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February 09, 2024
14 min read

Mobile App Onboarding Use Cases and Best Practices

In this article, we will discuss mobile app onboarding best practices and use cases so that you can effectively convert new users into paying subscribers.

Mobile App Onboarding Use Cases and Best Practices

In the highly competitive mobile environment, there is a relentless battle for user attention. Mobile applications have reached such a level of sophistication that only truly high-quality products that deliver meaningful value to the user can successfully monetize and scale revenues.

Another significant factor is the speed of consumption and decision-making. Mobile in general is characterized by fast sessions, and the decision to use certain applications is made in minutes or even seconds.

With this in mind, it becomes clear why it is so important to engage the user in the first few minutes of the app.

Mobile App Onboarding options

Quick Start Mode

 Example - StepsApp Pedometer Example - StepsApp Pedometer

Typically, this approach only requires users to create an account during the registration process. They become familiar with the application by learning and using it on their own. This method works well for applications that do not require initial setup and have a user interface that users can easily understand without assistance.

Customize the application to suit your needs

Example – ScreenKit - App Icons & WidgetsExample – ScreenKit - App Icons & Widgets

The self-customization model for mobile apps requires users to customize the app during installation. Multiple screens allow users to personalize their app. They can make meaningful choices such as customization options and data usage preferences. These screens can also include agreeing to the app's terms and conditions and privacy policy.

Advertising the benefits of the app

Example – PREQUEL: Aesthetic Pic EditorExample – PREQUEL: Aesthetic Pic Editor

In a benefits model, the onboarding process shows new users the key benefits of your app. Here you use a video, slider, or automated storyboard to show users the key benefits of your app during the onboarding process.

Depending on your app, you may want to add a few customization steps after showing users the key benefits of your app.

Functional Description

This includes the onboarding model that describes the key features of the app.

The mobile app key features onboarding model is similar to the user benefits model. However, instead of highlighting the key features of the app, this approach focuses on demonstrating the key features to users immediately after they first launch the app. Like the mobile app key feature Introduction model, this method uses videos, sliders, and animated storyboards to demonstrate the key features of the app.

Progressive onboarding

Example – ScreenKit - App Icons & WidgetsExample – ScreenKit - App Icons & Widgets

Finally, progressive onboarding. In this case, we don't show all the tutorial screens one at a time, but we teach the user gradually as he or she progresses in using the app.

This onboarding model does not overwhelm users with a list of features or functions like some other mobile app onboarding models. As a result, it significantly reduces the user's cognitive load by providing training in the context of the actions they perform in the app.

Mobile App Onboarding Best practices

So now you know what onboarding patterns you can apply. Let's talk about the best practices that will help you make onboarding screens more effective.

Exclude unnecessary information

Don't include unnecessary information (text, images, etc.) that doesn't directly relate to educating the user or telling them about the app's features and benefits. Remember that the purpose of onboarding is to communicate your benefits and teach the user how to use the app. Information that does not relate to these goals is inappropriate.

Information should be presented concisely

There is no need to write too much text on onboarding screens. Remember that your new user will make a quick decision about your app based on the overall feeling you give them at the start.

They will not want to spend time reading long texts or watching long videos.

Don't use complex, incomprehensible language

Don't confuse the user with complicated terms when talking about your app. After all, the audience can be the widest, and you need to explain your value to users of different social categories and ages clearly and understandably.

Otherwise, you may narrow your audience segment and some of those who could use it will leave without understanding the essence.

The exception to this rule is specific applications, such as diet, for experienced users. If you are targeting this type of audience, they are expected to be aware of technical jargon.

Emphasize the benefits of your application with illustrations

Text is the most powerful way to present information. But don't rely solely on text for onboarding screens. Use visuals: images/videos or stylish animations.

Make beautiful transitions between screens, and use micro-animations, in short, give your user a sense of the beauty and convenience of your product's UI from the very first minutes of use. Often, a beautiful and emotional visual component will sell an application better than any dry facts.

Give the user a sense of the benefits of using the app

During user onboarding, tell them how your app will make them a better version of themselves, or show them an image of how easily they can solve their problems with your product.

If there are real success stories from your loyal users, you can include them in onboarding screens to convince them of the quality of your product.

Keep the focus

Don't let the user get bored or lose focus as they move between screens.

