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Mobile App Onboarding 101

Most new users make a decision within minutes of opening your mobile app. Will they ever use it again? It’s your job—and the job of your app’s onboarding experience—to convince them to stick around.

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“The key to success for mobile apps is to get the users hooked during that critical first 3-7 day period.”
Ankit Jain
Former Head of Search, Google Play (Android)
Headshot of Nir Eyal
Inside the course
6 Lessons
1 hour
“Onboarding is the most important thing in the world.”
Growth lead

Here’s what’s inside…

Launching a mobile app is hard. Getting people to use that app (more than once) is harder. Luckily, this course breaks it down for you. We’ll cover the basics of mobile app user psychology and motivation, crafting and optimizing your app’s first impression, user onboarding examples from successful apps, and more.  

In short, you’re about to learn how to deliver a new user onboarding experience that pulls them in and keeps them coming back for more. Let’s do this.

You'll learn:
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Why is short-term retention such a problem for mobile apps?
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Understanding your users’ motivations and behaviors
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The 4 keys to mobile onboarding success
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Onboarding design tactics used by successful apps
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How to keep users coming back over time
This course is for:
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Product managers
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App developers
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Growth teams
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UX designers
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Free-to-paid conversion badge

When you finish this course, you can humble brag about it for weeks and you’ll also get a shareable certification.

Helpful terms

Activation event
Noun • Synonymous with Appcues

The activation event (also known as an activation metric) is the first point in your product where you deliver the value that you promised your user. The percentage of people who reach your activation event = your activation rate. This is a key metric to track and improve for user onboarding.

Active users
Noun • Synonymous with Appcues

Users who log into your app within a given timeframe. Often quantified as Daily Active Users (DAU) or Monthly Active Users (MAU).

Aha moment
Noun • Synonymous with Appcues

In software, the aha moment is the pivotal instance when a new user first realizes the value of your product and why they need it. It’s often accompanied by, “Oh wow. This is awesome.”

App abandonment
Noun • Synonymous with Appcues

When a new user abandons an app after one session. Quantified as the percentage of all new users who abandon the app after one session.

Noun • Synonymous with Appcues

An adjective that describes anything living inside your product (not exclusive to mobile apps).

Noun • Synonymous with Appcues

The Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) theory is coined by Clay Christensen, innovation expert and bestselling author of Competing Against Luck. In the JTBD framework, people try out products because there is a gap between their current circumstances and final aspiration.

North star metric
Noun • Synonymous with Appcues

A single shared metric that predicts a company's long-term growth. 

Onboarding flow
Noun • Synonymous with Appcues

An in-app experience that welcomes a new user to your product and guides them to value. It’s typically made up of some combination of modals, tooltips, etc.

Permission priming
Noun • Synonymous with Appcues

The act of building value and trust with users before asking them to grant the “permissions” (or access) your mobile app needs to deliver the best user experience. 

Noun • Synonymous with Appcues

The concept of placing users in different groups based on use case, behavior, etc., so that they can be better targeted with relevant experiences and information. For example, new users should not get the same messaging as power users who’ve been around for a long time. 

Time to value
Noun • Synonymous with Appcues

The time it takes for a new user to recognize the value of your product or service. When it comes to user onboarding, your goal should be to shrink your users’ time to value.


Ready to become a mobile app onboarding master?