As a seasoned UX practitioner and content creator @ Apxor, my first urge was to start sermonising about the various user onboarding techniques, best practices, and metrics when this blog topic was finalized. The stuff we techies routinely churn out to dazzle our readers ;)
But today, I am going to drop my UX hat (at least push it to the back) and record a first-hand account of some genuinely ‘user-friendly’ mobile apps from the lay user’s perspective. Then, we’ll try and figure out why these popular apps are so popular. The secret behind their excellent user penetration.
The educated and ‘aware’ urban mobile user is a relatively easy nut to crack. But these apps have managed to onboard people from all walks of life including, first-time smartphone users, rural folk (Tier 3 users), non-English speaking users, senior citizens, working-class, differently-abled citizens. These user sections are typically defined as ‘laggards’ in the product adoption lifecycle.
But before we start, let's look at understanding some fundamentals.
What is user onboarding for mobile apps ?
User onboarding is the process of taking your first time users through your product, to let them understand its features and offerings. A great user onboarding lets your new users find value in your product quickly and gets them activated quickly.
What is the activation point?
Activation is an activity/ action in your product that makes an user stick to the product. Typically it should be end point of onboarding an user.
What is Aha!moment?
When users download your app, they do it with some expectation in mind. A need of theirs is to be fulfilled, a job to be done. For example, a person downloads a flight ticket booking app when he/she needs to travel and book a ticket. The moment the user understands how to book that ticket in the app, we could say he/she has found the Aha!moment.
In simple terms, Aha!moment is that moment when the user realizes the real value in your app for the first time.
Now let's get to the best onboarding walkthroughs designed in 2021.
1. Dream11 - Product-led Onboarding done the right way
Dream11 is India’s no.1 fantasy sports app. Dream11 sees a heightened activity during the IPL seasons, with millions of new users logging in daily. For all these users to onboard quickly Dream11 has designed a fantastic onboarding walkthrough which checks all the right boxes of user onboarding.
The entire crux of Dream11, for a first time user, lies in selecting a match and creating a team. Once a user has done that, it means that they are activated on the app. Dream11 understands the need to handhold first time users through the steps of creating a team.
Hence, it rightly guides its first time users through the features and exactly how to create a team using these features. Educating users the right way by showcasing each feature and its usage.
Take a look at the images which clearly show how well the users are provided micro-guidance to start creating their own team.
The boxes Dream11 checks rightly in its onboarding
- Understanding the activation point.
- Finding the right path for reaching the activation point quickly.
- Guiding users through in-app smart nudges to quickly activate them.
Onboarding Tip: Understand what your users need to do to be activated, and guide them through simple and easy to understand smart nudges to help them do those activities. This is truly Product-led Onboarding.
2. Google Search – The “Zero Onboarding” app
Is it even a separate app, one might wonder! Google search is so ubiquitous on an Android phone that users don’t realize it’s an app in itself. When launched separately, it comes with an audacious “Single Textbox + Single Button” User Interface in the middle of a vast amount of vacant white screen space! Contrast this with most apps where developers work hard to cram all the essential product features into their screens.
The standout feature of Google Search is its onboarding process or the total lack of it! The user doesn’t have to learn or understand anything about the app before starting to use it. There is no limitation on what users can type or search, no word limit, no format checks, no advanced search options, no nudges to act, nothing. There is no ambiguity in the CTA (Click To Action) either – there is just one search button. Nobody can go wrong with that!
Extending its usability a step further, Google added the voice search feature in 2012. It might be a mere convenience to an ordinary user, but it has come as a boon to differently-abled citizens, a generally ignored user segment. For instance, my visually impaired uncle is a much more prolific smartphone user than me. You must see him in action, having fantastic conversations with his search window! Vernacular language search is another blockbuster feature that has helped to onboard Non-English speaking users.
Google search is entirely contextual, but it never gives you the impression of being so. On the contrary, depending on the user’s search history, the search recommendations get molded automatically, thus giving the user a feeling of continuity and familiarity. Google also seamlessly blends the search widget into its other apps, such as Google Discover and Google Maps. So the same UX experience awaits the user who uses the search feature within these associated apps. It holds even when third-party apps integrate the search widget into their apps.
