Why Is Mobile App Onboarding so Important for Mobile Design?

Vladislav Gavriluk

Vladislav Gavriluk

CEO & Founder at Arounda

Mobile apps tend to lose their active users since their launch. Across all app categories, the average user retention rate on the installation day is 25%. After 30 days of usage, it drops dramatically to 6%. 

But why do users leave? We review the reasons in this article, and poor mobile app onboarding is among them. When onboarding is not supportive, the app may seem too complicated or unusual to use.

Can the best app onboarding practices fix that? Definitely. They seize the moment of the highest interest in an app and put the best foot forward. Due to the efficient onboarding, the app receives more positive reviews and purchases.

Arounda is a product design agency uniting multidisciplinary digital product experts with vast experience. We have been building and transforming digital products for five years. In 2022, Clutch included Arounda in the leading Ukrainian B2B companies list. Using all that experience, we laid out the best app onboarding practices and examples in this article. 

Table of Contents

What Is Onboarding?

Mobile app onboarding means introducing a new interface and functions to users. It promotes features, deals with personalization basics, and provides instructions.

Onboarding is essential. However, consider whether you should introduce it. It may demand extensive resources for development. In particular, the introduction of onboarding increases iteration costs.

Moreover, users often skip onboarding, which may be excessive in a specific type of app. The users may utilize an app without additional explanations via deck-of-cards tutorials, for instance.

Furthermore, mobile app onboarding should not substitute an intuitive UX/UI design. Otherwise, onboarding encourages users to remember excessive information about which button is for which action. Instead, the UX/UI design intuitively comprehends how to use the interface.

If you want to read more about how UX/UI design helps to build a successful app, refer to our article about tools and threats in the UX design in 2023

Besides, onboarding is a brilliant option to catch user attention. Further, we describe the mobile app onboarding examples and how they work.


To ensure top-notch onboarding for your app, reach out to our team for a consultation. Let`s have a talk.

When Does a Mobile App Need Onboarding?

Users always need some time to learn a new app layout and functions. But it does not imply in-depth explanations or formal onboarding processes. People are likely to remember only a little information, especially if they are still determining whether they will use it.

Complicated Apps

Onboarding screens are supportive in a mobile app only if the customers truly need guidance to get started. For example, onboarding is crucial for government and banking apps, where users should do everything right from the first attempt.

Customized apps

Furthermore, the best mobile app onboarding is often linked with customization options. Knowing users' objectives, preferences, and backgrounds will benefit fitness, psychology, and health apps.

Apps with Innovative Features

In the same way, onboarding saves the day when your app introduces innovative or unique features which may be unknown to users. For instance, when mobile check deposits were launched, users needed some explainations.

The best option to decide whether your app needs mobile app onboarding is to test it without it. Testing will save a lump of money before you add more screens. Get user feedback. If the customers still require hints, consider enhancing the app's design. Only if it doesn’t work, add onboarding.

Onboarding Components

As we listed above, mobile app onboarding combines three significant elements: feature promotion, customization, and instructions.

The first feature promotion enlightens users about what the app can do and how to use it best. Customization requests users’ data to adapt their experience and be more individual. The last one, instructions, teaches about the interface, gives tips, and guides through the complete functionality.

You can feel free to apply all three at once. You may use only one, depending on which fits the best.

Feature Promotion

Feature-based onboarding informs the users about the app's functionality. Namely, describe the leading features. That's why people often perceive it as marketing.

To avoid unwanted associations, refrain from straightforward notifications, especially at the first launch. Otherwise, your users will skip even the best mobile app onboarding.

Instead, put these advertising screens not in the app but on the app store page. People look up new programs and compare features. Thus, they will pay attention to the app’s best qualities.

Feature promotion could only be applied at the first launch when the feature is innovative or cutting-edge. Though, technologies quickly get older and accustomed. When it happens, remove their promotion onboarding as well.

Furthermore, an app may need time to gather users' habit statistics to show its best functionality. If so, put it off till later, after it is accessible to users. Promoting the feature before people can use it will not give good results.

Additionally, feature promotion is wider than just a new audience. Existing users may also be onboarded upon new features or redesigns released.


Many apps require user information to enrich the UX with the individual approach. For instance, an app's looks, settings, and content may vary. However, consider one step at a time: do not rush all customization options at onboarding.

For example, choosing a color palette is a bad option for an onboarding process. Before users can use an app, they may not know their preferences in the app's outlook or why one design is better than others.

For the first mobile app onboarding, content personalization is more appropriate. Namely, picking a language and proficiency is necessary setup for an effective language-learning app. 

The same relates to fitness, health, productivity, and meditation apps. They all need their users to determine goals and insert background information.

Nevertheless, there is also a trick. To receive truthful answers, describe why you require the information you ask. People will gladly provide you with their data when they know the purpose. 

If you can’t explain why you request these data at launch, do it later, after it makes sense to users.


Instructional onboarding advises people on how to use an interface. However, a user-friendly UI is a better investment than many educational materials.

Instructional onboarding is one of the best app onboarding practices when users wish for clear guidance. For instance, when an app offers unfamiliar features or workflows to users.

There are numerous ways to provide instructional mobile app onboarding. The variety includes interactive walkthroughs, context-sensitive guidance, and deck-of-cards tutorials.

Decks of Cards

Typically, deck-of-cards tutorials are displayed at the first launch. They contain instructions on navigating the interface in a format similar to a carousel.

Deck-of-cards is not the best mobile app onboarding approach as it makes the interface appear more sophisticated than it is. It is especially true for relatively simple mobile apps, where complex tutorials are excessive.

That is why we recommend avoiding a deck of cards onboarding. But, if you decide to utilize them, here are some tips:

  • Limit the number of cards to the essential ones

  • Explain not more than one topic per card

  • Leave a prominent ‘Skip’ option to make the process comfortable for your customers.

Instructional Overlays

Another type of instructional onboarding uses coach marks and instructional overlays. They explain separate key UI elements to users.

This kind of mobile app onboarding works best when it follows a user while they attempt a task for the first time. As a result, it offers additional information as the user advances. 

If a user required clarification, it would be just a tap away. However, the explanation of new terms and unlabeled icons is usually in the instructions. A popup tip would be a less intrusive option to provide informative content.

Interactive Walkthroughs

If you offer a complicated solution, consider an immersive tour for your customers. Namely, interactive walkthroughs. They are commonly used in gaming since they are simple to follow but effective.

For instance, games show visual instructions on how to avoid an obstacle before it arrives. Users can learn by doing and get accustomed to the controls and rules. From the user's point of view, it is more like a practice session than a boring lecture.

Interactive walkthroughs, used in other types of mobile app onboarding, are beneficial since they engage motor memory in addition to the short-term one. 


The main thing about mobile app onboarding is making it as easy as possible. Apply onboarding with caution, though. Mind that it will be advantageous for sophisticated apps or those that customize the user experience.

Onboarding is a valuable feature, as it increases retention and triggers positive user feedback. Put yourself in users’ shoes and use this option wisely. We know it might be challenging to decide whether your app needs onboarding and what the best way to implement it is.

Should you need assistance, contact us for consultation; we are happy to share our experience and advise on the best approach.

Vladislav Gavriluk
Vladislav Gavriluk
CEO & Founder at Arounda
I make sure our clients get the high-quality result from the beginning stage of the idea discovery & strategy to the final digital product.

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