The Do’s & Don’ts of Mobile App User Onboarding

by | Jun 14, 2016 | Apps

So – you’ve built a beautiful, innovative, user-friendly, crispy speed fiend of a mobile app – and you’re ready to start signing up some users! But wait – do you have an actual plan for new user onboarding?

User onboarding is the process of increasing the odds that new users will become successful in adopting your mobile app. With all of the effort and thought that went into the app itself, it’s very important that you provide a user-friendly onboarding process so he or she can get to know and love it like you do.  

With that said, there are several ways you can ensure a successful mobile app user onboarding process. Here are the do’s and don’ts of onboarding users for your mobile app:

The Do’s of Mobile App User Onboarding

Think back to any signup process in your lifetime. Did you enjoy it?

We know the answer is no – and that’s because a sign up is like a trip to the doctor or an awkward family dinner – you simply make the best of it. That’s your job as your mobile app onboarding agent – to make the best of a neutral, or even negative, process for your user.  

Start with first impressions and include a fun, visually pleasing background, like a high definition image of someone making use of your app, or even an image that evokes the feeling you want your user to get by using it. Put these on the signup page so the user immediately gets the effect. Instagram and Pinterest, not surprisingly, use images very well in this portion of their app onboarding process. Like Pinterest’s sign up page, you can even include a background that models how to use the product, with the signup form in the foreground. Continue the rich imagery with a fun splash screen while app pages are loading.

Do utilize clear calls to action (CTAs) to guide your user through the signup process; copy is just as important to onboarding as your visual elements. In fact, your copy will help guide the user through the process just as much as your colors, buttons, and images will – so it’s important to be clear, and influence your user through the power of language, too.

Do you want the user to take a certain action – like signing up for a trial instead of hitting “cancel”? Do help guide the user by putting in bold the action you prefer the user to take. If there is a less preferable option the user could take, like leaving the signup process, or omitting information, make that option less enticing than the preferred option both visually and with the art of the copy.

Do continue to engage and delight throughout the process, however long it takes, by including image-evoking taglines and value propositions that explain how the app will be beneficial to the user. Take a look at Buffer’s signup page, for example. It contains a tagline that says, “a better way to share on social media” on the sign up page – and you can hear and feel the personality in their writing.

Do always try to think like the user and avoid extra steps – many apps make the annoying mistake of having the user completely leave the app, enter his or her inbox, click on a link, and then go back into the app again. Clear out the clutter and leave the extra work out of it!

Do also be as brief as possible with signup. For instance, you can add copy that says “By signing up, I agree to the terms” with the terms actually hyperlinked, so there’s one less box to check.

Are your users visiting your app less frequently? Do use a quick trick and change your app icon’s colorway from time to time, especially if stats are low – Apple Music pulls this off expertly.

The Don’ts of Mobile User Onboarding

Remember, it’s all about easy. Don’t make the user guess! Super high contrast buttons are great ways to show what the preferred action is for the user to take. Think of the “Sign up with Facebook” or “Sign up with Twitter” buttons on a lot of the most popular mobile apps – they’re blue and light blue, respectively, and much richer and much bigger than the smaller grey ones that allow you to sign up with a phone number or email.

And don’t make things seem like a big deal. You’ll often be asking for a lot of personal information during the sign up – so you’re going to have to make the user comfortable, just like in any face to face customer service experience. Try tactics like designing a tiny, cute little field to grab personal information like email addresses – this makes it psychologically seem like a “no biggie request”.

Instagram does a good job of assuring new users during signup that data like full name and phone number are optional – but explains that it will help “make it easy to help friends find you” on the app, giving you the full explanation of the benefit that you will receive if you do include it. It also tells you when your information will be private, like the sigh-and-continue copy, “no one will see your phone number”.

Do also keep the user experience in mind, and do hand-hold the user throughout the entire process, just like a customer service representative would walk a new user through a signup on a hotline or in a brick and mortar store. The key is to shift the same concepts over to the digital arena and into our mobile apps. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do in the face to face world of customer service – don’t make things more confusing than they need to be, or inconvenience your user before you show them the value of your product or service.

And remember this general rule of thumb: The more you do for your user, the better!

Tell us by commenting: As a mobile app designer, what are your personal do’s and don’ts for user onboarding?

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