, users must remember yet another password and provide personal information that is often already available through their social profiles. Social login allows users to leverage existing credentials they’re already familiar with mobile app development services.

For your app, social login offers several benefits during user onboarding:

  • Faster and easier signup. Top mobile app development companies in the USA can get started with your app in just one tap, without filling out long forms.
  • Higher conversion rates. Less friction during signup leads to more users completing the user onboarding process.
  • Access to user profile info. With user permission, you can access name, email, and other details from their social profile to pre-fill signup forms.
  • Increased trust and security. Users tend to trust the security of established social media platforms.

Social login streamlines the user onboarding process for both users and businesses. It reduces abandonment by shortening and simplifying signup. It also enables automatic profile creation and a head start with some user data. For users, social login offers a familiar and low-effort way to get started with your mobile app.


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Main strategies for user on-boarding mobile app users


Here are the main strategies for user onboarding mobile app users:

  • Provide value upfront: Explain concisely what problem the app solves and how users will benefit from using it. Get users to complete simple initial tasks to demonstrate the value.
  • Limit information: Onboard users gradually, providing just enough information at each step for them to progress. Custom mobile app development companies should avoid overwhelming with too much upfront.
  • Make it interactive: Use interactive elements like tutorials, prompts, quizzes, and rewards to actively engage users during user onboarding. This helps reinforce learning.
  • Personalize: Tailor the user onboarding experience based on known user profiles and preferences. Showcase relevant features and recommendations.
  • Measure success: Set clear goals and metrics to measure the effectiveness of your user onboarding. Track metrics like completion rates, time spent, and user feedback.
  • Iterate: Test variations of the user onboarding process. Gather user feedback and optimize the experience on an ongoing basis to continually improve it.
  • Be consistent: Maintain consistency in branding, tone of voice, and visual design throughout the user onboarding experience. Mobile app development services build trust and comfort.
  • Provide support: Offer FAQs, guides, and live chat/email support in case users get stuck during user onboarding. This mitigates negative first impressions.

These strategies focus on ease of use, relevance, engagement, and measuring the impact of your user onboarding experience. The smoother and more helpful the user onboarding journey is for users, the more likely they are to continue using your app in the long run.


Common components of mobile app user on-boarding flow


Here are the common components of most mobile app user onboarding flows:

  • Welcome screen: The first screen users see after installing the app. It welcomes users and invites them to get started.
  • App tour: An interactive walkthrough that highlights the app’s key features and functions. Often uses pop-ups, arrows, and highlighting.
  • User onboarding tasks: Simple initial tasks assigned to demonstrate the app’s value and utility in a hands-on way.
  • User profile setup: Form for users to enter basic details like name, email, and preferences. A custom mobile app development company should consider allowing import from social profiles.
  • Permissions: Requests for necessary permissions (location, photos, contacts, etc.) Explain why each permission is required.
  • Push notifications: Option to enable push notifications to receive important alerts and updates.
  • Feedback prompts: Top mobile app development companies  should request feedback to improve the user onboarding experience. Can use rating scales, questions, or open comments.
  • Tutorials: Interactive in-app tutorials that walk users through accomplishing tasks and using features. Often optional.
  • Guides: Text, image, and video-based resources for users to refer to for learning at their own pace.
  • Helpful tips: Contextual tips and prompts pop up with useful suggestions and reminders.
  • Feedback survey: End-of-user onboarding survey to collect feedback on how to improve the experience for the next users.

While the exact flow will differ based on your app, most effective user onboardings contain several of these common components to quickly get users started, demonstrate value and help users achieve early successes.




The user on-boarding experience for mobile app users sets the tone for how new customers will perceive and use your app going forward. A well-designed user onboarding minimizes confusion, builds trust, and introduces users to the core value your app provides most helpfully. The small details like using the customer’s name, short and clear instructions, concise guidance at the right moments, and eliminating unnecessary steps or information all contribute to an effortless user onboarding that inspires user confidence. 


While gamification, tutorials, and personalization can enhance the experience, the foundation of any good user onboarding comes down to simplicity, clarity, and ensuring every step brings the user one step closer to achieving their goals with your app. As top mobile application developers in the USA test and refine your user onboarding over time, focusing on continuously improving the process from the user’s perspective. When new users can get up and running intuitively, they are more likely to realize the value and utility of your mobile app – and that starts with a stellar user onboarding experience.




Why is user on-boarding important?


User on-boarding is important because it sets the tone for a user’s entire experience with your mobile app. Users form an impression of your app during their first minutes using it, and that impression strongly influences whether they continue to engage or uninstall the app. User onboarding helps users understand the value your app provides and how to achieve their goals within it. 

When user onboarding is seamless and frictionless, users are more likely to see the benefit of your app and become long-term customers. On the other hand, a poorly designed user onboarding process by top mobile app development companies in the USA leads to confusion, frustration, and high abandonment rates. So, setting the stage right from the start through effective user on-boarding is critical to driving user acquisition, retention, and satisfaction.


What are the best practices for user on-boarding mobile app users?


Here are some best practices for user onboarding mobile app users:

  • Focus on simplicity and relevance. Keep user onboarding steps, explanations, and instructions as short and clear as possible. Only provide information that is immediately useful.
  • Be progressive. Don’t overload users with all app details at once. Introduce features gradually as they become relevant to the user.
  • Use visual aids. Supplement written instructions with images, videos, and interactive demonstrations to cater to different learning styles.
  • Provide context-sensitive help. Deliver guidance precisely when and where users need it most, within the natural flow of their tasks.
  • Allow users to proceed at their own pace. Don’t force users to complete user onboarding steps before they’re ready.
  • Personalize the experience. Use the user’s name and tailor initial recommendations to their interests to create a more meaningful user on-boarding.
  • Test user onboarding with real users. Top mobile app development companies in the USA should iteratively refine the user onboarding process based on usability testing with representative users.
  • Measure key metrics. Track metrics like completion rates, time user onboarding, and completion of optional vs required steps to identify opportunities for improvement.
  • Re-engage users over time. Revisit user onboarding for major app updates to keep users up to date on new features and functions.

These best practices focus on aspects like simplicity, relevance, progressive nature, use of visual aids, personalization, and testing/measuring the user onboarding experience and process. Continual improvement through testing and metric monitoring is also recommended. What are the best practices for user onboarding mobile app users?


What are the topics to explore if I want to know more about user on-boarding?


If you’d like to learn more about optimizing your mobile app user on-boarding, there are several topics worth exploring. You could research the stages users move through from download to engagement to define a user on-boarding funnel. Creating a user on-boarding strategy by setting goals, priorities, and your general approach will help guide your design process. Studying the best practices and what research shows makes for a successful experience can provide ideas for improving your own. 


Measuring metrics like completion rates and time spent on onboarding will help you evaluate effectiveness. Analyzing your competitors’ user on-boarding can inspire. Using templates and tools can simplify your work. And testing user on-boarding with users and then iterating based on their feedback will ensure you’re solving the right problems. 


When does a mobile app need user on-boarding?


Every mobile app that wants to provide value to and retain users needs an effective user onboarding experience. User onboarding is particularly critical for complex apps that have many features, or require users to understand new concepts and workflows. Apps focused on productivity, creativity or that aim to change users’ behaviors especially benefit from user onboarding that properly orients users and establishes best practices from the start. 

Even seemingly simple apps can lose users due to a poor first impression if user onboarding is not thoughtful and intentional. Any app with an education, guidance, or “lifestyle change” component should provide user onboarding to help users make the most of what the app offers. Without proper user onboarding for new users, most apps will struggle to activate and engage customers over time.