It seems impossible to avoid the litany of "snake oil" sales pages consisting of long, boring videos and endless (and I mean endless) text. These look like UX nightmares, and yet they're becoming pervasive for gimmicky products.

While the products may be questionable, their pages must be working, because I see this style time and time again - is that more to do with the psychology of the person (i.e. preying on the weak-minded) reading the site or the actual UX itself?

Examples to illustrate - (warning: these are without a doubt questionable products, the pages are safe to click but I wouldn't click on any links on the page. If someone could provide better citation please edit the question, but I can't seem to find a sensible, honest product with this design):

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

  • 1
    Tempted to say citation needed...but these may well be products for which a long, winding style works for. From your warning I'm not going to look at them from here...
    – Ben Brocka
    Jul 23, 2012 at 16:02
  • 5
    I agree here, I think we need some citation. Is it actually true that these pages convert better than full brochureware type sites?
    – JonW
    Jul 23, 2012 at 16:12
  • @BenBrocka yeah I'm warning that they're gimmicks and not to buy into them, not that they will harm your computer, though I wouldn't advise clicking on any links ON those pages. Unfortunately, I couldn't find better citation, as again, I can't find a honest product that uses this tactic.
    – acconrad
    Jul 23, 2012 at 16:12
  • @JonW perhaps the question can be reworded as "why do I keep seeing this page format popping up more frequently?" I actually don't know if they are converting well, but I know that I keep seeing this style more and more, and I want to know whether the UX itself is effective, or simply that it's easy to throw anything at someone who is desperate and willing to buy snake oil. In other words, can anything be learned from this style of UX?
    – acconrad
    Jul 23, 2012 at 16:15
  • Obviously all generalisations are bad, but I wouldn't have said that it was unreasonable to assume that if a site is operating in the long term (and particularly if the author is spending money on advertising), the site converts. Given how simple it is to iterate across multiple versions and optimise landing pages, it's also reasonable to guess that these pages are like they are as a result of an evolutionary process which is optimised for the product and situation (though bear in mind that the result could be a local maximum rather than a global maximum).
    – kastark
    Jul 24, 2012 at 10:04

3 Answers 3


At least one part of it is that stories sell.

Andrew and Jenny, like many people in digital marketing, ran some sites on the side to get a little extra cash. They were sitting in the pub one day and chatting about how they were each doing.

"I've just made the final payments on my car," beamed Andrew, "and it's all down to my side project".

"What?" sputtered Jenny. "I haven't made anything on mine in weeks. How'd you make it work?"

"Simple. I tell people a story about the product. A nice big chunk of prose, sometimes even with dialogue."

Jenny frowned. "Don't people just skim most of what they read online?"

"Oh yeah, sure. But what they don't tell you is that once you can get people reading about something, you can hook them with a well-written story about the product."

"And then BAM," he slapped the bar, "you've got them. People love stories, they put themselves in the position of the characters, it makes the whole thing seem much more relateable. And not only that, you can talk about the benefits of the product and answer any objections while you're doing it."

"And then people will just buy?"

"You'd be surprised. Check out this book by dhmholley, he's got all the secrets you won't learn in a marketing class. You can buy it on ux.stackexchange.com and it'll tell you everything you need to know about writing stories."

Of course, stories aren't the only type of long form content, but the others typically have the same attributes - extolling the virtues of the product and answering questions and objections as they go, and tapping into the experiential appraisal done when the brain is taking in information. You can even drop in other tried-and-tested neuromarketing methods in the same space - in particular testimonials rely on anecdotes overriding rational processing and appeals to authority.

Notice how the top of those pages are frontloaded with the bare bones and some "calls to action" (CTAs), and then the sales pitch comes for those who scroll down? It's because once you've started scrolling you've demonstrated interest, which is the hook for the sales pitch. Obviously it's much harder to sell with prose to people who aren't yet engaged. Conversational writing is something else you'll often see, as it comes across as more trustworthy (or at least, more relate-able) to certain people - this lends itself well to longer pieces where the author can develop a rapport with the user.

It's also about selling to your audience. A person who is going to buy a gimmicky product probably already responds better to certain advertising techniques, which wouldn't necessarily be the same ones you might use on other users. Very few people are rational agents, so sales techniques like this work surprisingly well on a lot of people - most decisions can be manipulated by appealing to emotion, forcing the user to justify it to themselves later. In addition, if you're targeting a niche like this, you don't really need a high success rate as your costs are typically very low.

