Why your fancy launch sequence sucks

February 2, 2018

(no matter how good it looks)

The other morning I got an email from someone whose list I’ve been on for a long time. I appreciate her work a lot, and I’m excited to see that she’s launching a new thing into the world. Her subject line promised some great new training, the email copy got me all intrigued, and I saw that she was releasing a series of videos leading up to the new launch. Cool! I want to hear more!

So I clicked the link in the email and went to a landing page structured something like this: cool logo at the top, and what looked like the first video, with placeholders for upcoming videos below. Yay! I clicked the shiny playback button. Nothing happened. I clicked again. OK, it looks like the page reloading...and nothing. Bummer. I guess I don’t get to listen to this training while I drive.

I had forgotten about my disappointment by the time the next email in the series arrived. Interest renewed, I tried video 2, hoping maybe whatever the issue was had been fixed. Nope. Nothing. I tried a different mobile browser. Nada. I paid closer attention to the URLs coming up and realized that video 2 was linking to a static image. I got as far as drafting an email reply to let this person know that her video links weren’t working before I finally thought to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page - where the ACTUAL video was.

Yeah, I felt pretty silly. Especially since at that point I remembered that I have experienced this exact issue before. You could make the case that I should have known better, but that was a really easy mistake to make. Things that look like video playback buttons usually play videos. It’s what most users will intuitively expect.

If your design confounds users’ intuitive expectations, it sucks.

Maybe you've done email sequences like this that use a series of videos to build up excitement for a launch. You’re giving some great training while letting people have a taste of what it’s like to work with you and what they can expect more of in the upcoming release. All good so far, yeah?

The landing pages show image placeholders for all the upcoming videos, all in a nice row across the top of the page. As each video is released, your people are sent to a new page that looks pretty much the same on top, with the text under the video placeholder picture updated from “coming soon” to the title of the video. Here’s the thing though - those placeholder images look like a video. They have the little video button in the middle, so it looks like you should just be able to click on that and play the video. But they’re actually just static images linked to the page itself, and the video is lower on the page.

What’s the problem with that? Well, on a desktop it looks fine. Those not-really-a-video links are contained in a small header, and the video itself is the main thing you see. But if you’re viewing the page on a mobile, the not-really-a-video links fill the screen, so they’re all that’s above the fold. The actual video is WAY down the page, and there is nothing at the top of the page to lead you there - no indication that there’s any reason to scroll down. As far as you can tell by looking, all you have are some video links that don’t do anything. You click, the page reloads, and there you are in the same place. No video.

At this point, most people are just going to leave. Maybe if they really like you, or they’re really angry, they’ll reply & tell you that your videos aren’t working. But probably not. Probably they’ll give up and move on to one of the other 17,054 things calling for their attention right then.

If you’re going to design your landing page like this, then you’d better be 100% sure that your audience is not going to view your stuff on a mobile. (Are you high? Of COURSE they’re going to be on a mobile.) Otherwise, no matter how beautiful it looks, your design sucks - unless your purpose is to screen out mobile users. If your goal is to get mobile users to go away when they can’t figure out why the video links aren’t working, then congratulations, you have a successful design. I seriously doubt that’s the goal in any of the cases of this phenomenon I’ve seen. (If you really are courting a desktop-only audience, well, good luck to you.)

 If your goal is to get mobile users to go away, then congratulations, you have a successful design.

The good news is, it’s an easy fix. Do one of these things:

  1. Have the not-really-a-video links hide themselves when viewed on mobile. (Your design is mobile-responsive, right? If not, you have an even bigger problem.) That way the actual video part of your video page is what shows up for mobile viewers.
  2. Have the not-really-a-video links not actually look like a video. Buttons are fine. People know what to do with buttons.
  3. Incorporate some sort of indication in your visuals that lets people know they need to scroll down to see the video.

Otherwise, you’re losing some folks - possibly 40-50% of your intended audience. The number of people viewing on mobile is that high, and it's likely to continue going up. Make sure your landing page doesn't suck for your mobile users. (If you're looking for a designer who gets that, and who gets you, I just might be the one. Let's talk about you.)

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