Google Search is the undisputed king of the app kingdom. It is also a gold standard for app UX developers to emulate – How to onboard users without bothering them at all!
Onboarding Tip – Simple is powerful. Only a powerful backend can offer a simple UI. The better your product is, the lesser you expect the user to do.
3. Hotstar – Onboard for free; pay only for premium content.
Hotstar has successfully managed to dethrone the humble Television from many living rooms in India. Daily soaps, sporting events, reality television, news, original OTT content - you name it, they have it.
But why have I chosen to feature Hotstar in my onboarding examples list and not its heavy-weight peers - other OTT platforms like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video? These numbers will tell you the answer.
OTT platforms Market Share in India (End of 2020): Hotstar – 41%, Amazon Prime – 9%, Netflix – 7%.
Though Netflix comes with an impressive 34 % market share in the US, Hotstar is an excellent example of focusing on onboarding a particular user segment - the vernacular Indian viewer. This user segment is much larger than the entire population of the US, mind you!
The crucial difference in the onboarding strategy of Hotstar and its competitors is the free content it provides to any user at entry-level. No sign-in, no payment, no email id, nothing. Just one step before you start watching your favorite content - choice of languages for content viewing.
On the other hand, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video do not allow users to even enter the application without the mandatory payment and registration process. They do have a trial version, however, to be fair to them! In addition, Netflix supports an impressive recommendation engine curated to every user’s personal tastes, which keeps them hooked once they sign in. But the entry barriers are definitely there. That’s where Hotstar scores in a cost-conscious market like India.
You want to watch yesterday’s episode of your favorite TV soap, go ahead and watch it for free. You want access to premium content - today’s episode before the TV telecast or Live broadcasts - then sign-up and pay up. Simple but very effective user differentiation!
Onboarding Tip – Instant onboarding, give the user a quick sneak peek into your features free of cost. Then tempt them with paid premium features.
4. Zerodha – How to ace a complex onboarding process!
We’ve looked at 2 cases with zero effort onboarding, but that suited these products’ use cases. Now let’s pick a product at the other extreme of the spectrum – Zerodha, an online equity trading and investment app. The very nature of financial investment apps, both banking and stocks, is that user onboarding consists of several elaborate steps. These steps involve submitting and verifying several official documents establishing user credentials – such as PAN, Adhaar, bank information, and other KYC documents.
In Zerodha, the onboarding walkthrough intuitively branches into different screen options depending on the user scenarios, such as:
- Existing users are using the mobile app version for the first time. Hence, it does not require detailed KYC verification.
- New user with no equity investment history. All KYC documents to be freshly uploaded and verified.
- New user but already uploaded KYC documents online in Govt repository (Digilocker). So documents need not be uploaded, only verified.
Linking bank account details, digitally signing the application, registering the Demat account with NSDL (Govt securities regulator) – all these steps are completed using smart and simple steps without any physical paperwork. Users get simple instructions (only one at a time) and clear CTAs at each stage. Though elaborate, the process is not complex.
Thus Zerodha achieves 100% remote and instant onboarding while the Demat account opening process in any regular PSU bank takes 2-3 personal visits and several days of processing.
It’s no wonder that Zerodha has penetrated the equity investment business space that was always considered too technical and suitable only for well-informed investors. Most of the new entrants into the Indian equity market space are reportedly customers from Tier 2 cities - working class, students, or homemakers, with limited knowledge of English or finance! And they are doing it through Zerodha.
Within a decade of its inception, the app has overtaken established players in the investment space. They are overwhelming market leaders with over 18% market share, while ICICI securities stands at 7% and SBI stands at 1.7%!
Onboarding Tip – Don’t unnecessarily ask the user a question for which you can get the answer on your own elsewhere.
5. Myntra – The app that made online apparel shopping cool!
The pandemic has taught businesses a unique lesson, that you can live an entire year without stepping out of your homes! You can still eat, work, party, dress up, date, have fun, and enjoy all aspects of everyday living, albeit online. Myntra is a testimony to this fact.
There are several other players in the online apparel retail space, jostling for the attention of the young urban buyer – Amazon, Ajio, Flipkart, Nykaa. However, Myntra stands out for two reasons – (1) Seamless search functionality with multiple contextual filters to guide a new user’s search (2) Following Famous Brands & Famous Fashion Bloggers.