Lastly there are the SEO benefits of lots of content, which gives them a better opportunity to drop keywords and additional links to more content. This isn't to be underestimated, since there's a lot of potential traffic on these keywords.

  • 2
    Ok, I got 163 possible meanings for CTA, which one did you mean? I am pretty sure you didn't mean Canadian Transportation Agency or Commodity Traders Advisor, nor Cellulose Tri-acetate... Jul 23, 2012 at 17:48
  • +1 by the way, there are actually (network marketing) products selling the techniques for these types of sites... Jul 23, 2012 at 17:49
  • 7
    You sold me! I'll take two of those excellent books by dhmholley :D
    – brian buck
    Jul 23, 2012 at 18:25
  • 5
    @MarjanVenema Call To Action buttons (e.g. Submit Now, Enter Team, Buy Now...)
    – acconrad
    Jul 23, 2012 at 19:38
  • 3
    Yes, acconrad has it (Call To Action). I should really start cutting down on my TLAs.
    – kastark
    Jul 24, 2012 at 7:51

For this sort of products, long content is more persuasive than a shorter one: the more you write, the more is can fool the reader into thinking that the product is authentic, UX-wise.

When JQuery developers want to attract customers (users), they don't need to talk too much in order to convince the users. This is why JQuery website is short: a simple description, a download link and a bunch of logos at "Who's using JQuery" section is enough.

On the other hand, when you sell some magic enlargement pills or some investment concept which surprisingly feels like ponzi scheme or something, the first reflex of any reader is to have a doubt about the authenticity or honesty of your product or company.

  • By providing only a short summary and a "Purchase" link, you encourage the users to keep thinking that it's a fraud.

  • Instead, by giving complete details, videos, etc., you're trying to convince them that you're honest. Providing links to some scientific research that the enlargement pills are really working, or showing some constantly increasing charts to illustrate that your scheme is really working, you give the feeling that you're credible.

UX-wise, it's similar. If you don't have any research papers or financial data to present, you can still give an impression that you're credible by putting lots of videos, unreadable text and red-blinking-bold-arial-50 titles crying "IT REALLY WOOORKS!!!" all over your page. It will still not work for visitors with a high IQ and some taste or skills in UX and web design, but for some audience, it works pretty well.

  • Nice speculation, but where's your proof to back this up? How does this explain why 37signals had a long form page for Basecamp that converted well?
    – Rahul
    Jul 23, 2012 at 16:50
  • 1
    I think it's all a matter of "How well does the product sell itself?" If the answer is, not at all (in the case of a scam) you need to sell the crap out of it with long justifications of why the product is just great. With basecamp, and other esoteric business products, the demographic also needs to be sold with all pertinent details. Basecamp needs details, just like a scam does, but for very different reasons. The audience needs convincing.
    – Will
    Jul 23, 2012 at 17:31
  • 1
    "the more you write, the more is can fool the reader into thinking that the product is authentic" Whoa. No. I don't believe this is true. Any research to back up this claim?
    – gef05
    Jul 24, 2012 at 5:36

Ok, my take is:

That are the best pages that convert for those kind of products. There are people who Google that stuff. And they get to those pages as those sites are text heavy.

The content on those pages is crystal clear: More muscles, drink less, get girls. Yes, the design is crap. But who searches for those things tries to solve big problems and very basic needs.

  1. The guy doesn't get girls - Just gimme that §*&%! DVD.
  2. The guy / girl drinks too much - Just gimme this §*&%! medicine
  3. The looks skinny - Just gimme those §*&%! pills

People who search for those things are very likely desperate. They aren't rational. The're trying to find a stroke to hold on to. They don't compare those products. They don't care how the site looks like. They want those pills / ebooks / DVD's which hopefully will solve their problems.


Just checked on this chasegirls site. Well he stole from 37signals

http://37signals.com vs. http://www.girlschase.com/

Scroll and compare. Difference: His site looks crappy.

  • 2
    This is just your own opinion and isn't necessarily correct. Yes, people search for that stuff, but people search for a lot of other stuff too. Also, your usage scenarios are speculative too and could apply to lots of products "I just want to buy this iPhone / car / DVD now..."
    – JonW
    Jul 23, 2012 at 16:15
  • That's true. There are a lot of other scenarios where emotions win over ratio. Some people argue: Ratio always looses. By using those scenarios I just want to make clear that in that point of purchasing the product it's more emotional than rational.
    – tamimat
    Jul 23, 2012 at 19:06

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