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Talking Point: Mysterious web app sign-up pages

Matthew Pennell

February 14, 2008 at 7:40 AM

The folks over at Clearleft have just put up a holding/sign-up page for their upcoming Silverback app — and it’s a beautiful thing, with a gorgeous Jon Hicks-designed gorilla and an absolutely brilliant faux-parallax scrolling effect involving multiple background images.

But what is it for? Aside from being “for web designers”, the page doesn’t give any hints about what we are being asked to sign up to receive updates on – is it a web app or desktop app? The gorilla’s holding some graphs – does that mean anything? And, as responsible web designers who care about communication and helping site visitors to achieve their goals… why are we so wedded to the idea of obscuring meaning and hiding the purpose of our own products?

Comments are open.



February 14, 2008 at 8:21 AM

Just by reading their feed, you can quickly realize it’s a desktop app, for web designers. Hooray!

Walker Hamilton

February 14, 2008 at 8:25 AM

My thought it that it’s a new prescription medication website targeting web designers specifically. That gorilla has more the pharmacist look to him.

Give me my VIAGRA!


February 14, 2008 at 8:32 AM

Not to sidestep your point too much, but one of the strongest tools used in advertising is that of viral marketing. The effect that the illustration and appearance will have through word-of-mouth linking alone is worth the ambiguity. People will talk, the URL will spread like wildfire, and most people will be happy to offer up an email address just for the knowledge of what’s to come. Hell, I did – I’ll bet you even signed up too.

There’ve been many campaigns that found better success by <em>not</em> disclosing the products purpose until after getting huge amounts of people to sign up. Curiosity makes for very strong bait, and we will continue to bite, when it’s tasty enough.

The only thing about using this technique however, is that it is a huge risk that doesn’t always go as intended. Hopefully for the Clearleft crew, they’ll see success from whatever it is that they’re launching.

Daniel Craig Jallits

February 14, 2008 at 8:36 AM

I agree with Anton here. Look at the Apple Keynote address as an example. You know its coming, you just don’t know what you are going to get.

David Owens

February 14, 2008 at 8:50 AM

I would love to sign up, but there appears to be a problem with the CAPTCHA test.

Matthew Pennell

February 14, 2008 at 8:54 AM

@Constantinos: Ah, you’re right – mea culpa. I obviously missed that when I checked the feed.

@Anton: You’re right, of course, and I’m sure it will be a very successful strategy for Clearleft. But would it really hurt to tell your potential audience a little more about what they’re signing up for? Compare the amount of information that Garrett Dimon has put out on his bug tracker app – I know which one I’m most looking forward to actually using.


February 14, 2008 at 9:43 AM

“The only thing about using this technique however, is that it is a huge risk that doesn’t always go as intended.”
Like foldera. I’m still disappointed!

Vincent Pickering

February 14, 2008 at 2:03 PM

Is it related to this

by any chance, or just pure coincidence?

Nick Finck

February 14, 2008 at 9:53 PM

I think I am going to just start making random sign up pages with no intent of ever releasing any app or site.. just to collect email addresses and sell them to spammers.. oh wait, Plaxo already did that… my bad.

All kidding and jabbing aside, I think it’s rather foolish to even release anything until you are ready to release a private or public beta. It’s worse than a movie trailer for a movie that won’t release for another 4 years and all the trailer contains is the name of the movie and a soundtrack.

I haven’t signed up, certainly not until I at least see a privacy policy and know what they plan to do with my email. Sorry Andy, I am sure it’s a great app/site/whatever.. but considering the number of annoyances I get from Pounce alone, I just can’t see myself signing blindly.


February 15, 2008 at 12:12 AM

Well, Andy Budd’s blog sheds a little light on the mystery gorilla killer ape app

“if you know the kind of work we do, you can probably figure it out from the holding page”

So, I’m guessing something to do with accessibility?

Kate Bolin

February 15, 2008 at 12:57 AM


It obviously takes every page in your website, and adds extra primates.


Andy Budd

February 15, 2008 at 3:19 AM

All I can say is wow! We snuck the design out yesterday, primarily to have something on the domain other than the nasty default holding page. We honestly didn’t think it would even get noticed, let alone generate this amount of interest. However once people started linking to it we felt that we needed to make it official.

I’d love to say that we’re being deliberately coy as some kind of sneaky marketing campaign. However the reality is we’re just not quite ready to announce what it does yet. Primarily because it’s still a few months off and we don’t want to give potential competitors any ideas.

However if you analyse what the character is and what he’s doing, I’m sure you can work it out ;-)


February 27, 2008 at 6:56 AM

I loved it just as I saw it. Had to sign in right away :)

Paul Annett

February 27, 2008 at 7:36 AM

If you’d like a tutorial on the faux-3D effect… here it is:

Media Temple

via Ad Packs