If you’ve used Steam, you’re likely to be keenly aware of the promotional pop-ups that come along with every fresh launch of the program.
For most uses and in most circumstances, using a pop-up to promote a product is a terrible idea. Users don’t like something blocking the view of their requested content, and that irritation can become mentally correlated with whatever product has been pitched to them. Steam, however, has established their IMs with a long history of value for Steam users, including great discounts on games, downloadable content ads for games in the users’ library, and other targeted promotions. For users, looking through IMs is like scanning the specials on a restaurant menu before making an order.
The IMs are presented in a consistent format and with consistent language for quick triggers. If a user scans the words “New Content” at the top of an IM, they know it’s for DLC for one of their games before they even read the rest of the text, and thus can quickly decide whether to spend more time looking at the product or to dismiss it.
Whenever I was assigned an IM, I was given a folder with the assets from the publisher, and a couple sentences describing what the deal and pricing would be. Some publishers were excellent at providing high-resolution and layered assets, while others, particularly independent developers, provide very little. It’s a fun an interesting trade-off: large publishers make it easy to assemble their graphics into proper formats, but independent publishers allow for more creativity – sometimes, I was able to completely design the promotional images for a game (the Hearts of Iron DLC, for example).
The biggest challenge was almost always in conveying the proper message and including all of the necessary text in a coherent and uncrowded fashion. An IM might be requested for a 3 game series, for example, with a discount on the 3-game package, three different discounts on the individual games, promotional hats for Team Fortress 2 with purchase of the package, and 10% off of all DLC. It’s up to you to work out the best promotional language and text position/size. You get about 570 x 460 pixels.