By Sam Slesinger, Product Evangelist at AppOnboard

As a self-avowed end-user advocate, I’m always looking for better ways apps and games can onboard and grow their user base. To that end, I wanted to make mention of a couple of product trends I’m not a fan of, along with preferred alternatives.

1. Loading As Onboarding

Many mobile apps fall victim to this tactic, which involves presenting the user with a loading screen upon first open in order to download all of the content the app needs without ballooning its file size for fear of running into over-the-air download size limits. In and of itself, it’s a clever way to work around size limitations, but when employed in this manner, it’s a terrible FTUE. At least for now, people have finite life spans and as such, time is truly our most precious resource. Forcing a user to wait when they first open your app is disrespectful to their time, and thus, their life.

The alternative doesn’t have to be onerous. Presenting the user with an intro video or a beautified readme can make all the difference if they don’t realize they are waiting for content to download in the background.

Another option, which is commonly seen with many console games, is having the user actually engage with a brief pre-loaded tutorial experience or a content-driven introduction while the rest of the game loads.

Shameless plug time: if you’d like to take a data-based approach to improving your app’s onboarding experience, HMU about my new gig, AppOnboard, which provides insights into your app’s usage at scale.

2. Evangelizing the Unknown

Product waitlists are great. They create artificial scarcity and drum up demand in the process. At some point, someone decided the hype wasn’t big enough and kicked off the practice of incentivizing product referrals by way of improving one’s waitlist position. 

E.G. for every 1 person who joins the waitlist from your referral link, you’ll move up a spot in the waitlist.

What’s the problem with this tactic you say? Put simply, why would you want to risk your social reputation evangelizing a product you haven’t used yet?

To be fair, this isn’t such a bad idea for products with some level of credibility. If Nintendo was beta-testing a new game, you better believe people would spam the crap out of their network for a better shot at early access. The problem is when new companies with little-to-no prestige and a higher-risk*product make the proposition because it can backfire in two ways:

1. The product does not meet expectations and the referring user’s reputation takes a hit.

2. The referring user takes the cautious approach and instead of evangelizing the product, expresses skepticism in a more public way than he or she would’ve otherwise.

*By higher-risk product, I mean something with a greater potential to impact one’s life. This is inherently subjective, but consider a new credit card service as being higher-risk than a mobile game.

The alternative to this is already in practice and makes much more sense from an end-user’s perspective — incentivize referrals from people who are already invested in your product. Rewarding your engaged, paying, active users is a virtuous practice.

As always, thanks for reading and I welcome discussion in the comments!