When launching an app, you need to spend a lot of time and resources to attract users. You can pull people into your app using a variety of means, including advertising, referral programs, public relations and content marketing. But when people finally download an app, they sometimes feel abandoned. You must clearly show users why they need your app.

Studies reveal that 90% of all downloaded apps are used only once and then eventually deleted by users. People often abandon apps because of a poorly designed interface or an overall negative experience. Instead of having their problem solved by the app, people get confused trying to wade through a jungle of screens, menus and buttons.

For users to give your app a second chance, they need to understand four things:

  • why they need the app,
  • what the app can do for them,
  • what are its most important features,
  • how to use these features.

The best way to communicate the purpose of your app is through an engaging onboarding experience.

What’s Onboarding?

The term “onboarding” comes from the field of human resources. It means helping a new employee adapt to a new workplace. According to UserOnboard, in software development, onboarding is about helping users to successfully adopt and fully embrace a product.

Onboarding follows the 80/20 rule. It is effective only if you can quickly teach people how to use the small subset of features that they will spend 80% of their time using. But you should also explain why those features are so useful.

Onboarding is accomplished by displaying a set of brief messages that show users how to interact with the app to solve a problem or that show the app’s main idea or killer features. Onboarding can take several forms:

  • introductory slides or video,
  • tips,
  • interface tour,
  • content samples,
  • hybrid solution.

All of these solutions are effective at communicating with users. Choose the one that would work best for your target audience and that makes sense for your app’s functionality.

An onboarding wizard might be the best strategy for an app that has to cater to various tastes.


Now that we know the different types of onboarding, let’s figure out how to design an onboarding experience to be as delightful as possible.
If you were to design onboarding for a photo-editing app, you could create four to five introductory slides. A financial app with charts, graphs and budgeting functionality might require a detailed tour or a system with tips. For a music-editing app, you could implement a helper to briefly explain how to use the controls to create a track.

Some designers take a hybrid approach, combining two or more types. For example, you could combine an introductory video containing clues and a help menu with detailed instructions.

Trigger positive emotions

Once people start using an app, they will easily forget the introductory training and get lost in the UI. To point them in the right direction, you could gamify the app. For example, you could provide tips along with “achievements,” or praise users for completing an assignment. Achievements trigger positive emotion. If people associate your product with a feeling of success, they will continue using it.

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