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A tough start on the Olympic app. 4 learnings about onboarding

The Olympics 2016 is upon us but unfortunately it can be tough keeping up with the games when you cannot sit in front of the screen all day watching your favorite athletes compete. My workbrain immediately thought “there must be an app for this” and yes – an official Rio 2016 app popped up as the first thing.

I opened the app and was met with an onboarding flow consisting of ten (10!) screens and tons of input fields, information and things I really wasn’t concerned about at that point. My only good explanation of this somewhat heavy onboarding flow is, that they wanted to avoid any empty state pages but ended up scaring off users even before they hit the home screen.

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Onboarding is the user’s first impression of and meeting with an app, and as everybody knows making a good first impression is critical in relation to user retention.

As a mobile UX advisor at Nodes, I come across a lot of apps on a daily basis. We have earlier briefly mentioned the importance of a good onboarding flow but the Rio 2016 app made me want to share our 4 best learnings on how to onboard users and thereby leave a good first impression.

1. Keep onboarding short and easy
Onboarding is not always necessary and should only be added if it brings value and is useful. It’s a common UX saying that “the best UX is the one you don’t see”. I will avoid getting into a long discussion about this phrase but some apps provide unfamiliar interactions or content that needs an introduction to provide the best user experience. This will save users from getting frustrated when having to figure it out by themselves. But if your app is relying on familiar functions you should leave out the onboarding flow to avoid boring users.

2. Keep it relevant – timing is everything
One of the problems with an onboarding flow that demands too much information from a user is that the user do not (yet) see the point of filling in all this data about themselves. One of our main app mantras is to serve the right information and ask for user inputs at the right time to make every interaction feel relevant and right for the user. There’s no need to feed on the user’s information in the onboarding flow if it’s not important at that point. Instead you can fill in the gaps when a user finds an empty state page.

3. Take advantages of empty states
As mentioned, apps relying on personal information or new interactions most likely needs to have an onboarding flow but in some cases, like the Rio 2016 app, it is relevant to consider if the user can fill in the needed information continuously.

Empty states are full of potential because they are opportunities to help and educate users. Instead of making people choose their favorite Olympic team, country, athletes and sport in the onboarding flow you could take advantages of the empty states and prompt those actions when they make sense for the user. This will motivate the user to take action. We did this in the Børsen Mobile app as shown below.
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4. An app walkthrough is not mandatory

If you have created an app with many states or options it’s a good idea to present a short walkthrough of functions to provide insight about what your app can do. This is also a good idea if your app needs concept explanation as the Tattoodo App we designed. If your app consists of simple steps or is self-explanatory you should definitely consider leaving an app walkthrough out or at least include a ‘skip’ option. Again – keep it relevant or leave it out to keep the user interested.
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These valuable learnings have helped us at Nodes to focus on a simple, fast and relevant onboarding flow that help on retention and adoption. Remember to use learnings from former projects and test your onboarding flow on potential end users before launching your product. This will uncover most problems and help you create the best onboarding flow. It is difficult to look through the eyes of the end user. Nevertheless it is essential to design with them in mind to make a successful app.

If you want a second opinion on your onboarding flow please feel free to contact us to a dialogue about your project.


Anna Didriksen UX Advisor

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