You’ve spent countless hours drilling down your concept, fine-tuning design, and focusing on building the best possible playable ad. Too often, though, creative designers and developers miss an opportunity to maximize their playable’s performance because they’re so involved in the process that they forget to take a step back and put themselves in the perspective of users. 

Asking yourself a few simple questions that address each part of your playable can help address any last-minute issues and improve the chances that you’re giving users a clear and engaging experience. Here, Elad Gabison, Creative Lead at ironSource Luna, shares his top 5 questions to ask yourself once you’ve designed your playable and it’s about ready to go live. Following these as a checklist can help you confirm that each part of your creative is optimized to attract high-quality users at scale.

1. Is the tutorial clear and engaging at first glance?

The first few seconds of your playable ad - your tutorial - are the most important for hooking users. This comes down to a numbers’ game: hooking a higher number of users from the get-go means more people playing through to the end of your playable, and likely more conversions.

It’s important, then, to have a tutorial that’s clear and easy to understand while encouraging users to engage quickly. If time to engage (we’ll talk more about in-ad metrics soon) is high, it means your hook or instructions aren’t clear enough. If engagement rate is low, this is also a sign your tutorial needs work. Ask yourself:

  • Are the colors bright and contrasting?
  • Is it clear what action users should take and what the control is?
  • Are you showing instead of telling (e.g. using hand pointers or glowing elements instead of lots of text)?

For the game Draw Weapon, the Supersonic creative team designed a playable that showed off the two parts of the game - drawing the weapon and using it in a battle. The tutorial needed to be as clear as possible and keep users engaged for the entire flow of the creative, which was 4-5 taps. Looking at engagement rate as the key KPI, the team A/B tested four new versions of the tutorial, including:

  • Testing different weapons for users to draw
  • Showing the weapon flashing so it was more clear what to draw
  • Trying out different designs for the sketch pad
  • Expanding how much of the weapon the user had to draw 

The testing paid off and made the tutorial more engaging and clear - in fact, the winning version increased ER by 12% to 64%.

2. Did you find the right number of taps to balance challenging users and boosting CTR?

The goal when building a playable ad is to create a clear and smooth interactive experience that guides users to take the actions you want, and leave them wanting more - all without exhausting them. Tapping into the feeling of frustration is one way to do this. Making your playable difficult to win and focusing on the lose scenario can be a key motivator for driving installs. But the gameplay can’t be too challenging or users will drop off. 

The number of taps and the time between them is important for achieving the right balance. We see there’s user dropoff after every tap - that’s good for culling low-quality users, but you need to keep the high-quality users, too. Too many taps or too long a transition between them may bore users and cause users to leave your playable. For example, if the animation after users make a match in a match-3 game playable is too long, they could lose interest and stop engaging. Although the excitement that animations provide is important, you need to balance this by getting back to gameplay quickly. 

The aim is to find that sweet spot of gameplay that’s challenging enough to attract high-quality users and easy enough that key KPIs remain high

Try A/B testing playables with different levels of difficulty, animations, and especially number of taps to find that sweet spot of gameplay that’s challenging enough to attract high-quality users and easy enough that key KPIs like click-through rate and conversion rate remain high.

3. How long does it take for users to complete your playable?

One of the most common mistakes I see are playables that go on for way too long. Generally, if it takes users over 30 seconds to complete your playable, you should cut it down. In hyper-casual, for example, a playable ad should take users an average of 12-15 seconds to play through - these games should be easy to understand and show off the core mechanic within seconds. For more complex, IAP-based games, it could take users closer to 22-28 seconds to complete your playable.

Simply open a timer on your phone and play through your creatives as if you were a new user. Keep in mind that the average time to engage for users is 3 seconds for hyper-casual games - for games with more complex mechanics, this can be closer to 5 or 6 seconds. So as you start timing yourself, add on a 3-6 second delay (depending on your game’s complexity) before starting to engage. Play through it 3 times so you can see on average how long it takes - if it’s too long, think where you can cut down on elements like animations and transitions. 

For the game Spiral Craft 3D from Dual Cat, the playable took users on average 44 seconds to click on a CTA. After Dual Cat checked the metrics through Luna's platform, they identified this as an opportunity for optimization - they removed extra elements and stripped down the creative to only the most essential gameplay. This let the users focus on the most important and engaging parts of the playable while leaving them wanting more, which encouraged them to click through at the end. The new version took users an average of 22 seconds to click the CTA and increased CTR by 160%.

4. Has someone outside your team played through the creative?

It’s easy to get so involved with designing your playable that you lose perspective of your target audience - your users. Take a step back by running a quick QA test with someone not involved in building the creative who can represent the average user - this can confirm it’s understandable, engaging, and clear. Plus it’s your chance to see on a small scale if you’re achieving the sweet spot of tempting users without exhausting them.

Make sure that during this “My Pretend User” test, whoever plays through your creative gives you feedback so you know what details need to be adjusted before you push it live. And like the last tip, have a timer handy to see how long it takes them to play through.

5. Did you set up in-ad events?

Playable ads give you unique insights into your creative performance that let you dive deeper than a video, which only reveals impressions and clicks. With interactive creatives, you can see the full user journey to show areas for optimization: when they start interacting with your playable, how they engage, and when they drop off within the experience. These in-ad events can also be used to analyze variants and conclude which version was the winner of an A/B test.

Take advantage of the in-ad events at your disposal to optimize your playable - and your entire UA campaign. A few of the most important in-ad events to set up and analyze include:

  • Tutorial_clicked
  • End_card_shown
  • Interactions - Tap_1,2,3…

Using these custom events can help you analyze the data inside the playable to reveal key KPIs, like time to engage, engagement rate, user dropoff, and time between events. But depending on your genre and your game, others in-ad events - like level win, level lose, money counter, and score - could be just as insightful.

Using custom events can help you analyze the data inside the playable to reveal key KPIs, like time to engage, engagement rate, user dropoff, and time between events.

Determine the in-ad events that matter most to your game’s success, then make sure you’re analyzing these to continue improving your playable’s performance. If you’re stuck on which events to set up, you can always ask the team behind your creative platform (if you’re using one) or turn to other resources, like industry articles or your creative peers.

Providing the ultimate playable experience

Playable ads are unlike any other creative because they give users an interactive experience  that’s different from passively watching a video or seeing a banner at the bottom of the screen. Users need to be guided through your playable and shown the actions you want them to take without going overboard - too many taps or other small mistakes, will likely lead to dropoff (but you can confirm with those handy in-ad events). 

As you check off each item on this list, remember to keep A/B testing variations so you can continue to improve performance. Now you’ve got the green light - go ahead and set your playable live. Good luck!

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