What is in-app messaging and 3 ways to innovatively use it

April 20, 2021

In most cases, the ideal user journey and the actual user journey will differ, and getting users to follow through with the desired action will become almost impossible.

Lowering your expectations of the ideal user might be a solution to this, but understanding user journeys and users’ behavior, as well as reaching out to them with the relevant content and questions would be a much more efficient solution on your en

A well-structured practice of in-app messaging can be extremely helpful in this case.

What is in-app messaging?

In-app messaging is notifying or informing a user inside a platform or an app with a UX element such as a tooltip, a pop-up, or a hotspot.

It is commonly used in UX design to distribute additional information to your audience, or simply for calling them to perform the desired action. 

In-app messages started to emerge as Graphical User Interfaces became more and more common among non-technical users, to educate them on the functions of the products. One of the earliest examples could be Microsoft Word 95’s tooltips displayed on the toolbar, explaining how the features were used.

In the following decades, in-app messaging has acquired a disreputation because it would usually distort the user experience flow and appear without context. Although many in the design space would advise against in-app messages, they can provide great value for any product when utilized correctly.

Why should you use in-app messages?

Is your UI full of space that can be filled with paragraphs of additional information all the time?

I don’t think so.

In fact, every design expert ever asks you to keep your UI as clean as possible, minimizing distractions and utilizing as much space as possible.

This means that you can’t explain the different features on the toolbar, announce new features and news in an extra dashboard, or just ask for feedback in a feedback box that never disappears.

However, with triggered in-app messages and a well-structured user journey, you can both keep your base UI simple; and inform, notify users, or call them to desired actions such as upgrading their plan or leaving a couple of sentences of feedback.

You see, in-app messages can be triggered at different parts of the user journey, whether it be user onboarding where they learn about the different use cases of the product, or late in their user journey where you want to inform them about your Holiday Discount. By making sure they encounter the right in-app message at the right time in their journey, you can improve the engagement of your users without disrupting your UX flow.

How to create an in-app message

Creating a message that is displayed inside your app can be a bit tricky, especially if you’re considering segmenting users and adjusting triggers to offer relevant content. 

As with most things in life, there is a hard and easy way to do this.

The hard way

You don’t need to be a technical person to understand how hard creating in-app messages and maintaining them in-house would be.

You don’t only develop a few simple UX elements if you want your campaigns to achieve their maximum potentials. You’ll also need:

  • A user segmentation system to differentiate different user profiles,
  • A user behavior system to determine where in the user journey a user is,
  • An analytics dashboard connected to your in-app messages to measure performance, for iteration.

I’m assuming you’re not the technical person who won’t be responsible for creating all these, but you can surely understand that these will take a little bit of time, starting from weeks to even months!

Not only will it take a lot of time to create a significant MVP, but it will consume tons of developer time that could be invested into actually improving the product and will be even harder to maintain once released.

You might now understand why I called this the hard way.

If you’re choosing this way regardless, and if you’re not the technical person in your team, visualize your ideas or write them down and hand it to the product team for them to add to the next sprint.

You’ll get what you want eventually.

The easy way

But isn’t there an easy way to create an in-app message? 

I hear you asking. If I’m writing these lines, we’re both aware that I will introduce the easy way in a few paragraphs, so keep on reading.

Many business and product owners experienced the same struggles you did, so there was no escape from the emerging of related solutions. These solutions are usually in the form of third-party tools that don’t require any technical experience to create in-app messages and other UX elements.

Tools that I’ve used personally, and could suggest to you are as follows:

UserGuiding – Tooltips, Hotspots, Announcements, User Guides

UserGuiding is a no-code third-party solution originally intended for onboarding users to your platform, and since most in-app messaging that aim to inform and activate users happen inside this period in the user journey, it solves that problem too.

With UserGuiding, you can easily create interactive user guides, in-app messages such as tooltips, announcements, and hotspots; while being able to segment your users, trigger custom events, and analyze the performance of your creations.


Qualaroo – NPS Surveys, In-app Qualitative, and Quantitative Surveys

Informing users and calling them to action is one thing, and asking them to answer specific questions is another.

