Onboarding is dead, here comes "Noboarding"

User onboarding is dead - here comes No-Boarding. The Mobile Spoon

Let's talk about App Clips for a minute, and forgive me Android readers, I know you had Instant Apps since 2018, but as product experts, entrepreneurs, or designers, surely you have to agree that Apple simply does it better with marketing, technology, developers, and users - all fall into the right part of the story.

So watching iOS14 keynotes (and App Clips) got me thinking about the future of mobile apps.

It also reminded me of the early days of our startup Missbeez, and how we used to describe our product as a simple "magic button".

Whenever people asked us what does the product do, we used to say:

"It's just a button. You click on it, and someone comes in and gives you a massage". 

Unfortunately, the reality was not that simple: users had to download our button from the App Store (or Google Play),  go through a long onboarding process, provide their name, email, address, enter their credit card, and only then could they click the magic button.

So much effort for such a tiny button.

Now, let's go back to App Clips and what they mean for mobile apps:

In a nutshell: 

App Clips are small parts of an app that are so small and light, they can be used instantly (that is, download + install + launch) without going through the usual installation process.

Here's why I think it's much bigger than what it seems:
  1. No installation - you know the horror stories about how hard it is for mobile apps to stand out, how bad are the installation numbers, and how fast are apps being uninstalled. There are too many apps out there, and users are getting tired and lazy. Installing an app is a commitment. It might even take a few minutes.
    Skipping straight to the action will make users very happy.
  2. No onboarding - conversion rate is the name of the game for mobile apps, and when you talk about conversion - you talk about onboarding challenges: eliminating friction, minimizing steps, shortening time to value, preventing drops-offs, etc.
    If fewer steps mean fewer drop-offs, what about no steps at all?
  3. Designed for speedMobile users love short interactions: you grab your smartphone, find the app you need, launch it, do something, it’s smart, it’s context-based, it's quick, and boom, you’re done. What if you could do the same thing without having to launch the app at all?
    App Clips allow performing the action instantly.
  4. Discoverability - Finally, an alternative to the traditional App Store installation process. Still goes through Apple, but the experience is totally different.
    Users will be able to engage with App Clips through all kinds of channels: digital (websites, blogs, messages, other apps) or physical (NFC, App Clip Codes), allowing some back-door installations, initial footprint, and tons of opportunities for app creators. Yummy. 

Apple's iOS 14 App Clip - the mobile spoon

Simply put, App Clips act and feel exactly like native iPhone features.

That's Apple's brilliant plan to enrich the iPhone experience with just-in-time actions that are all developed by the world.
Apple just turned all apps into iOS features (kind of). 
That's brilliant...
And sick...

But now, let's talk about the bigger picture:

From Onboarding to "Noboarding"

For the past 12 years, no matter how narrowed your mobile app functionality was - the rules of the game were that it must be discovered and installed through the App Store, it must provide a decent onboarding experience, follow some sign-up best practices, manage users and payments, etc.

The onboarding part could make or break those products, forcing developers to spend more effort on optimizing the onboarding than improving their core functionality. 

But what if there was a way to dump onboarding?
What if there was a noboarding experience?

An experience that would be completely frictionless, easy like clicking a link, but powerful like sophisticated native apps.

When noboarding takes place, users are not committing to anything, and in return, they instantly get everything they needed.

In a noboarding world, developers are liberated from the endless struggle to fix their onboarding, but in exchange, they have to pay commissions to the all-mighty ruler: the landlord that takes care of the seamless authentication, the context, the payments, etc.

And that's what just happened with App Clips.

What's next? 

So now that apps are all small subsidiaries (or plugins) of the parent operating system, why not take it to the next level? 

Interconnectivity between apps is currently being done by sharing content from one app to another. 
Shares are nice but are pretty limited, and they still require full app installation in advance. 

Why not using App Clips to integrate apps into combined services?

User does something with App A, it activates an App Clip performed by App B, while the user stays within the context of App A.

In such a world, users will not have to install so many apps and still enjoy all the services they need using the noboarding approach. 

Developers, on the other hand, will be able to develop "buttons" instead of apps, focusing on delivering core value, rather than struggling with funnels and discoverability challenges. 

Of course, there are some open questions such as who owns the data, how to deal with data privacy, how to extend the app footprint, and how can Apple increase profit out of it.

I'm sure they already figured that one out... 

Let me know what you think, or if you're too lazy right now, sign up to my newsletter (noboarding guaranteed) and receive my occasional blurbs directly to your inbox. We can chat later...


Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
Anonymous said…
you lost me at "surely you have to agree that Apple simply does it better with marketing, technology, developers, and users"... Apple does it better at technology and users? hahaha... Fanboy perhaps? Marketing and developers perhaps, buy technology and users, hhhmmmm?
Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
Aryan said…
This is really great and thank you for sharing this info :)