Is It a Play Button? Let’s Test!

Play on A rock?

Watch from B rock?

Everyone loves a great scene. Whether it’s in a video, show, or online learning. How do we choose the best words to fit the action?

Who better than to present the Play button text challenge than Ben Barone-Nugent from Netflix (during Yuval Keshtcher’s 7/9/20 UX Writing Hub presentation)?

Here’s a notable audience submission: Tell me a story. As Ben noted this is compelling, but perhaps not a great fit for documentaries….?

While working on video templates and creation at Pearson, we often discussed the term watch. Play is associated with childhood fun; watch is associated with observing over a period of time. My own bias is for watch. Play is the action that lets me do what I want: watch. Why not be direct?

Tell me what you think: I’ve marked three A | B tests:

  • In each A | B scenario, which do you choose?
  • Why?
  • Which is the best experience out of all six options?

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Considerations from a UX writing standpoint

  • Grade level: Keep it at Grade 5 or lower whenever possible
  • Tone: Strive for fun and upbeat, but realize this might be a documentary or learning experience that is not fun
  • Personalize: Convey a personalized message, to the extent possible
  • Brevity: Make the words add dimension to a well-known icon
  • Voice: Active
  • Competitors: Compare and contrast
  • Personality: Engage and encourage

4 thoughts on “Is It a Play Button? Let’s Test!

  1. Interesting read! I think it is lost on most the amount of thought and that goes into good UX. Like a good ballet, the end result is so fluid and seamless.

    For what it’s worth, my personal preference in the test is “Watch”.


  2. Hi Pat, I really enjoyed reading this! My personal choice would also be watch. The second two got me thinking– I also chose “watch” but for a different reason. I like to have control over an experience so taking me away or playing it for me feels like an algorithm taking over. Maybe I know too much about how the sausage is made so to speak 😉 I’m curious as well how this A/B test may align to introverts and extroverts if at all.


  3. I’m biased towards play, maybe because of my usage of gaming and music streaming solutions. Or that I’m so used to YouTube’s playlists.

    “Play” is an action the service does for me, I can just lean back. “Watch” suggests some effort, I need to pay attention. Which, being the multitasking millennial I am, I often don’t. I often have playlists and series that I already actively saw playing in the background.

    For the blue variant, I generally don’t like it when services speak for me, so I avoid writing things in the first person. But out of the two, I prefer A, because “Watch my shows” sounds like I tell somebody to watch a show I created. (Wish that was true …)

    For the green variant, I prefer A, because B is too dramatic for my taste. Normally when I sit down to watch a series I’m already tired, so I prefer not to have my streaming experience suggest I’m entering a battle of epic proportions. 😀

    I love the A/B testing scenario! It really made me think about pros and cons of each possibility and gave me the possibility to check my gut feeling better.


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