Last modified November 22, 2014 by Gordon Glauser

In-App Messaging Best Practices

This article provides suggestions about how to optimize your in-app messages. It covers best practices for the following:

  • General design guidelines.
  • Message creation.
  • Message artwork.
  • Targeting users.
  • Configuring message display triggers.
  • Selecting campaign goals to track and report on.
  • A/B testing your in-app messages.

General Guidelines

The following are general guidelines for designing in-app messages:

  • Avoid over-exposing users to too many messages within a short timeframe.
  • Segment and target specific users as effectively as possible.
  • Design messaging campaigns that are short but frequent. Short, frequent campaigns are more effective than longer, static campaigns as they enable you to make frequent creative adjustments and to be more responsive to changing data and results.

Message Creation

This section details general guidelines for creating in-app messages:

  • Use one clear call to action per message; avoid using a single message to encourage the user to perform multiple actions. Make the call to action the focus of the message (center it within the message).
  • Design clear buttons and calls to action, ensuring that your button and text stand out from the background.
  • Use imagery that communicates what you are trying to get the user to do. For example, if you want the user to click on a promotion, show the SKU (product ID) graphics in the cart and use strikethrough pricing or sale burst imagery.
  • Make the look and feel of the message as similar to your app content as your budget allows.
  • Localize your messages for each of your important regions. By localizing messages, you can improve click-through by as much as 150%.

Message Artwork

This section details general guidelines for designing in-app message artwork.

On the Overview screen of the in-app message wizard, you are prompted to select a message template, with options for no buttons, one button or two buttons. With each template, you can then upload a single background image and some optional buttons, which Swrve resizes for all devices. Swrve uses safe zones to enable you to optimize your image message content across the full spectrum of devices.

Click the link below to download a package of sample PNG images for image backgrounds and buttons.

Sample Background & Button Images

Image Safe Zones

Each platform has a range of devices, each with its own aspect ratio. For example, the iPhone 6 is long and narrow to match the HDTV format, while the iPad has the length and width of a more traditional tablet. Swrve helps you to manage artwork that supports all devices for a particular platform.

When you upload images on the Add Content screen of the in-app message wizard, two image resolutions are displayed in the palette:

  • The resolution of the image to be uploaded.
  • The resolution of the safe zone.

The first resolution above is the size of the image that Swrve recommends you upload (for example, we recommend 2424 x 1536 for Apple devices). For any given device on which your in-app message is displayed, Swrve resizes the image. Due to varying aspect ratios, some devices crop part of the image when displaying.

The safe zone is the portion of the uploaded image that is always displayed (regardless of the device) and is not affected by cropping (for example, we recommend 2048 x 1362 for Apple devices). Design your image content so that no text, buttons or calls-to-action are included outside the centered safe zone. Swrve enables you to preview your image and the associated safe zone on various devices in the dashboard so that you can check your content and ensure that no important material is at risk of being cropped.

The image below illustrates the different aspect ratio and safe zone for Apple devices:

iOS landscape safezones

If you are using the default templates from Swrve, then Swrve resizes your artwork for all devices. The background image resolution and safe zone for each platform should be as follows:

Platform Resolution (px) Safe Zone (px)
Apple 2424 x 1536 2048 x 1362
Google 2844 x 1920 2560 x 1598
Amazon 2560 x 1600 2560 x 1440

If you’re tracking multiple platforms to the same app integration in Swrve, then you’ll be targeting multiple platforms with the same message. In this case, use the Google template sizes.

Click the link below to download a package of PNG sample images which highlight the safe zones.

Sample Safe Zone Images

Click the link below to download a package of Adobe Photoshop PSD templates which highlight the safe zones.

Photoshop Safe Zone Templates

Swrve supports images in PNG and JPG formats.

