A successful app not only has a defined purpose and proper coding, it also must be user-friendly. Furthermore, if it doesn’t make a good first impression with users, chances are, the rest won’t matter. Considering that around 20% of all downloaded apps are only used once, and then never opened again, having an effective onboarding process in place is crucial.

Onboarding is an excellent way to help first-time users familiarize themselves with your app, allow them to understand how it works, and show them what it can do for them. It needs to be very carefully thought out, and perhaps most importantly, done in a subtle, non-obtrusive way. When devising your onboarding plan, you should always consider these basic guidelines.

  • Show users the ultimate benefits they will gain from the app, not just its features.
  • Make the login process simple.
  • Understand the intuition of the potential user.
  • Make use of color to draw user’s attention as to where to navigate.
  • Keep everything relatively

Let’s look at the types of mobile onboarding that exist and tips on how to do so most effectively. The following three categories of onboarding will each be elaborated on further as part of our three-part onboarding series.

3 Types of Mobile Onboarding

Benefits-orientated onboarding

This onboarding process tells the user the essential benefits they will gain from using the app and how to integrate the app into his or her life.

Function orientated onboarding

This onboarding process shows the user the core functions of the app, when they will use them, and the process that they entail.

Progressive onboarding

This onboarding process is interactive, providing the user with instructions as they actually use the app. If your app has an intricate workflow, multiple sections, hidden functionalities, and/or gesture-driven interactions, then progressive onboarding is the best choice. The whole premise behind progressive onboarding is that users learn by doing. This is the most popular and the approach we will focus on in this article.

How to Use Progressive Onboarding

Simplify a complex workflow

Simplifying a complex workflow provides the user with information about certain functionality aspects of the app, but only when those functions are used or initiated. This directly caters to the user learning as they go and gives the user time to fully digest the information. For example, a comprehensive content sharing app might only prompt a user about a certain feature once the user has created a draft of content.

Birdhouse only elaborates on the history button once a user has created their first draft. (Research and Image: Elezea)

Incorporate an element of personalization

Personalization in this circumstance means providing specific tips depending on how the unique user has used the apps. For instance, an app can prompt a user after a period of time to let them know about features they haven’t used yet. Interactive messages and outreach from a support desk can also be implemented.

BBC’s app prompts users after a specific period of time regarding a certain function they haven’t yet utilized.

Point out hidden functions as the user interacts with the app

As apps have become more minimal in terms of the user interface (UI), some creators may assume everything is self-explanatory. However, you know what they about when you assume…It’s important to play it safe and prepare for the user not discovering everything on their own. In this regard, in-line hinting is an excellent way to explain certain features of the app without providing too much information all at once.

Foursquare utilizes in-line hinting to inform the user about different features of the app as they navigate through its different pages.

How not to use Progressive Onboarding

Although progressive onboarding is an excellent way to help a user find their way around an app, it can be done poorly! Be sure to take not of these tips on what you should avoid.

  • Do not clutter the screen with too much information.
  • Let the user navigate the app in their own time, do not provide hints and prompts on every screen.
  • Make sure that if a user is provided with information the font is not too small and/or in a strange font or color, thus making it difficult to read.

The secret with onboarding is a delicate balancing act — provide the user with information about the app at the correct time, while also allowing them to explore and discover on their own. In doing so, you can gradually and successfully onboard your users and keep them coming back.