Each subsequent screen should be a logical continuation that doesn't deviate from the overall idea. Also, pay attention to the call-to-action text on buttons, use 'Next' or 'Continue' text on all screens so the user can easily move from screen to screen.

Clean and tidy screen layout

Nothing should move out, blocks and graphic elements, screens should be adapted to all popular phone models.

In this way, your application will create the feeling of a quality product from the first seconds of use, and you will stand out from the competition.

Uniform style

Try to stick to a single style in the design and layout of your onboarding screens, paywalls, and main application. This will give the user the impression that your product is consistent and monolithic.

Add localizations for your main geos

English is often the default language for applications. However, if you really want to integrate your application into users' daily lives in a quality way, there is nothing better than communicating with them in their native language.

Make sure that you have quality localization in the languages of all the territories that are important to you and where the main backbone of your users is located.

Work on performance

Eliminate any delays or slowness when switching between screens that can annoy users and affect their user experience and ultimate decision to use the app.

Thoroughly test for errors in onboarding screens

It's frustrating to lose valuable subscribers because of trivial bugs and errors.

Make sure that all screens and their elements are displayed and work correctly, and that the app does not crash during onboarding.

Onboarding A/B Testing

Now that we've applied mobile app onboarding best practices, let's move on to onboarding testing.

In today's mobile world, we're used to testing product chips and paywalls. Since onboarding, as we see it, also largely determines the user's engagement with the product and first purchase, it is important to pay special attention to finding the most appropriate onboarding for your app.

Testing Options

There are 2 basic approaches:

  • Testing different onboardings for the same paywall
  • Testing different onboarding + paywall bundles.

Both of these options are valid, it's just that in one case you're testing a larger hypothesis that affects the entire bundle, including the training screens and the paywall that follows them.

In the other case, let's say you've already found a paywall that works well and you're testing different onboarding options to better deliver your message and convince the user to buy.

Case study: testing 2 onboarding variants for an already proven paywall.

Let's look at a practical example of how we can effectively test different onboarding variants using Apphud.

In this case, let's assume that we have decided on a basic paywall and a set of products on top of it, and now we want to find out which onboarding option works more efficiently.

Onboarding Configuration

Here is an abstract example of the different JSON configs that can be used for such a test.

// Variant A
   "onboarding_type": 1,
   "CTA_text": "Continue",
   "social_proof_block_on": true,
   "rich_animations": "full"
// Variant B
   "onboarding_type": 2,
   "CTA_text": "Next",
   "social_proof_block_on": false,
   "rich_animations": "light"

It is assumed that the logic for displaying onboarding screens is tied to these keys in JSON Config. The structure and names of the parameters are arbitrary. Do whatever you want!

So we have a standard paywall:

Paywall example at ApphudPaywall example at Apphud

To do this, we create an experiment by choosing the same paywall but with different variations.

Basic experiment setup:

Experiment setup at ApphudExperiment setup at Apphud

Variation customization:

Variation customization at ApphudVariation customization at Apphud

Next, you will need to select the target audience for the experiment and run it.

Analytics of the experiment

The analytics of such an experiment could look like this:

Experiment analytics at ApphudExperiment analytics at Apphud

So how do we analyze the results of such an experiment?

In this case, we could evaluate the impact of different onboarding options on metrics such as

  • Conversion to first purchase (CR Purchases)
  • Conversion to trial (CR Trials).

These are the most basic metrics, and you can quickly see the impact of onboarding options on user engagement and conversion to subscribers. You can read more about other onboarding analytics in our article.

Also, don't overlook metrics like ARPU, ARPPU, and ARPAS - they have a long-term impact on an app's revenue. While it's hard to say directly how much your onboarding and first session influenced your user's future success in the app, it makes sense to periodically revisit the analytics of an experiment you've already completed. You may see an interesting result.

You can read more about running experiments at Apphud here.


Onboarding screens significantly impact a user's decision to use your app. Following the mobile app onboarding best practices described above you can increase your user base and their LTV.

Therefore, it is important not to approach the onboarding process in a vacuum, but to take the time to find the most effective approach, use the best practices in the market, and constantly experiment to increase the success rate of converting new users into subscribers.

To experiment and analyze your onboarding screens, sign up for Apphud

Head of Product at Apphud
10+ years in mobile. Anton started his career as a backend developer, last 3 years has been working as a product manager. He created a podcast dedicated to software dev. Successfully launched (and sold) his own apps.

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