If you watched March Madness this year then you saw the commercial with the little Android robot floating around the life-sized consumer reviews. The focus was on the cute green robot for almost the entirety of the commercial. To contrast, a commercial for the iPhone shows the iPhone being used. A subtle, but powerful distinction. It’s obvious who has more confidence in their product.

Earlier this week I tweeted:

When marketing your web app take a cue from Apple and just display the product (screenshots) instead of talking about how great it is.

The root of this angst comes from frequent encounters with websites that like to showcase their app like this:

Example of icon, title and description commonly seen on web app marketing websites.

This is a design pattern that is blindly followed as a de-facto best practice for listing features, selling points and so forth for an app. It makes sense on some level — show an icon that represents a feature, lead with a title for more context and then a short description. Together the three encapsulate a nugget of understanding about the app. List several of these and you paint a pretty picture of the application’s capabilities.

There are a few problems though:

  1. Most icons are ubiquitous and too generalized. Two silhouettes behind a higher-contrast, larger silhouette doesn’t help me get any closer to an understanding of your app.
  2. In most cases there are multiple apps trying to solve the same problems. Letting me know that your app does X still doesn’t help me differentiate from the others.
  3. One block as described above is fairly easy to process but list several together and it just becomes noise:
Example of icon, title and description commonly seen on web app marketing websites.Example of icon, title and description commonly seen on web app marketing websites.Example of icon, title and description commonly seen on web app marketing websites.Example of icon, title and description commonly seen on web app marketing websites.Example of icon, title and description commonly seen on web app marketing websites.Example of icon, title and description commonly seen on web app marketing websites.

I’ve picked on the icon, title and short description look because I see this method used a lot. But frankly what I’m arguing against is giving any description, testimony or feature list more prominence than a screenshot of your app. Let people see where you add to-dos or how you add a new contact. Don’t just tell me that your app does it.

Of course the feature lists, testimonies and descriptions are all important. But offering those first is like trying to sell a camera by giving someone the user manual to read instead of letting them hold and experiment with the camera. Show people your application, don’t hide it. Display it big and display it proud. Believe the fold-myth gospel we preach and put all the other stuff beneath the screenshots.