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How to Optimize First Time User Experience in Your Mobile App

By Sophie Walsh – Marketing Associate, Swrve: Mobile Marketing Engagement

first-time-user-experience-featureIt won’t come as a surprise to any brand that optimizing a user’s onboarding experience is hugely important to the success of their mobile app. With over 20% of all mobile app installs used only once and never again, and nearly 80% of mobile app users lost within the first week since install, improving “First Time User Experience” has never been so important.

The reality is that the average mobile user has over 100 apps on their phone, but it’s only a select few that they spend 90% of their time on. To have a chance at being one of those apps, you’ll need to focus on the initial user experience.

The difference between success and failure can be found in the first few screens that the user sees in the app, or the first few minutes they spend in it. They key is getting the user to understand what your app is all about, and to realize its value.

You’ll want to do this with minimal effort for the user. Think about the types of questions they want answered when they open the app for the first time.

  • What is this app going to do for me?
  • How do I use it – is it simple?
  • Are there other aspects to this app other than the obvious?

Answer these questions and you’ll be making the right strides in drastically improving retention numbers.

Other Important Things to Consider

You don’t want your users to feel lost upon opening the app, nor do you want to overwhelm them with too many screens or too much information. There are other things to consider too, like knowing what is enough information for the initial intro, and what features or requests are best saved for a later date.

So, how do you go about executing all of this? First, you’ll want to make sure that you have a good idea of what a successful onboarding experience looks like for your app. Gathering as much data as possible is important for this. Investigate how different groups of users behave on their first journey through the app. Figure out what it is that equates to a successful first time user experience for you. This could involve completing a registration, making a purchase, or adding a payment method; something that makes them more engaged to the app.

Provide Explanatory Screens and Easy Navigation

The most time-effective way to implement or make changes to your onboarding experience is to deliver explanatory screens and experiences through a cloud-based marketing platform. This saves vast amounts of time, money and effort, compared to building them right into the app. It also enables you to test and personalize the first-time experience for your users, neither of which should be neglected.

As important as the actual onboarding screens are, the ‘skip’ button bears a great deal of necessity too. Some users may be re-downloading the app, and are therefore familiar with all of its primary features. Equally, they may be confident in their ability to navigate it with zero instruction, and easily frustrated with multiple screens upon opening it – so don’t forget to include the ‘skip’.

One of the biggest sins in the mobile app world is blindly asking your users to grant them permissions with no context, having just opened the app. By granting this, your users are giving you permission to talk to you, and giving you access to some of their personal information. So, in return, it’s only polite for developers to do their absolute most to clearly explain to the user exactly what it is that they are consenting to – and why it’s valuable for them to do so. Below is an example of this done well in a dating app. The need for push notifications is explained to me, in an informative and non-invasive way, so I’m much more likely to accept.


Of course, what works for one brand won’t necessarily work for yours. When dealing with mobile it’s rarely one-size-fits-all. You’re going to have to test, and keep testing until you find the onboarding method that works best for your app and your users. Ideally you’ll be able to use A/B testing for this, controlling any variables and yielding genuine results.

Just don’t forget that onboarding shouldn’t stop after day 1. Keep an eye on your lapsing users, and target them with relevant information or promotions to keep them informed and engaged.

By Sophie Walsh – Marketing Associate, Swrve: Mobile Marketing Engagement