Feature image for article on TPT product covers. A Laptop computer with TPT on screen and a headline which says Designing TPT product previews.

How to design product previews for the TPT algorithm and humans alike

The recent TPT algorithm changes are all the buzz right now. There’s no doubt about it, it is important to consider what steps you need to take for your product to be found on TPT, and cracking the TPT algorithm is sending many sellers into an SEO frenzy. And rightly so, SEO is an imperative factor in any online marketplace today. As for the TPT algorithm, there are over 500 factors that are considered when responding to search criteria. The presence of a preview is just one, and it’s one we can ensure exists so we can tick that TPT algorithm box – check!

Infographic with icon and text showing over 500 factors are considered in TPT search.

Going well beyond just keeping the TPT algorithm happy

It’s important to remember that the TPT algorithm only requires a preview to be there. It just looks for the presence of a preview. That’s it, it delves no deeper. Absolutely, it needs to be there to help your product to scale the SEO ladder to the top of the first page but what next?

It is the human eye that makes the ultimate buying decision, and the product preview is highly likely to be the clencher.

Infographic with icon and text showing 62% of buyers say previews have the biggest impact on their decision to purchase.

Well beyond appeasing the search engines it is the human eye that makes the ultimate buying decision, and the product preview is highly likely to be the clencher. Highly likely – that is if it is done effectively. In a recent email from TPT it was stated that “62% of Buyers say previews have the biggest impact on their decision to purchase, and many say that they wouldn’t purchase a resource that doesn’t have a preview.”

Let’s consider the most common path a potential buyer takes to purchasing:

  1. They will search for a topic or a resource that will give them the solution they need.
  2. More than likely, they will be engaged on the first page of their search.
  3. They scan for a title that resonates with them.
  4. They are drawn to a cover that appeals to them and that they feel will fit their needs.
  5. They will click on a cover to find out more about the product.

Getting your product seen and the cover clicked are the first two hurdles. After that, the description and preview need to engage the potential buyer. The preview differs from the description because it gives us an opportunity to provide greater insight into our products through visuals, design, and video. You can use your visuals and text structure (typography) to your optimal advantage with a functional approach to graphic design. Good design will lead the reader’s eye succinctly and effortlessly through your product preview. Making it quick and easy for them to absorb what you have on offer.

Infographic with icon and text showing 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual for sighted users.

The human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, and 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual.

Infographic with icon and text showing the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text for sighted users.

Okay, so this is a stat that is bandied about a lot. The numbers may vary marginally but the upshot is that for a sighted person, an enormous amount of information transmitted to our brains is visual. This means that we absorb visual information much more quickly than we do large blocks of text. (See Further reading at the end of this article for more info on these stats).

Previews, the TPT algorithm and the human eye

Ever experienced a bad review because the buyer didn’t read the description or preview properly. Previews (and thumbnails) are an excellent opportunity to do what you can to negate this scenario.

Bearing in mind that visual information is transferred to the brain quicker than the written text, use pics of the product in use or create an infographic in previews.

Consider the busy teacher who is in a rush to grab what they need. They are under the pump and looking for a super quick solution. This is the human aspect – well beyond the TPT algorithm. Design (and write) for the TPT algorithm first to get your product in front of a potential buyer and then back it up by tapping into the human aspect. Make it easy, clear and quick to digest.

Use all opportunities to reinforce your brand but make sure you do so strategically – in other words, don’t over brand just for the sake of it. Different products and associated collateral require different levels of branding.

Designing a functional product preview

When designed with function, the preview showcases the product in such a way that the potential buyer can understand exactly what it is they are getting in the product and make a confident buying decision based on their individual needs. It could almost be said that the product description tells you about the product and the preview shows you all about the product and what can be done with it.

The design of a product preview should be attractive to foster engagement. But good graphic design goes well beyond aesthetics. The preview should:

  • Be clear in purpose.
  • Show the appropriateness of the product.
  • Ensure the buyer knows exactly what they are getting.
  • Indicate what the resource covers.
  • Show how the resource might be used in the classroom.

In other words, the best previews are informative previews. Good graphic design will clearly convey this information to a potential buyer in the most effective way.

In addition to the previous points about showcasing the product usage, the preview also can:

  • Create an opportunity for value-adds from the seller.
  • Reinforce the seller’s unique brand.
  • Carry the terms of use so they are clearly stated to the potential buyer before they choose to purchase.

Product preview checklist

Here’s a checklist of some ideas that can be included in a TPT product preview:

  • Benefits of the product.
  • How to use the product (highlight ease of use).
  • Any materials that will be needed.
  • Advantages of using the product – before and after scenarios
  • Inclusions at a glance (for example this could be a list such as):
    • Great for substitute teachers.
    • Ready to go – no preparation or preplanning.
    • Easy to navigate.
    • Step-by-step instructions.
    • Finish in under an hour.
    • Uses general classroom materials.
  • Terms of use.
  • Suggestions of variations and extensions.
  • Other similar products or product lines.
  • About you and your other business offering.
  • Link to your join your email list.
  • Any relevant opt-ins you may have.

In a recent email from TPT it was stated that ‘Overall, a resource with a preview tends to sell better and have higher buyer satisfaction (because they have a better sense of what they’re purchasing) when compared to those that don’t contain a preview.’

Does the TPT algorithm favor PDF or video previews?

The TPT algorithm does look for the presence of a preview however it does not distinguish between pdf previews and video previews. Both formats are favored equally. What is important to the TPT algorithm is just the presence of a preview. Which one you choose to create is up to you.

Infographic showing the TPT algorithm does not favor either pdf or video previews. It just looks for the presence of a preview

When it comes to designing your product preview use the format that best showcases your resource to a potential buyer. There is no reason why you cannot use both.

A word on page sizes for the pdf preview

So is there an optimum page size for pdf previews? There is much debate about what looks the best on all devices – desktops, phones, and tablets. Should you use a 16:9 ratio page, letter size (either portrait or landscape), or another size altogether? In terms of scrolling and zooming, how do you make these sizes work well for the reader to get the best experience when viewing your preview?

Rather than the page size being the main concern for usability it is the design of the page itself that has the biggest impact. How your page layout is designed gives you much greater control over how reader-friendly the preview is.

Personally, I simply use letter size and design the content in columns. For me, I find letter size versatile for repurposing content. On the phone zooming in is often unavoidable with a fixed pdf so it’s more about the design of the page rather than the page ratio itself. Designing in columns is what makes the design function well. The columns enable you to zoom in on the phone and look at a block of text without needing to move horizontally to read the lines in blocks of text. In general, from a design point of view, avoid long line lengths in blocks of text.

PDF preview

Sample of a preview for a product of an African map and worksheets. Page titles are shown but text is obscured and unreadable. There are 7 pages and the titles are Africa map and worksheets pack, About this product, What is included in this pack, Ideas of how to use this product, Terms of use for this classroom resource, Other related products and services from Working Dog Resources and about Working Dog Resources.
Africa worksheets preview

Video preview

For a great insight into the function of graphic design when creating educational resources
check out my free video
Functional Graphic Design 

Computer with the free mini-course Functional graphic design by Working Dog Resources on the screen.

Tell me in the comments below

What did you absorb fastest throughout this article? The paragraph text, the large quotes, or the infographics?

For further reading on the visual stats I mentioned earlier, you can check out these articles:

Thermopylae Science & Technology, Humans process visual data better, accessed 2023-03-19

MIT News, In the blink of an eye, accessed 2023-03-19

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Hi, I'm Stef

Hi, I'm Stef

I provide design tuition and solutions for creating resources to engage students.