Specific Devices

If you want to use different images for tablets versus phones (for example, iPad versus iPhone), then you may want to contact Swrve support for access to our Specific Devices templates. The background image resolutions and safe zones for each platform and format are as follows:

Platform Format Resolution (px) Safe Zone (px)
Apple iPhone 2208 x 1242 1863 x 1240
iPad 2048 x 1536 2048 x 1536
Google Tablet 2732 x 1600 2560 x 1532
Phone 2560 x 1800  2400 x 1600
Amazon Kindle 2560 x 1600 2560 x 1600
Fire Phone 1280 x 720  1280 x 720

For example, Swrve enables you to upload a single image to target the iPhone group. This image is in the resolution of the iPhone 6 Plus, while the safe zone is the portion of the image that displays on the iPhone 4.


Message Targeting

The following are general guidelines for targeting in-app messages:

  • Be conservative when considering the percentage of overall users to reach. Avoid over-messaging users, especially new users of your product. Use the frequency control and configure trigger set-up carefully to prevent over-messaging.
  • Take advantage of the segmentation options that Swrve offers:
    • Target specific messages at high payers, but target those high payers much less frequently than non-payers.
    • Target sales or promotions at non-payers; for example, promote an 80%-off sale to non-payers to motivate them to make their first purchase.
    • Target messages at users who have not yet used a particular feature of your app.
    • Target message at a particular user types; for example, users who have upgraded and users who have installed your app for free.
  • Target cross-promotional messages at users who don’t already own the app.

Event Triggers

This section details general guidelines for selecting the app events that trigger your in-app messages.

Use triggers to identify when a user sees a message. The table below lists typical trigger events that your development team may have configured to enable you to create in-app messages with Swrve.

Event Sent When a User… Use this Opportunity to…
Swrve.session_start …starts a new app session. …inform users of major changes, updates and special sales.
ui. …loads a specific menu. …introduce an interstitial message to introduce new features and holiday promotions.
monetization.store.enter …enters the store. …promote app upgrades, new modules (for example, for a language-learning app) or subscriptions (for an app with a subscription revenue model).
monetization.store.exit.no_purchase …exits the store without making a purchase (sent in addition to monetization.store..exit). …introduce a sale item to convert non-spenders.
monetization.store.complete_purchase …makes a purchase. …introduce a special sale with a large discount to attempt a quick upsell. For example, if a user has just purchased a one-week subscription, this is a good time to let them apply that value towards a one-month subscription.
usage.completedaction.completed …completes an action within your app. …prolong user engagement. At this stage, there’s a high probability of them leaving your app. In the instance of a carpooling app, for example, you could use this opportunity to encourage users to list their own vehicle instead of just closing the app.
tutorial.start …starts your tutorial. …provide timely information about your app or inform users about promotions.
tutorial.step_ …completes a step in your tutorial. …offer assistance, provide timely information about your app or inform users about promotions.
tutorial.end …leaves your tutorial. …ask them to review your app on the app store. This assists user acquisition and promotes your public image in the app store. Do this before delivering in-app messages aimed at promoting user spending.

For information about selecting event triggers during in-app message creation, see Creating In-App Messages.


Campaign Goals

This section details general guidelines for selecting custom campaign goals to measure and report on for your in-app messages. The table below outlines example goals you can select to measure downstream engagement or purchase events.

Message Summary Primary Goal Secondary Goal
Purchase of in-app currency. Purchasing in-app currency. Spending in-app currency.
Promoting a new feature, for example, saving content to favorites. Saving content as a favorite. Accessing content in favorites.
Promoting a time bound event. User attended event. Anything related to the event.
Tip for helping users complete registration. User followed tip. User completed registration.
Encouraging users to register with their social media details. User completed registration. User shared status on social media.

A/B Testing of In-App Messages

The following are general guidelines for A/B testing your in-app messages:

  • The in-app message wizard enables you to include up to 10 variations of your message content for A/B testing purposes. In order to be confident of the conversion rates of each variant, you need to be sure each variant is exposed to as many users as possible. Therefore, if you plan to run a test with a large number of variants, ensure you are targeting a large audience, or running the test for a longer period of time.
  • Swrve recommends each variant tests a specific creative aspect of the message; for example, varying the background image or changing the button text or position.

Next Steps