Lesson 2
8 mins

Tracking your app’s first impression

You can’t nail your mobile app onboarding experience without a solid understanding of your users’ behaviors and motivations. We’ll show you a few easy steps you can take to get there.

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Tracking your app’s first impression

User onboarding is like a first date. You’ve got one chance to make a good first impression—and a wrong move or bad joke makes you a prime candidate to get ghosted.

Nobody wants users ghosting their app, right? We don’t either. That’s why the most crucial moments users spend in your app are the very first. Users generally decide to keep or dump an app in the first 3 to 8 days of using it.

During those early days, it’s crucial to get it right: no bugs, no crashes, no usability problems allowed. To ensure that you nail your app’s first impression with potential long-term customers, you have to be plugged into the relevant product engagement and user reports. That way, you can confidently prioritize the next steps to improving your app’s onboarding experience.

Number 1

Action cohorts report

How do you know your onboarding process isn’t sending users away? One oft-overlooked tool is action cohorts, a visual that shows the relationship between one event in the app and another.

For example, you can set a filter to see how many users signed up for the app and then went on to complete a purchase in the same week. This approach gives you more actionable insights about every single action of your onboarding—more than simply looking at retention and acquisition rates.

Action cohorts

Ideally, you want to identify one to 3 key user actions in your mobile app that you want your users to take.

Then, you can use action cohorts to track those flows over time, discover the drop-off points, and zero in on areas that will most significantly improve your mobile onboarding.

In Lesson 4, we’ll share a process to get more of your users to experience the app’s value.

Learn how Appcues can help with mobile onboarding
Number 2

Active users report

It’s not enough to get new users to perform key app actions—you have to ensure that they come back and continue to be active users.

The end goal of mobile onboarding is getting new users to form a habit with your app. By definition, habit-forming user onboarding experiences require users to experience the product’s value more than once. Once new users have used the product enough times, they’re more likely to continue using it.

One metric that measures habitual use patterns for your app is Daily Active Users (DAU). DAU is helpful for knowing whether people are using your app regularly. Calculate DAU by looking at the number of users who opened the app in a given day. 

The chart above was built with Supermetrics for Google Sheets. It shows the progression of Daily Active Users across the period of a month.

Another user metric is monthly active users (MAU), which is the unique number of people who use the app over the course of a specific month or 30 days.

For instance, if 10,000 people used the app 20,000 times in the last 30 days, the MAU is 10,000.

Tracking those who regularly open and engage with the app demonstrates the usefulness of your app. 

You can also use DAU and MAU numbers to calculate stickiness—i.e., how often people come back to the app.

Definition of app stickiness

To calculate your app’s stickiness, divide DAU by MAU to get a percentage. The higher this percentage, the more often users are returning to the app. If the percentage increases over time, even better. The closer the number of DAU is to the number of MAU, the higher the so-called stickiness of the app. Highly sticky apps are those whose monthly average users come back often.

For example, an app with 5,000 DAU and 10,000 MAU has a stickiness of 50%.

Number 3

Touch heatmaps

User gestures in apps are more complicated than equivalent clicks on a website or desktop app. The good news? They reveal much more about how users interact with your mobile app, enabling you to understand what they are trying to do and why.

How do you find out exactly what your users are doing inside of your app?

By using the magic of qualitative analytics—specifically, touch heatmaps.

Touch heatmaps show a map of the aggregate gestures users make on each screen of your app, allowing you to see where users are touching the screen most. Touch heatmaps are a great way to generate deep insights at a glance.

You can use tools like UXCam to view heatmaps and filter by type. Critically, you can even view the unresponsive gestures that might be ruining your users’ experience.

Unresponsive gestures are some of the most frustrating things users encounter in mobile apps: The user taps or swipes the screen, expecting it to behave in a certain logical way, and it just...doesn’t.

Definition of unresponsive gestures

Unresponsive gestures often lead to the “rage clicks” of mobile, when a user becomes so frustrated with the app’s interface that they angrily tap-tap-tap-tap-tap on the screen. 

What tends to follow that frantic hammering away at the screen provoked by your app’s shoddy UX?

You guessed it—they quit the app forever. 

As horrible as that sounds, touch heatmaps help you expose the cracks in your apps’ infrastructure quickly and painlessly by hunting them down for you and telling you where they’re hiding.

The golden rule of mobile apps

Mobile users have less time, less screen space, and a much shorter attention span. So how do you keep these users happy, and how do you keep your app installed on their phones?

The golden rule is this: don't waste their time

The reports covered in this lesson should give you a perspective on opportunities to improve your app’s onboarding experience. In the next lesson, we’ll share a simple process to improve your mobile onboarding that will get new users to keep using your app for weeks, months, and even years to come!