Onboarding, Not Training: 10 Most Useful Consumer App Secrets

By January 29, 2015 April 8th, 2019 Thought Leadership

This is part 4 of a 10 part series. We’re looking at how startups and consumer apps can study their customers under a microscope in order to create an app that works exactly how they need it to.

4) Onboarding, Not Training

If you’ve downloaded any consumer apps lately, you’ll probably notice a number of things. Think about how your first experience goes with an app. You usually:

  1. Read a review or article online talking about the merits of SuperFacebookALiscious
  2. Read the comments and details on the app store
  3. Download and install the app
  4. Get presented with a “tour” that shows different capabilities of the app or how you might use it
  5. See prompted “hints” — i.e., arrows telling you “where” to compose a new post
  6. After relaunching the app 3 weeks later, getting a notification with new features that you might use

Consumer apps have to ASSUME they’ll never talk to you in person. A user’s first couple minutes on your app are going to determine if they’re a potential customer or not. We don’t have this problem in organizations though, right? We KNOW that users have to use our app, and so we skip out on introducing them to the app with flows and screenshots.

By including instructions on where to tap and what to do in an app, we can shortcut the process of making expert users who are happy and unconfused.

What Not To Do

Don’t build an internal app that shows a table view or buttons as the first view. Don’t defer to a local “trainer” to introduce the features and uses of your app to its users.

What To Do Instead

Build features into your app that show every new user how to use the app. Some of it can be feature introduction, some of it can be introductions to benefits and ideas suggesting how this app might help them do their job better.


When your app launches for the first time, show the user a series of images of the app with some supporting text detailing what each screen will do for them. If a screen’s function is related to a real-world activity, show a picture of that real world activity happening so that it all gets tied together for the user. For a particular piece of functionality that is harder to grasp or is a little non-standard, consider showing inline prompts that give a little extra context for what you expect the user to do.

Other topics covered in this series include:

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Blake Byrnes

Blake Byrnes

Founder & CTO at BlueFletch.