• January
    07
    2021
  • 11 min read

How to Create the Best App Preview Video—Secrets Unlocked

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(with a real app developer)

An app preview video is exactly what it sounds like. 

It’s a preview of your mobile app.

These videos can be up to 30 seconds long and help potential users discover and learn more about your app.

A quick visit to the App Store and you’ll be able to find preview videos for apps from every category, whether it’s music and entertainment or education and business.

Every mobile app has a preview video (along with screenshots) for their mobile app listing in stores because…why not?

It’s one of the best ways to show an app in action.

It demonstrates an app’s features, functionality, and the UI.

In this blog, we’re going to unlock the secrets behind making the best app preview video so you can launch your mobile app with success in the App Store or Google Play Store.

Chapter #1: Planning Your Video

While making a short, 30-second preview video for your app might sound pretty easy—after all, you just need some footage of your app in action—it actually requires some careful planning.

You don’t want to just throw together a 30 second video of random footage of your app.

Every shot, every feature showcased needs to be thought out so it has the most impact.

Remember, the idea is to present potential users with your app’s value.

1.1 Get Inspired

When you first came up with your mobile app idea, what’s one of the first things you did?

You checked out the competition!

You went to the App Store and browsed what other people are doing in your app’s niche. 

Maybe you downloaded a few apps, checked out what kind of features and functionality they were putting out.

You probably also read some of their user reviews to see what they were doing right and where they were falling short.

All of this provides incredibly valuable insight on the competition and it also serves to inspire you.

Unless you’re working with a top-notch video producer, you’re going to have to do your research to learn what goes into making an excellent app preview video.

So hit up the app stores and start watching as many preview videos as you can.

Find the common elements these videos share.

How long are they? Even though your video can be up to 30 seconds long, should it be?

Are they demonstrating multiple features or focusing on just one?

1.2 Figure Out Your Story

Once you’ve checked out the competition and feel some inspiration to set out on your own app preview video, the next step is to create a story.

No, a story is not overkill.

Just because you’re working with a short video doesn’t mean you can cut corners.

Every movie, TV show, commercial, and even Tik Tok video has a story.

Without a coherent story, your video will just be a jumbled mess.

When crafting a story for your app video, think about what the most important use cases are for your app which exemplifies your app’s existence.

These use cases will likely already be mentioned in the description of your app in the form of app features.

To help move things along, start by listing scenes you want to feature in your video and then later you can cut out the fat.

When contemplating your app video’s story, ask yourself:

  • What is the main use case for your app? 
  • What is the primary feature and value of your app?

Having a good understanding of the primary reasons of your app’s existence will allow the timeline for the video to fall in place.

PRO TIP:
Create a storyboard for your video that maps out every scene and think about how many seconds you’d like each scene to have.

1.3 Text

If you’ve already checked out what other apps are using for their preview videos, you’ve probably noticed that some are incorporating text into their footage.

Some apps will use overlays or text cards in between screens. Maybe they’ll use a fade out or fade in effect to give it a smooth appearance.

Just remember that adding text isn’t always necessary, but you’ll be able to figure this out in the previous step when you’re forming your video’s story.

If you check out the screenshots below for the app Unplug: Meditation, you’ll see that they start their video with text that says exactly what the app is for followed by a mix of app footage and text that highlights app features.

In this case, adding text helps highlight the main features of the app. Without the text, a potential user might just think this app does one thing, like play meditation sounds, for example.

1.4 Music

Many apps will have some kind of music in the background of their video.

Just like with movie trailers, having appropriate music paired with visuals can help elicit an emotion from users.

In the example above with Unplug: Meditation, there’s calming music being played in the background, which makes sense for the product they’re selling.

Game apps, on the other hand, like Call of Duty, have sounds from the app (like explosions, gunshots, and vehicles driving) paired with a loud rock song that reflects the chaos you see on screen.

PRO TIP:
Think carefully about not only the background music but what sound effects from your app you’d like to include and make sure it works to supplement your video’s story.

1.5 Multiple Previews

You can even have more than one preview video for your app.

Some mobile apps will choose to use their first preview video as an overview of the app experience that focuses on the main features and content.

A second or even third preview video can be used to highlight additional features or extra content a user might not be aware of.

If you decide to use more than one preview video, be sure that each video is showing users something new about your app.

1.6 Pick a Poster Frame

The poster frame is the image that appears when the preview video does not autoplay, so you want to make sure it’s visually compelling so users will click on the play button.

Your poster frame image should convey the value of your app.

Some apps chose to use the poster frame to show text, some mobile apps chose to use  screenshots of their app in action, and others use a mix of both text and visuals.

Chapter #2: App Preview Video Guidelines

When you’re creating your mobile app preview video, it’s important to keep in mind that every store has their own guidelines.