Surveying users can be torture too if you don’t have the right tools. Yes, you can send a survey through Google Forms, but it doesn’t make sense to use off-product websites to conduct mini-surveys when you can capture feedback in-app.

For this use case, Qualaroo comes in very handy. Qualaroo is a code-free in-app feedback platform you can use to create any kind of survey and easily maintain them.

Qualaroo nudge

With various ready-to-use templates for different use cases and goals, you can use Qualaroo to collect feedback from users without any hassle

Innovative ways to utilize in-app messages

As I’ve said earlier in the article, most designers would advise against using in-app messages.

Simply because most businesses overuse in-app messages and disrupt the natural flow of the user experience. 

Can’t you avoid this?


Throughout my years of software consumption, I was exposed to hundreds of annoying in-app messages, but I’ve seen some beautiful ones too. These had common characteristics, such as:

  • Triggering at the right time: when you need it,
  • Covering a reasonable amount of the screen,
  • Offering relevant content or calling to a sensible action,
  • And being as friendly as possible in general.

You can simply ask yourself the question: “How can I help my users with this in-app message?”, and run a successful in-app messaging campaign.

Let me show you 3 ways you can innovatively use in-app messages to add value to your users’ lives and your business:

Onboarding Users

User onboarding is the most crucial part of a users’ journey, regardless of your industry.

It is the part where you need to direct users to the point they’ll realize the value of your product and start achieving it on their own: the Aha moment.

You can’t force users to this point, however. They’re meant to experience it on their own if they’re to actually experience the value of your product and understand how it’s achieved. 

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t give them little pushes here and there. That’s where the in-app message will come in handy.

Here’s an example of a brilliant in-app message during the first login of the user, from usertesting.com:


It is beautifully built inside the product’s UI, gives the relevant information, and stops there. Nothing more.

During the user onboarding, users will understand the basic functions without needing any help, but using in-app messages here and there to push them in the right direction can benefit you without producing any adverse results.

Highlighting New/Existing Features

Not every feature of your product is going to be consumed the same.

But you probably want them to be equally consumed because the more a user uses your product, the more engaged they will be.

After user onboarding, or during it; users might ignore certain features in your product because it’s not necessary for the core value of your product, a feature you actually want them to use.

Or, you might be releasing a brand new feature, one that will bring you amazing business value and your users’ utility beyond imagination.

I hope you can be relieved when I tell you that these are the most common and the most effective use cases of in-app messages. They were initially made to introduce/explain different features if you remember.


Some businesses effectively utilize in-app messages to explain or highlight features. Here’s how ClickUp highlights its Columns feature:

They’ve included a screenshot of how the feature is used and briefly explained it in a few sentences. This is a textbook that uses an in-app message that I’ve found extremely useful as I was introduced to ClickUp. 

If you can replicate the same concept, your users will find it beneficial too.

Related Read: 35+ Best Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Tools

Collecting Valuable Feedback


You can’t expect to understand every motive behind user behavior with an in-app survey.

However, you can reveal valuable insights that you can use to improve your UX, product, and business processes. This can be done through in-app messages that ask users about their experience, requiring them to quickly rate how satisfied they are or input a short answer to a quick question. Here’s how Notion collects feedback inside their product:

Quick, and simple; won’t even take more than 10 seconds to answer. Most in-app messages that aim to collect feedback are designed this way, at least the ones that bring the desired results.

So, avoid extending surveys and keep them typing-free as long as you can. I’ve quit many in-app surveys simply because I didn’t want to put in the effort of moving my right hand from my mouse to my keyboard 🙂


In-app messages can be a great addition to any UX, as long as they’re designed user-friendly; popping up at the relevant time, with the relevant content, and not taking too much time to go through. 

With the “easy way” I’ve mentioned, you can set up your own in-app messages in a matter of minutes.

This post was written and contributed by Selman Gokce, Inbound Marketing Specialist of UserGuiding, a code-free product walkthrough software that 2000+ companies trust in their user onboarding.

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Do you want a free Survey & Feedback Software?

We have the world’s most versatile user research & feedback survey tool starting at $0

Do you want a free Survey & Feedback Software?

We have the world’s most versatile user research & feedback survey tool starting at $0