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  • How do I encourage people to keep using my app after they install it?
  • How can I improve user experience and onboarding?
  • How can I use online ads and push notifications to engage people?

Imagine Harold is launching the mobile app BonBonBust, a fun puzzle game.

Harold wants BonBonBust to be challenging right off the bat, so he doesn’t include instructions. That way people will have to figure out how to use the app and start the game on their own.

He spreads the word to his friends and contacts at the right media outlets and gets a huge PR push. Because of this, he has an avalanche of downloads right away.

But after those first downloads, people stop using his app. A month later, BonBonBust has become BonBonByeBye.

Let’s look at his app’s opening screen and see what Harold could have done differently.

While a puzzle game might be fun, a puzzling user experience is not. If Harold had given guidance and instructions on how to use his app, AKA onboarding, he might have kept people engaged instead of driving them away.

Here’s a fact about mobile apps: The average app loses over 95% of its daily active users within 90 days and 20% of mobile apps are only used once.

This means your app has to work pretty hard to keep people interested and coming back – and just having a great app idea and good content aren’t enough.

The 2 “make it or break it” things you should pay attention to are user experience (UX) and onboarding.

UX covers every interaction people have with your app – including how well it runs, if it’s simple to figure out, and whether every element works as it’s supposed to.

Bad UX will make people unhappy, and unhappy people tend to give bad reviews and uninstall apps. So whatever they’re using your app to do – shop, get info, be social, or play games – make sure your UX helps them do it easily.

To stay on top of UX issues, pay attention to things like people’s feedback, bugs, and crash reports. You should also respond to people’s complaints and fix problems quickly.

Good UX also plans for interruptions. Think about all the ways people could get distracted: text messages, another app’s notifications, or just life in general. How can you make it easy for them to come in and out of your app?

Design your app so people don’t have to start everything all over again, whether that’s making a purchase, reaching a new level in a game, or adding in their info.

You should also consider what type of the first impression you’re giving people when they open your app. That’s where onboarding comes in.

Keep your onboarding simple. The best apps are so intuitive that people only need a little (or no) guidance to get started. So all you need to do is give people a very short, friendly guided tour to learn the basics.

Here are some other onboarding tips:

  • MAKE IT INTERACTIVE: Instead of describing an interaction, guide people through doing it.
  • OFFER EASY LOGIN: Let people use their social media to sign in and/or their emails to log in.
  • MARK PEOPLE’S PROGRESS: Show people how close they are to completing the onboarding.

Improving your app’s UX and onboarding is just the tip of the mobile engagement iceberg.

We’ll show you a few different ways you can reach out to people even when they’re not using your app.

You can use push notifications, which is like your app sending text messages to people who’ve downloaded it, encouraging them to come back.

Push notifications can be a pretty effective engagement tool…but you have to handle them in the right way so you don’t accidentally end up annoying your fanbase.

When people open your app for the first time, you can ask if they want to receive push notifications. This is your chance to say why it’s valuable to opt into your notifications and what information people will miss without them.

As for the notifications themselves, you want them to feel like short texts from an old friend, not a barrage of desperate messages asking why they never called again after the first date.

You can probably figure out how to send good push notifications just by thinking about what you like and dislike when you’re using a mobile app.

  • Information in push notifications should be urgent, important, or time-sensitive.

Make sure your push notifications are relevant to people. What kind of notifications works for the type of app you have? For example, eCommerce apps might do a “new sale” notification, a social app might do “new follower” alert, and a news app can do “breaking news” messages.

People usually don’t want push notifications while they are sleeping. Figure out when people are most receptive to your updates and send them then, Also, don’t overwhelm them with too many notifications. Find a good rhythm for how often you send them out.

  • Put people in control of push notifications.

Let people decide how often they get your push notifications and what type they want to receive. That lowers the chance they will find your notifications annoying.

Also, consider giving a “silent” notification option that lets your message pop up on the screen without any disruptive noises or alerts.

When you’re setting up push notifications, remember this: right person, right message, right time. You can run tests and track metrics to figure out which notifications are nailing this and which aren’t.

Along with push notifications, you can use mobile ads to run out-of-app outreach. All the info you need is conveniently in your app.

Your app’s user history information can help you customize ads that will target certain groups of people who already have your app installed.

For example, you can see who’s taken an in-app action of your choice (made a purchase, reached a game level, etc.). Then, while they’re using other apps, you can show ads that encourage them to take another action in your app.

You can also create ads that target lapsed app users – people who haven’t opened your app in a month, who abandoned their app shopping carts, who have unread messages, and so forth.

To tap into your app’s history data, you can talk to your developer or programmer. Or if you’re a developer or programmer, great, you can talk to yourself.

Email is also a great outreach option if you asked for people’s email addresses when they logged into or registered with your app.

While push notifications should be urgent and timely and mobile ads need in-app data, emails let you send less pressing updates using the contact information people already offered you.

That means you can engage people who have opted in by emailing them newsletters and updates on new features or offers – while making sure you don’t overwhelm their inbox with too many messages too often.

Better yet, email’s larger format lets you do more in-depth and vivid updates by adding images and using longer, more descriptive text.

Just like you’d clean up your house before guests come over, make sure your app is ready to engage people as soon as they open it.

  • People can easily leave your app and then return to the same spot.
  • You know what type of app store reviews you are currently getting.
  • So far, very few (if any) people have said your app is confusing or hard to use.
  • You respond to negative reviews.
  • You have a way to quickly fix any bugs people discover in my app.
  • Your app gives people a simple, quick onboarding or tutorial.

You might consider some light app housekeeping to help you boost engagement. As a starting point, read all your app store reviews, look for any bugs, respond to negative feedback and think about trying onboarding.

References: Google Webmasters, Think With Google, Google Primer

Mohammad Rahighi

Mohammad Rahighi

Designer and Project Manager who loves crafting big ideas and is passionate about designing meaningful experiences that can influence positive change and help make the world a better place.

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