It’s no secret the shelf life of a mobile app is short. On average, users delete an app just 6 days after download.1 Ouch.
With so much competition vying for their attention, users have no time (or space) to waste on an app they don’t like or know they won’t use.
This is why the first-time user experience is such an important part of retaining users.
What is the First-Time User Experience?
The first-time user experience, often referred to as FTUE, is a user’s first impression of your app.
Once they download and open the app for the first time, what do your users see? Do you offer a quick tour of the app or prompt users to create a profile?
Everything from the colors and images to the calls-to-action and language influence the FTUE, and ultimately, whether your users stay or not.
If your FTUE is too ambiguous or complicated, users will leave. Retaining users after the first week is about requesting what you need from the user so you can successfully deliver what they want from your app.
Here are proven first-time user experience best practices (with examples!) that boost user retention:
1. Make it clear what you want them to do
Everyone downloads an app for a reason. Whether it’s to listen to music, have goods delivered, or just to pass the time, users expect to achieve a specific goal when they download your app.
The most successful user onboarding helps users reach their goal by delivering value as soon as possible.
A common mistake apps make during the first-time user experience is requesting personal details like an email address or location access too soon, without giving a reason why they need it. 82% of users say they want apps to provide a clear reason for requesting personal information.2
Instead, think about what personal information your users already know they need to give you.
If you’re a food delivery app, they know they need to provide their address. If you’re a travel app, they know they have to provide you with target destinations and estimated travel dates. Asking for this information up front can help users see value almost instantly.
Once downloaded, Instacart gives you a clear and simple action item: enter your zip code.
Next, it asks which store you want groceries delivered from today. This encourages further engagement while telling the user the grocery stores that can deliver through the app.
Then, it requests your email and explains why: order updates and receipts.
2. Get personal
If there’s anything we’ve learned from social media apps like Facebook and Instagram, it’s that users love to share opinions.
Asking for Colombia Phone Numbers Listlikes and dislikes is one way to engage a new user while further personalizing their experience. Especially for streaming services and content curating apps, having users select their preferences during the onboarding process allows them to choose what they wish to get out of your app.
You can learn more about your user, and they can learn more about the topics they care about. Everyone wins!
The first step in their first-time user experience involves selecting your interests. Notice how Reddit doesn’t request any personal information right away.
Next, it instantly drops you into a list of suggested communities based on your interests.
From there it drops you into your personalized news feed. Only when you go to perform an action like share or comment does it ask you to create an account. This prevents users from abandoning the app before seeing value.
3. Show them what to expect
For some apps, the first-time user experience is about setting expectations with a product tour. This gets the user familiar with the look and feel of the app and helps them assess whether they will actively use it.
This tactic is recommended for apps with a strong UX design and a product experience for a complicated topic, such as banking. If you drop users inside a banking app with complicated terminology and complex UI, users feel overwhelmed.
Example: Clarity Money
On a first-time app launch, the app shows you exactly what to expect when you use the app regularly along with samples of the UI. Clear goals and visual examples give the user an overview of the app before they jump in.
4. Encourage & reward activity
The best first-time user experiences often incentivize users by rewarding them when they complete an action.
According to the Goal Gradient Effect3, people are more intrinsically motivated as they move closer to a goal. For example, people are more likely to contribute to a charitable campaign if it’s close to reaching its goal.4
Profile milestones, checklists, and progress bars are great ways to visualize progress and motivate the user to keep going.
Duolingo’s onboarding flow evaluates the user’s familiarity with a language by quizzing them on simple words. A progress bar shows how close the user is to reaching their next goal and provides encouragement to push