I have an app for learning Chinese that keeps track of the vocabulary the user knows.

Based on this vocabulary, it recommends videos to watch that will be comprehensible to the user. In each entry it will show a corresponding estimate like "90.963% comprehensible".

Home screen

At the end of a reading lesson where the users has learned new vocabulary, it will also show recommendations after the end-of-lesson summary:

End of lesson summary

I have gotten less engagement on these recommendations than I expected, and it seems that one reason for this is that some users perceive these recommendations as advertisements. Rather than realizing the usefulness of the feature, they automatically ignore them because of the ad-like appearance.

(I learned of this fact after one user left a review complimenting, among other things, the unobtrusiveness of the ads. The app does not contain any ads.)

Is there a better way to present these recommendations to the user in a way that they will realize that they contribute to their learning, rather than perceiving them as advertisements?

  • "The app does not contain any ads." Reading up to here, I wanted to recommend "clearly mark ads as such", but obviously everyone has learned their lesson in the capitalist world. :-( Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 8:07
  • @virtualnobi Sorry, I'm not sure what you mean, could you clarify? Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 12:24
  • Are you sure, that your recommendations are no ads? Of course they are not what you think of when someone says "advertisement", but in the end you advertise these items to get more engagement from the user. So they are ads for using your ads longer than originally intended. This means the user who perceives it as ad, may be actually right about it from his perspective, even when you do not see them as ads from your perspective.
    – allo
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 11:52
  • @allo Yes, because they are there for the benefit of the user to find content that they can understand, but don't benefit me in any way. Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 6:02
  • @PeterOlson Don't get me wrong, but just because you don't benefit and you want to benefit the user, this does not have to mean that the user perceives it the same way. Just like an ad, they are a call to action for something that wasn't something the user wanted to do beforehand. Just like ads they ask for attention and try to get interaction. Maybe your users are actively ignoring them, because they are not as useful to them as they are meant to be.
    – allo
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 23:04

2 Answers 2


It's great that you are listening to user feedback and actively trying to make improvements!

I think with anything relating to design, the context is quite important and where possible you should use a combination of design elements/strategies to ensure that your message and design outcome is achieved.

I think the first thing you can experiment with is the actual heading for the videos. Using the phrase "recommended media" it might seem like a typical media website that tries to push content in the user's face (that are promoted through paying for 'advertising space'). So perhaps changing it to something like "Watch and learn" or "Listen for the words here" could improve the perception as it is actively telling the user that the content is related to their learning.

The second thing you can experiment with (but you probably don't have much control over this) is how the links to the videos are styled. Perhaps if you applied similar visual aesthetics to Vimeo instead of YouTube it will seem less like an advertisement.

And of course, the best way is to try and capture some qualitative feedback from the users or analyse the data (that you can capture) to see where the improvements can be made.

It looks like a pretty neat application and I hope that you can make the changes and get more users :)

  • I agree. "Recommended" is burnt vocabulary. What about "Learn more"? Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 8:12

As was mentioned elsewhere, the title of the section feels like an advertisement. Titling it something like "Media Practice" or something that implies it is a further learning tool may engage students further.

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