Don’t Make Users Jump Through Hoops to Download Your Content

on July 11, 2010 - 3796 Views

If you have invested your time creating a game, tutorial, example or piece of Game Maker media and want to share it with the world – please, make it easy for people to get their hands on it! All too often it seems that after working away for hours creating a product people just upload their creations to a randomly selected, and often downright terrible, file hosting website.

The time that is required to provide an easy download method is a minute percentage of that many are happy to spend on creating the content in the first place but the lack of it can be extremely irritating for someone considering whether to download your material.

Direct download links are preferably – if not one-click downloads with no stupid countdown timers or daily download limits should be used.

If you are using an embedded player (such as those used on Game Maker Blog to enable audio clips to be played without leaving an article) make sure it works across browsers and does not automatically start playing or pre-loading the content.

Recently I fell foul of this rule, which was brought to my attention by xot,  when I used an UpUrLoad embedded player to provide access to a file another user had uploaded to the service.  Whenever the page was loaded the large MP3 file would automatically start downloading in the background consuming vast amounts of bandwidth (bad for both UpUrLoad and readers of this site).

If you are creating a regular series which users will probably want to download multiple versions of use a sensible and consistent file naming structure. “Issue1.pdf” is a bad filename for a magazine as it doesn’t identify what it is whereas “GMWorld_Issue_01.pdf” is more sensible.  People want to be able to know what the file is when they come across it at a later date without having to open it.  Different versions of a game should also have unique names so it is apparent if it is version 1.1 or 1.2 that is being played.

Although you may consider it the norm to have broadband access with no bandwidth restrictions in your part of the world be aware that the quality of connections to Internet can vary dramatically even over small geographic distances.  For this reason you should tell people the file size that way they can make an educated decision as to whether they think it is worth attempting to download your file.

To ensure your content is available at all times you should provide mirrors.   It will reflect badly on you if you don’t (sorry!).  A mirror is an alternative location from which a file can be downloaded.

If your lone file host goes offline temporarily no-one will be able to access your files until the server is restored and if the downtime is more permanent, think WillHostForFood, your files may be gone for good.

Although preventing downtime is one of the main reason mirrors exist consider also that surfers may for some reason or other wish to avoid using a particular site to download their file from.  Perhaps they have had a bad experience a site in the past or find that files always take far longer to download than they do from elsewhere.

If you offer a subscription service whereby an email newsletter informs people of new releases – ensure they are both quick and accurate otherwise there is no purpose to them.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly you should listen to what your potential customers say.  Don’t discount their feedback off hand just because you personally disagree with it.  If people complain about the file hosts you are offering consider their reasons for it – it’s quicker to download a file easily than write a complaint!

Removing the unnecessary hoops ensures that you keep people in the right mood to enjoy the content you have created!

A downloadable version of this post is available. Just click the link, press the button for a free download, avoid the popups, wait for the 60 second countdown timer to reach zero, enter the CAPTCHA and press enter. Your file will commence downloading at a snails pace.

Photo credits: Jumping through Hoops at Arabian Nights (cc) and Debbie jumps through hoops to please her brother (cc).

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10 Responses to Don’t Make Users Jump Through Hoops to Download Your Content

  1. Coolist says:

    “Whenever the page was loaded the large MP3 file would automatically start downloading in the background consuming vast amounts of bandwidth (bad for both UpUrLoad and readers of this site”

    Wow thanks for bringing that to my attention! I am at my cottage with no internet except tethered internet and I have a 1GB limit. My home internet limit is big enough that I don’t worry about going over. Before, I didn’t really care how much data I downloaded. Now I’m very conscious of it and I’ll fix the embedded player very soon so you have to click on it to start downloading the mp3 file.

    Once again, thanks! :)-

  2. xot says:

    “Recently I fell fowl of this rule”

    What a fell fowl might look like:
    http://bit.ly/bAER6r

  3. Loaf says:

    Wow, GM news must be slow this week… ;D

  4. Jonathan says:

    @Supermini_man, I think once GMLive had a file over 100mb.

    • Supermini_man says:

      Good point, I didn’t though about that.
      For these types of exceptions there are other solutions, like zipping the file (in GMLive’s case a .MP3) or using something like Dropbox (a personal hosting program with a 2Gb limit on a free account). Another solution would be to upload the file on a torrent and host it on a Content Distribution torrent site like Mininova (although most internet users may not know how to download from there, so this solution is better as just a mirror). I can’t talk about a solution for embedded players though.

  5. Broxter says:

    Some nice pictorial metaphors here.

  6. Supermini_man says:

    I can’t also find the download link too, as well. But I entirely agree with this article. Why make people spend time on Rapidshare when is possible to host on some community driven gaming sites (eg. Gamejolt or YoYo Games) or in a less “hoopable” host site (eg. Metafire*)?
    And I also agree that the files should be properly identifiable and if it’s more than one it should come on a .zip file, since most OSs can unzip them without any extra program.
    *Metafire has a 100Mb space limit, but I doubt that any GM game/magazine/podcast will reach it anyway.

  7. Flumble says:

    Gah, I can’t find the download button…

    Another irritating factor of downloading (often so with GM-games) is the archive you get. For one you’ll have to extract the whole thing to avoid errors like “Error defining an external function.” and sometimes the uploader put the game in a strange format like rar, 7zip or bzip (for which a lot of people don’t have the software).
    Luckily GM encourages to place your external files inside the executable through External Files – too bad it’s only in the Resources menu.

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