The Do’s and Don’ts of Onboarding Users Into Your Mobile Application

Jack McGrath — 10 July, 2024

How do I login? What app is this again? Wait, why do you want to send me notifications? Often overlooked, onboarding is one of the most critical processes to get right when designing a mobile application. In this post, we’ll walk through what should and shouldn’t be in your app’s onboarding flow.

But first, what is onboarding? *Onboarding* (or an *onboarding flow*) is the set of steps the user undergoes from when they run your app for the first time, until they can access the app’s main content. 

A good onboarding flow should strive to:

  • Provide the user with everything they need to know
  • Not be too long
  • Get the user to the core of your app

The user may be poorly onboarded if the process is complex or there are too many required steps.

There is no perfect onboarding process. Each app will have different needs, and different actions that must be performed. Chamonix has produced many mobile apps for our customers, with each having a different flow. Each of these apps has provided us with learnings in the guise of a set of do’s and don’ts. We recommend following them when building your next mobile app.

Don’t: Have multiple slides/pages that tell the user why they should use your app

Ten years ago, you would have been very familiar with onboarding slides.

These slides were typically colourful and playful, showcasing animations and illustrations. By swiping through pages, it was assumed that the user would look at the pretty pictures and immediately love their experience with the app.

But that wasn’t the case. Most users would get bored and try to skip through to the end of the slides, likely without even reading them. Having slides causes more clicks, more interaction, and a longer onboarding experience.

Do: Provide a one-page elevator pitch

If your app isn’t instantly recognisable (like Facebook, Instagram or Youtube), the first page is your chance to hit the user with your elevator pitch.

In your elevator pitch you will:

  • Remind the user of your app’s name
  • Provide some quick dot points on what they get out of using your app
  • Give a call to action to “Get started”.

Don’t: Ask the user to turn on notifications or other permissions

Check out this new post!” “Your friend sent you a new request!” “You have a new match!” Push notifications should provide users with a reason to return to your app, but incorrectly designing their frequency can lead to your users becoming irritated. 

Because people receive so many notifications per day, you need to provide the user with a reason to turn them on. If you immediately show the “Your app wants to send you notifications” prompt without giving the user a reason, they will likely decline the request.

So, what’s the best method for requesting the user to turn on push notifications?

The answer is to only ask the user once they have performed an action in your app’s core functionality that benefits from them having push notifications enabled. For example: when they message their first friend, you can ask them: “To be notified when your friend messages you, please turn on push notifications”. By providing a reason, at the right time, the user will be more likely to turn them on.

Do: Provide immediate access to your app’s privacy policy and terms and conditions

The minute that the user runs your app for the first time, they will likely be inherently accepting your app’s privacy policy and your app’s terms and conditions.

As apps become greedier with their data intake, users have become more aware of privacy policies, and the usage of their data. To respect the user, it’s a good idea to make the two policies easy to find on the first page. While you’re at it, try and make the policies easy to read and understand.

Don’t: Finish onboarding when the user gets to your main content

The user is signed in, they understand what the app’s about and they’re all ready to get started. Don’t think it’s all over! It’s time to start thinking about the rest of your app.

Are there any places where you could add some helpful tips or support in places that might be complex or not easily understood? It’s always worth showing your app to people who aren’t involved in the design or development of the app. Any positive or negative feedback will aid and assist you in crafting an easy-to-use mobile app experience.

Do: Try to reduce your onboarding flow

Created an award-winning onboarding flow? Well done! Don’t stop here though. Now that you have an onboarding flow, it’s time to reassess it. Are there any pages that could be combined? Any pages that aren’t necessary?Do you even need that elevator pitch at the start? Are your users likely to already know what your app is for?

Are your users already logged in on another one of your apps? Maybe you can utilise shared storage or passwords to save them from signing in twice!

With a reduced and easy to follow onboarding flow, you will hopefully start to see more users go from install to a regular use. 

Need help to improve your mobile app’s onboarding process? Contact us to get started.