User onboarding for mobile, a getting started guide

Marketers are spending huge amount of money getting users to download the app but, this is only the first half of the battle. A bigger battle is to successfully onboard the user. Infact, if the user are not onboard successfully, the marketing budget is down on the drain.

User onboarding helps to make user become successful which leads to higher retention and maximized value from every visit.

What’s UserOnboarding ?

User Onboarding is the user’s first date with your app. Delight them and this will lead you to the second date; confuse them, ignore them, ask too much from them and you will never hear from them again.

What’s not UserOnboarding ? It’s not a fix for crappy UX

Most apps follows standard design principles and self explanatory UX. However, every app faces a unique challenge to convey the message and many apps in order to improve UX, often uses non standard interactions.

Take an example of the app Clear:

User Onboarding: Clear App

Image source: [Gizmodo]

The app presents a unique minimalistic UI, controlled almost entirely by gestures.  This unique user interface has set Clear app apart from the rest (over 2.5 million people uses Clear app and the app has received numerous design awards).

However, the distinctiveness introduces a new set of challenges for the publisher to convey the non-standard interactions used in the app. The app uses ‘walkthrough user onboarding’ technique to introduce these non standard interactions to the new users.

The lesson here is, onboarding is not a substitute for poor design, it is there to be used to enhance the user experience.

As Jakob Nielsen puts it, 

“Even though it is better if the system can be used without documentation, it may be necessary to provide help and documentation. Any such information should be easy to search, focused on the user's task, list concrete steps to be carried out, and not be too large.”

- Jakob Nielsen,  ‘10 general principles for interaction design’

Now that we understand when to use user onboarding techniques and the importance of it, let’s review the types of user onboarding with few examples.

Types of User Onboarding

There are 3 common techniques for effective mobile user onboarding:

  • Function oriented onboarding
  • Benefit oriented onboarding
  • Progressive onboarding

Progressive Onboarding:

In this technique, a user is onboarded as they progress through to that part of the app. This techniques ensures that user is not overwhelmed by many options.   

When to use: If an app uses complicated workflows, the progressive onboarding onboards the user in baby steps.
Example: YouTube Capture gives limited set of instruction at a time onboarding user as they use the app, so that users are not overwhelmed.  

User Onboarding: Youtube

Benefit oriented onboarding:

In this onboarding technique, the benefits of an app to user’s life is communicated. The goal of this onboarding is not to communicate features and how to use the app but instead it’s to focus on the value that the app provides.

When to use: This onboarding technique is used when you want to show what the app does and how the user can use it to their advantage.

Example: Instagram Hyperlapse communicates the benefit of using the app in first few screens. As you can see in the image, the app doesn’t talk about the functionality or how the app works, but instead communicates that it lets you create amazing timelapses.

User Onboarding: Hyperlapse

Function Oriented onboarding

In this technique, the key functionality of an app is communicated. The goal of this onboarding is get user started with the main functionalities of the app

When to use: If you app is complex with large number of features, use this onboarding technique to onboarding the user. However  do not onboard obvious function or shows where the icon is place, keep it minimal and onboard only one function per page.

Example: Clear app has a gesture driven interface and this distinctiveness introduces a new set of challenges for the publisher to convey the non-standard interactions used in the app.Clear app uses function oriented onboarding, communicating this non-standard interactions and the app’s functionality.

User Onboarding: Clear App

Build, Test, Iterate Onboarding

You don’t get a second chance for making a great first impression. What happens after a user lands on your product is the delicate opportunity to make or break relationship. Every app brings a unique set of challenges. Use the tools and techniques learned above to measure, test and validate onboarding ideas.  Don’t just be data driven, be experience driven.

UXCam can help you test your onboarding techniques. Learn more.

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