The Shenanigans: The Musical project has reached the point that we’re designing a page to launch it on Kickstater. I’ve spent a few years launching games on Kickstarter now and have raised around £80,000 (I didn’t get to keep any of it). That’s a pretty good record contrasted with the ~70% of UK based games Kickstarter projects which fail to fund, but a pretty poor one contrasted with projects that raise more money in their first day than I have in years. I thought that the wind up to the Shenanigans project might be a good time to talk about how I design the page, both as a means of helping people who’re having less success than me and opening myself up to suggestions from people who’re doing better.
The role of the Kickstarter page is to help people who look at the page decide if they want to back your project. I think it’s important not to view the job of the page as being to get people to pledge their money – that’s the job of the game itself. The job of the page is to ensure that every person who would later be delighted to play the game pledges their support.
Thus a good page should show off all of the best aspects of the game, so that people who will love it can see that they will. It also needs to minimise the number of barriers that people will have to overcome in order to pledge, so that nobody misses out on a game they’d love through having been frustrated with an interface. Finally it should generate some level of excitement, both to help overcome people’s natural inertia and to inspire them to share the project with others who might enjoy it.
This creates some tension between “Showing what a game is” and “Making things exciting”. I always find that there’s some stiff competition for what gets to be the first text after the video – some people won’t scroll if they’re not already interested so may well read only the first paragraph. Should it be an informative section on what the game’s about? Should it show stretch goals that are unlocked? Should it show the best things that third party reviewers have said about the game?
The second tension in designing the page comes in terms of understanding how different people use Kickstarter. Whenever I back a project I read every word on the project page first. Every word. I almost never watch the video. For the longest time I didn’t grasp how unusual that makes me. Some backers will only watch the video. Some will only read the text. Some will skim the images and maaaaybe read a bit of text if there’s not more than a couple of lines at a time. Some will download the rules *.pdf and go through it with a fine tooth comb. Most will do some combination of these things to some extent. Everyone has their reasons, a lot of it comes down to how they like their information, but sometimes it’s down to browsing on a mobile phone or in a very limited amount of time.
Ideally the page needs to do what it’s designed to do for each and every person who sees it during the campaign. That means that the video, the images and the text all need to do everything in the absence of any of the other two. They each need to show what you’re offering, show why you’re excited about it, show why the viewer should be excited about it and show that you’re capable of doing it.
When I design a page it’ll usually have the following sections in the following order:
1 This is the thing
2 This is what other people say about the thing
3 These are ways the thing will be / is better for being on Kickstarter
4 Here are some more details about the things
5 This is how we’ll make the thing
The Kickstarter editor is terrible and locks you into one font and two text sizes. To get around this each section starts with an image of the title, which helps to break up the text and tells the image-inclined viewers where to look for specific information without having to search a wall of text.
Then each section contains two things: Some text that does the job of the section as succinctly as possible and an image or video that does the same thing. Often these compliment each other (As a list of contents and a photo of the game can) but sometimes the effort is redundant – there’s no real way to avoid that.
The section ordering is pretty deliberate. (1) comes above the cut because knowing what the game is contextualises all of the other information, it needs to be as short as possible. (2) tends to be the most informative, every game creator thinks that they’ve made something great, but third party reviewers give an honest impression which I believe is both more useful and more persuasive. (3) refers to stuff like stretch goals, reduced prices, KS bonuses and so on – they’re nice extras but I don’t think they mean anything outside of the context of the first two steps. “Pledge now and you get this extra thing for a game that people are saying is great about orchestras.” sounds a bit cart-before-horse next to “This is a game about orchestras that people are saying is great and you get an extra thing if you pledge now.”
(4) and (5) I think are unnecessary for most people and generally get skipped. Personally I wouldn’t back a game without reading the rules so for me as an individual (4) is really important, but the more I speak to backers and get opinions and data the more it seems to be the case that most people want an overview and selling points – they don’t care about the details. Similarly, I think it’s important to have a manufacturing agreement and shippin plan and so (5) seems important to me – but they’re not interesting and they’re not what people are really primarily there for so I think most people skim or skip the section.
I include them anyway because I think that a minority of people do look for them and that this minority informs the majority. The knowledge that some people will go “Hey, this person plainly can’t deliver this project” and will shout about it in the comments is enough for most backers to feel safe, but as a creator you need to satisfy the 5% who will look at these details. The main reason to do this is because if I *can’t* persuade someone that my project has a sensible plan for manufacturing and delivery (or at least the right expertise to implenent it) I probably shouldn’t be running it in the first place, but partly because I don’t want someone to think this part of the project is missing and raise the alarm.
That ordering is not set in stone and I think it’s important to keep it agile throughout the campaign. During the Escape the Nightmare campaign I realised that a particular misconception was common, so I pulled a quote from a reviewer that countered that to the top of the page. I’d also move a particularly sexy picture of the game or unlocked stretch goal to the top of the page if it seemed like it’d make a big difference. This is just the order of information that I like to start from these days.
That fills the “story” section of the page, but doesn’t really begin to cover everything that goes into a Kickstarter page. I’ve not talked about the cover image, video, tagline, risks & challenges, goal, creator profile or pledge levels. If you’ve found it useful/interesting to hear me talk about KS page design let me know and I’ll turn this into a series over the next few weeks – I imagine I’ll be tinkering and improving the Shenanigans page for a while!