We’re going to focus on the App Store guidelines for iOS, but these concepts are applicable to other app stores like Google Play.

  • You can add up to three preview videos for a mobile app
  • The video length needs to be between 15 and 30 seconds long
  • The maximum file size is 500 MB
  • The file format needs to be: .m4v, .mov, or mp4 format
  • The resolution is device-specific, but it can be horizontal or portrait-oriented.
  • Use mostly screen captures for your preview videos
  • Game apps should use more gameplay scenes than cutscenes
  • You can use text/copy in your video, but consider localization
  • Voice over is allowed, but remember that videos autoplay on mute and many users won’t bother turning the sound on.
  • Videos should only capture content in which the full rights are owned (so don’t show brand names or streaming content from elsewhere)
  • Apple recommends various app preview resolutions for different devices

PRO TIP:
Remember, Apple wants all app videos to have a similar look and feel, so be sure to review their full list of guidelines.

Chapter 4: App Store vs. Google Play

If you’re developing your app for both Apple and Android, you should know that there are a few differences between the stores besides the video guidelines. 

Photo Credit: Lifewire.com

Let’s take a look at some of the main differences.

4.1 Search Results 

When searching for your app in the App Store, you’ll see that your app’s preview video autoplays on mute.

It will also be displayed next to the first two screenshots of your app.

When searching for an app in the Google Play store, the video doesn’t autoplay. You’ll have to click on the play button which will then open a YouTube video.

Photo Credit: thetool.io

4.2 Product Page 

In the App Store, you can have up to three preview videos for your app, which autoplay on iOS and newer.

In the Google Play store, you can only have one video, which will open a YouTube video.

4.3 Approval Process 

Another big difference is that Apple preview videos are manually approved by Apple to ensure they follow the guidelines.

Photo Credit: researchgate.net

4.4 Content 

As already mentioned, each store has their own set of guidelines.

One difference between the two that you should know about has to do with the content in the video.

iOS apps need to use real footage of the app, but with Google Play, there is no such restriction.

4.5 Video Length

iOS preview videos need to be between 15-30 seconds long.

Google Play doesn’t have a video length restriction, but they do recommend keeping preview videos between 30 seconds and 2 minutes long.

Chapter #3: Create the Best Preview Video—Tips and Tricks

While Apple offers guidelines on how to create preview videos for your mobile app, I want to highlight some tips and tricks to creating the best preview video.

Photo Credit: techncrunch.com

Tip #1: Get to the Point

You don’t have much time and users have a very short attention span.

Make it short and to the point.

Introduce the essence of your app in the first five seconds of your preview video.

The rest of the time can be used to elaborate.

Since preview videos autoplay, the idea is to create compelling content in the first few seconds of your video to catch a potential user’s attention as they’re scrolling.

Tip #2: Show Real Footage

While you can doll your video up with graphics and text overlays, don’t overdo it.

Your preview video should primarily showcase real footage from your app. That’s what users want to see.

Showcasing your app in action will help users decide if they want to download it or not.

Additionally, your video will be rejected if you show footage that’s filmed outside of your app which could delay your app’s launch.

Tip #3: Create Without Sound

Remember, app preview videos play without sound by default and many users won’t bother turning it on.

While you can certainly add sound elements to your app preview video, make sure that you create the video assuming the sound is turned off.

This will ensure that users understand the video without sound.

Tip #4: Consider Various Screen Sizes

This has been mentioned in the previous section about guidelines, but I want to highlight it again.

Always keep in mind that users will watch your preview video on multiple devices, whether it’s their mobile device, desktop, or tablet.

The last thing you want is the details of a feature to be too small to see or text too small to read on a full screen because you only designed it for mobile.

Tip #5: How Will You Stand Out?

Finally, for my last tip, think about how to make your app video stand out amongst a sea of app preview videos.

I don’t mean that you should add crazy visuals, music, and text to differentiate your app video.

What I mean is to include content in your video that will help your app stand out from the competition.

By now, you should already have a good idea of what makes your app unique.

This should be apparent in your video.

For example, if you have a photo app that allows users to edit and add filters to photos, your preview video needs to showcase how this app differs from Instagram, VSCO, and other competitors.

Final Thoughts

Just like your app icon, description, and screenshots are important components in capturing users, so too are app preview videos.

And just because they’re short doesn’t mean you can put them together last minute.

Creating an effective and compelling app preview video that perfectly conveys your app’s essence takes time and effort.

As part of our Simple Starter package, we include a technical writeup that includes details about every aspect of your mobile app project, including how your app preview video will look and what content it should contain so you’ll be ready to work with developers and UI/UX designers.

Whether you’re getting ready to launch your app or you’re just starting out in the app development process, it’s never too early to think about what goes into creating the best app preview video.

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