Are 'shocked face' YouTube thumbnails finally over?

YouTube thumbnails
(Image credit: Future)

If the YouTube homepage is anything to go by, most content creators exist in a permanent state of shock. Eyes wide and jaws open, they simply can't BELIEVE what happens in the video they just spent hours writing, filming, editing and uploading. Shocked face YouTube thumbnails are among the most shameless clickbait tactics around – but is the shock finally about to die down?

You've seen them. Thumbnails in which the 'influencer' looks gobsmacked at the camera, usually surrounded by giant words such as "wow", and random objects in the background circled as though they're of some vital significance. But an experiment by Mr Beast, YouTube's highest paid creator, suggests less shocked expressions pull in more views. (Need to create your own thumbnail? Check out out guide on how to download Photoshop.) 

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Using some good old A/B testing, Mr Beast realised that when the thumbnail was adjusted so that his mouth was closed, his videos got more views. While Mr Beast (real name Jimmy Donaldson) doesn't share the actual metrics, YouTube places the badge 'winner' next to each of the closed-mouth photos.

The ability to A/B test different thumbnails is currently only available to a few creators. In a video revealing the new Test and Compare feature (above), YouTube announced early testing of the long requested feature, with a goal to launch the feature broadly next year.

And the results speak for themselves – clearly viewers aren't as into the gawping faces as creators seemed to think. Granted, Donaldson's alternatives are hardly restrained – they're still filled with big, goofy grins. But it's a step in the right, closed-mouthed direction.

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Daniel John
Senior News Editor

Daniel John is Senior News Editor at Creative Bloq. He reports on the worlds of art, design, branding and lifestyle tech (which often translates to tech made by Apple). He joined in 2020 after working in copywriting and digital marketing with brands including ITV, NBC, Channel 4 and more.