The Essential Guide to getting your first 10k users for a mobile app – Part 1


Getting traction with your mobile app can be hard. The team here at UserPath has worked on mobile apps that ranged from having hundreds of users to hundred’s of thousands of users. We wanted to share our tips and tricks for getting those first 10k users. We thought that would be valuable, but we wanted to offer more, so we analyzed the top 50 free iOS apps listed here and the top 50 paid iOS apps here (as of August 7th, 2016), then we decided to break down the attributes & tactics they’re using to grow for you as well to figure out what works and what doesn’t when getting initial app downloads!

You’re reading Part 1 which covers tactics used by iOS developers to grow using the desktop and mobile web. If you want to see Part 2, which covers the app store and mobile apps, you can tune in next week or subscribe to our newsletter or if you want to see Part 3, which is essentially the TL;DR of parts 1 & 2, you’re going to have to tune in two weeks from today.

Our Research

On the desktop web:

Overall, you probably don’t want to be finding your users on desktop unless of course, you’re a service that has a web application as the companion to your mobile app or vice versa. You’re going to want to get your visitors straight to the download page. With that said, in our opinion, there are some major screw ups for the top 100 when it comes to desktop traffic, including:

  1. Only 48% have screenshots of their app on the homepage
  2. Of the ones that do have screenshots, the majority (93%) have a gif (38%) and/or video (76%) explaining their app
  3. Interestingly, 45% don’t even have a visible download button on their homepage
  4. Very surprisingly, only 5% use download forms, even though they can increase download intent by as much as 86%
  5. Only 59% focus exclusively on their app on the page
  6. 71% support other platforms (71% android, 24% windows phone)

App Screenshots:

It was really surprising to see that less than half (48%) of apps in our dataset didn’t have screenshots of their apps on their desktop website. This speaks to the idea that Desktop is Dying. Despite this, the websites for the apps in our data set still receive literally hundreds of millions of monthly visitors. Moreover, we believe, to quote Matthew Manos: “With any mobile app or mobile website, the sole concern should be, “Am I making the end user’s life more convenient?” Human-centered design, a common process in the development of physical products, is often left out of the digital space. Don’t design from a cubicle. Design with your end user by seeking input at every step of the way and putting yourself in their shoes.”

Twitter's mobile app page properly shows users what the app is like.
Twitter’s mobile app page properly shows users what the app is like.

Since desktop sites are still getting so much traffic, it’s crucial if you’re trying to convert a desktop user to a user of your mobile app that you show them how your app works. Also, it probably helps to be inclusive and have both an iOS and Android screenshot if you support both.

Takeaway: Mobile app growth 101: Make sure you have screenshots of your app for iOS & Android on your homepage!

Videos & Gifs:

Of the sites we analyzed that had screenshots, most of them (about 93%) decided to provide the user with full context and provided a video (76%) and/or a gif (38%) that shows what it’s like to use the app. This is a great tactic because it allows your potential users to visualize themselves using the app.

SnapChat has a great video that shows what it’s like to use the app.
SnapChat has a great video that shows what it’s like to use the app.

Since this tactic is so popular – we expect it to be performant and therefore – we recommend you give it a try.

Takeaway: Protip: Include a gif or video of your app on your homepage to squeeze out a few more downloads

App Download forms:

We have seen some really promising results with app download forms, with downloads increasing around ~90% with a download form, other companies, like Branch Analytics have seen as high as 42% conversion. We think this is a major opportunity that most apps are missing out on. This is what it looks like when done right:

Facebook does their app download page right.
Facebook does their app download page right.

It’s such a simple idea, take the user straight to the download screen on their phone rather than have them open their phone, find the app store icon, go to the search tab, remember your app name & then finally download your app. In the end, only 5% of the apps in our top 100 are using this tactic. The most interesting aspect of this was that it was mostly the big web companies (Facebook, Twitter, OfferUp, etc) that were making use of this tactic. The other notable feature is that this tactic is used by fast growing startups like Meerkat. You can install an App Download form with UserPath.

Takeaway: Text me a link forms can increase app download conversions on Desktop up to 84%!

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Focused app pages:

We found that 59% of the sites we visited focused exclusively on the app they were supposed to represent. This is even more evidence that mobile is growing & not going anywhere. Not to mention the popularity of other gaming platforms, since games are such a huge segment of the top 100. It’s still pretty crazy to think that 41% of the top 100 apps do not even need a website to grow. Either way, if you’re looking to grow, you should focus your site on getting downloads, because as stated previously, there are desktop web visits & they’re in the billions.

Houzz does a great job of focusing attention on download with their mobile app page.
Houzz does a great job of focusing attention on download with their mobile app page.

Takeaway: Focus your app’s marketing or landing page on the app for maximum results!

Go multi-platform & be proud:

Out of all the apps we reviewed, we found that 71% are multi-platform. To us, this makes sense, if you want more users, being at the very least on Android will go a really long way, considering the fact that there are roughly a billion and a half Android users world wide. We found that 71% of all the apps in our data set supported Android. Supporting Windows phones can make sense as well – we saw about 24% of all apps in our data set doing so – because there are (by some estimates) roughly 300 million Windows phones worldwide.

After Light Screenshot

When you’re multi-platform, be sure to showcase it and let users of other platforms know you care about them too.

Takeaway: Want more growth? Support Android and/or Windows phone – they add 1.6b more potential users…

On the mobile web:

This is actually not a place to get a visitor, so you really need to just focus their intention on getting them to the download page. For this, we only focused on 1 thing, which is how they get their user to the App Store. It turns out that only 35% of the top 100 apps in the data set we collected are doing this! This probably a missed opportunity, don’t let it happen to you!

Takeaway: Smart App Banners convert at 15% – you’re losing downloads if you don’t have a banner on your site.


We’ve broken the options down for you, these are the most common ways of getting a user to the app store download page:

Use Smart App Banners

This is probably the easiest & one of the most effective ways to get people to the download page – it literally converts at up to 15%. It also has a great secondary purpose of reminding users that they have your app installed if they end up on your site by mistake. The instructions for doing so are very simple, we’ve added them here. Here’s what they look like when implemented correctly, from most effective to least:

Kik’s Smart App Banner, post install!

Handmade App Store Banners

If you’re not a fan of Apple’s Smart App Banner you might try to roll your own, this can be a pain & we definitely don’t think it’s worth it because the effort required yields essentially the same look and feel as Smart Banners. However we did notice that quite a few of the apps in the top 100 use this style of banner. Most notably, Instagram & Pinterest.

Instagram mobile site Pinterest mobile site


Full page takeovers

This style of mobile banner is fairly effective in our personal experience, but only makes an appearance in 2% of the top 100 – Gmail & Facebook. We chose to highlight an app not in our data set, GlassDoor because we like it so much!


Device specific button

This style is very tasteful & subtle, show the user one button, the only one that matters to them right now. This is implicit in the banner styles above – but can be implemented standalone, in the way that WhatsApp uses it.


App Store redirects

A simple but jarring tactic is to just forward the user to the appropriate App Store. This is significantly less effective than the above tactics, but it’s better than nothing!

Looking for Part 2?

That’s it for this segment of the series! We’ll be publishing Part 2 very soon, make sure you sign up to our mailing list to find out when that’s published!

Takeaway: Smart App Banners convert at 15% – you’re losing downloads if you don’t have a banner on your site.


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Co-founder at UserPath. Often blogging about the stuff we're doing to make your apps better and users satisfied. Sometimes writing about experiments or research. Learner. Thinker. Programmer.