Featured Blog

How to Retain Mobile App Users - 6 Expert Tips

Learn 6 things you need to avoid in order to retain your mobile users.

This post was originally published on Appodeal blog

It’s finally happened. After all your hard work and time invested, your user has installed your application or game. He’s on the subway, headed to work and decides to open up the app to pass the time.

Click. Click. Tap. Tap. It looks like you’ve scored another engaged user.

After that initial excitement, you analyze the user’s behavior a little more closely. To surprise, you realize he dropped the app after one use and quickly moved on to something else.

What went wrong?

According to a study by Compuware, only 16% of users will try an app more than twice.

So, while you’re certainly not alone, you’re not exactly in good company either. For developers, the loss of a user means the loss of income. Retaining  a user from day one has a critical impact on the following metrics of the application.

Below you will find 6 ways to improve retention of customers from the first run.

1. Optimize the Loading Screen


Curiosity strikes every app user. With so many applications and games, it’s hard to resist taking a peek at them all.

While curiosity might encourage a user to give your app a try, it’s a double-edged sword. Who’s to say that anyone will be patient enough to wait for your app to finish downloading when there are so many eye-catching options on the market?

To mitigate the problem, consider your user’s ever-shortening attention span. A mobile app download shouldn’t take longer than 10 seconds. Each second of delay results in the loss of users. Challenge your developers to optimize the application so that the download takes as little time as possible. Some important resources might be downloaded after the user sees the main menu or enjoys picking the funky screensaver.

Even if your application requires an internet connection, it should not interfere the overall load. Let the user know that the internet is off while the application is running.

Keep users around by making the download of the application interactive. Using  an indicator of load is a good starting point. . However, there’s a second aspect to be aware of. What goes through your mind when an app downloads slowly or the progress bar freezes for a second or two? You probably wonder if this thing works at all or if the download is paralyzed.

Show your users the app works before they decide to drop it like yesterday’s news.

How can you avoid costly mishaps like this one?

  • Add animated elements to the download bar to show that the application is running.

  • Use a bright and detailed image at the loading screen to give a positive first impression.

  • Divide a long-lasting download into several steps with a separate image attached to each one.

The last tip is a smart way to reset the internal clock of the user. He won’t be able to say exactly how long the download actually took, but will have noticed 2 or 3 snazzy loading screens.

2. Do Not Download Everything at Once

Many developers use this simple approach for the app launch: they create an application of a random volume, and then reduce its amount to  10MB, so all the data can be downloaded right at the start.  This method is quite risky, as it increases the loading time by minutes and eliminates the ability to run the application offline.

The bigger problem? It widens the gap between the installation and the actual usage of the application. As a developer, you should always ask yourself: “What do I want to show in the first place?” Most likely, the downloaded data won’t be necessary right from the start or in the first 10 minutes.

Bottom line:

Minimize spooling by cutting the downloadable content into blocks, and download it gradually as the user moves on the application.

3. Get Straight to the Point

straight to the point.jpg

The only thing a user is looking for when running the app for the first time is to get to know it. Your goal is to to introduce your app in a simple, but effective way.

It takes just 2 minutes for a user to define whether he likes your app or not. Overall, users aren’t interested in spending a lot of time learning how to use your app (or any app for that matter). Once the app is on, he wants to run it and start using it immediately.

Save  him from a complex navigation or long read. You want the highlights of your app be screened right away. Think of it like a job interview. Be you but the best version of you.

To put the best version of your app forward, show your user what he’s looking for. With a cooking app, that might be a recipe for gourmet meals. If you’re working with a game, waste no time and send him directly to the gameplay.

4. Use an Interactive Tutorial


How do you lose a user in less than 10 seconds? Screen tutorial text, and watch him drift away.

Instead, let your user get his feet wet without much interference. Suggest performing basic tasks by himself, make directions via pointers and let him experiment.

You’ll have to play fortune teller a little bit. Predict the script of the user’s behavior and help him  to get  through all the stages of learning consistently without overwhelming him with abundance of information. Teach him  the basics, and he  will overcome the rest of information on his  own.

You may split your tutorial into parts if it’s complex  or  long. Create multiple blocks of information – the user will absorb it easier step by step.

For a game, you may show tutorials as new content appears.

If it is an app, start the interactive part of the tutorial when the user opens a new chapter for the first time. This gives you a chance to onboard the user and showcases the app’s functionality.

5. Minimize Windows and Actions

less actions.jpg

The more milestones you put between the start of the application and the actual usage, the greater the chance of losing the user.

How many separate windows make up your app? You should take into account each separate window that the user sees, each button he has to push. Consider each one as a reduction in interest and increase in boredom.

At all costs,  avoid  sections that require filling something in.

If you need age – use a composing scale; for registration – suggest doing it via a social network.

Demonstrating the app first is more efficient than distracting the user with a variety of registrations and having to entering personal information.

The less action he has to take before he sees the benefits of the application, the lower the probability that he skips out at some point.

6. Do Not Overload Users with Ads and Make Them Relevant


If you have a free app and mobile ads are your only monetization channel, ad revenue is your bread and butter. But before you begin showing ads, focus on engagement.

Your first step is to get your new user addicted by showing off the app’s highlights. This technique results in a much warmer welcome than a full-on ad assault. It also gives the user a chance to like the app and come back, thereby maximizing your customer’s lifetime value.

If you’re worried about the revenue you lost by not displaying ads immediately, consider a different approach by using mediation.

By negotiating the price of every ad impression with over 30 networks through Appodeal, you’ll make each and every impression count. The time you save on not having to manage waterfalls can be reinvested into making your apps as entertaining and captivating as possible.

Latest Jobs

Sucker Punch Productions

Hybrid (Bellevue, WA, USA)
Senior Programmer

The Pyramid Watch

Game Designer (RTS/MOBA)

Sucker Punch Productions

Hybrid (Bellevue, WA, USA)
Senior Technical Combat Designer

Digital Extremes

Lead AI Programmer
More Jobs   


Explore the
Advertise with
Follow us

Game Developer Job Board

Game Developer


Explore the

Game Developer Job Board

Browse open positions across the game industry or recruit new talent for your studio

Advertise with

Game Developer

Engage game professionals and drive sales using an array of Game Developer media solutions to meet your objectives.

Learn More
Follow us


Follow us @gamedevdotcom to stay up-to-date with the latest news & insider information about events & more