* Men, Women or Kids * Formal, Travel, Leisure, Workout * Sizes – these are standard filter options to onboard and direct a new user to the appropriate apparel collection. But Myntra also has additional filters like Ankle height, sleeve length, collar type. For a user who already has something in mind, these filters are very time-saving. The way the various filters are placed within the walkthrough is very uncluttered and attractive.
Another popular entry route into the Myntra app is blogs and social media accounts of fashion bloggers – not celebrities, just everyday fashion enthusiasts. So if a user likes a particular fashion style recommended, they will see apparel suited to their tastes within the app. So the user doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel and personalize the apparel collection all by oneself.
While Reliance-backed Ajio is a distant second with a 9% market share, Myntra from Flipkart continues to hold a 60% market share in online fashion retail, according to a Bank of America report. No wonder Flipkart has retained Myntra as a separate entity and not dissolved its identity into the Flipkart brand.
Onboarding Tip –There are several quick and creative ways to present personalized product content to a user. It doesn’t have to be done by the user explicitly.
Here is a bonus onboarding flow which has also checked many boxes right.
Bonus : Zoom – Onboarding users seamlessly across devices and networks
Zoom became the most downloaded Android App in India during the pandemic, surpassing the popular social media app TikTok. The trend hasn’t ebbed in over a year now.
Video conferencing applications like WebEx existed even before. But they were considered a techie’s tool. The main reasons being prohibitive cost and cumbersome installation process that was frustrating even for IT departments of companies.
The strength of Zoom has been its “No holds barred” approach in user onboarding. They were the first video conferencing app to allow users to join a meeting within 2-3 clicks - no registration, no configuration.
A whopping 100 participants are allowed in each meeting. It served as a boon to schools that had to onboard hundreds of students and teachers onto online classrooms almost overnight due to the pandemic. In addition, this feature opened up a new user segment to video conferencing in India – remote learning.
I am not going to list down how a new user navigates through a Zoom call. I don’t think there would be any reader of this blog who hasn’t tried out Zoom!
Some of the cool features are:
The intuitive arrangement of tiles of participating users within a call. Automatically adjusting call settings according to the camera, microphone, network connectivity of each user.
These suffice to say that Zoom has entered the everyday life and vocabulary of the ordinary Indian. And the competitor is still busy playing catch-up.
Onboarding Tip – Be generous into your feature set, even while giving it away for free. Remember that users could be connecting through all sorts of devices and networks. Account for these realities.
How do you create a great user onboarding flows?
Two most crucial steps of before creating your user onboarding flows are
- Finding which features are retaining which segments of your users well.
- Finding the paths taken by the retained users in various segments towards these features
Once you have identified these, it's only a matter of creating a mix of smart nudges to guide your new users towards these paths.
Find more details about these two steps in our User Onboarding 101 article.
What are the contexts that you can build around user onboarding?
New users come with very little context. When they open the app for the first time, you don’t have much data to build contexts.
However, there are a few things that you can leverage on.
- The acquisition channel that the user has come from.
- The demographics of the user.
- The location of the user.
- The day and time of the app open.
If you have done appropriate analysis of your data, in terms of these, you can build better contexts around your users and guide them even better to find value in your app.
How does Apxor help in user onboarding?
In reality, most apps find it challenging to direct the user towards their product features and use them effectively. Users may be dropping off due to ambiguous steps, unclear CTAs, insufficient information support, too many distracting features, actions not being self-explanatory – the reasons are plenty.
Apxor's User Onboarding Software helps you understand the flows that make the best onboarding flows, and create contextual onboarding walkthroughs on the fly, in under 15 mins, without writing any code. And you can create as many walkthroughs as you want and deploy them without additional app store release cycles. Apxor’s SDK helps you detect the context of the users and guide them appropriately.
Apxor helps apps give their users non-intrusive and contextual support at critical junctures in the user walkthrough. For example, wherever the user is likely to halt, take a wrong turn or drop off altogether, Apxor Smart nudges such as small tooltips, coach marks, spotlights, or attention-grabbing banners would guide users to do the actions you want them to do.
Learn how it works - https://www.apxor.com/blog/a-guide-to-using-smart-nudges-to-enhance-user-experience
Start your free trial to explore by yourself.