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Video links in email, or even videos that play directly in email, have been a hot topic lately, so I figured I'd ask this here. I've tended to use the triangular play button over thumbnails when a video can play directly in the email, and a more descriptive button in cases where the video will open elsewhere. The other benefit of the more descriptive button is that you can use it without dropping it directly over the center of the image and still have it be intuitive.

At the end of the day, though, which type of button is most effective when used in emails?

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I would go for the more descriptive button. There are a lot of e-mail clients that initially hide images from the user and asks him permission to download these images. Using an image as a link would mean this link can be hidden and thus unavailable for the user.

Furthermore I think it's a good idea to use a pattern already know to users. As far as i know it's common practice to use something like a play-button over the still of the video to indicate that it is playable. However, i don't know any e-mailclients capable of playing video within an e-mail (they do link external). I wouldn't advice a play button for an external link.

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My additional considerations and suggestions, aside from Ruudt's, which i do agree with:

-its okay to use a video thumbnail and play the video elsewhere. it is an email, and the user can expect any link to open in a web browser (or another tab in the browser). using this method elsewhere would be bad practice, but i think it fits in this instance.

-if you can, use an actionable description. Rather than saying "Play video" something like "Watch our Video" is a bit more actionable and i think leaves room to intuit a jump to another page to watch said video.

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