In today’s fast-paced world, a video can often capture the attention of your audience faster and communicate your message better than unending lines of text or even bulleted lists. Often, however, if the video is not presented effectively, it could cause user frustration and even embarrassment.
Picture this: You’re sitting in your cube farm and decide to get on your favorite website to check for last-minute holiday deals. Unbeknownst to you, the website has a really cool video (with audio) which begins to play as soon as you arrive on the Homepage. As luck would have it, your desktop speakers are on, and lo and behold, your boss walks by just in time to be greeted with the cheerful sounds of Jingle Bells. This when you were supposed to have been hard at work on that TPS report!
Humor aside, when it comes to using video as a channel of communication, there are certain best practices that can be adopted to enhance and enliven the user experience.
To ensure an optimal user experience, consider implementing the following recommendations when using videos on your site.
- Videos should provide current, relevant content that adds value to the website and visitor experience.
- The duration of a video should be as short as possible and should last only as long as it takes to convey a message.
- As a general rule, advertisement and testimonial videos should be shorter, while videos with tutorial content may be longer in order to effectively convey the instructional information. Video length should be determined by evaluating the subject matter at hand as well as the background of the intended audience.
- Videos that last longer than a few minutes should be divided into chapters or sections which allow users to quickly navigate to the section of their choice at any point during the video.
- By default, videos should display in a paused state until the user clicks to view the video. Prominently display a Play button (as seen in the screenshot above) to direct user attention to the Play option.
- Video should be embedded within the page rather than opening in a new window. Opening another window diverts the user from the original navigation path and increases the likelihood of the user not returning to the site. In the event a video is displayed in a new window, ensure the video window is smaller than the original screen so users realize a separate window has launched.
- Videos should not appear grainy or choppy. However, the resolution should not be so high that it requires an extended load time as most users will appreciate a short load time over video quality.
- The longer a video takes to load, the less likely users will watch the video.
At the minimum, videos should have the following controls, some of which are shown in the screenshot below:
- Volume slide bar displayed with a speaker icon to give clear indication of volume controls (#1 above).
- Video duration slide bar displaying the elapsed time on the left and time remaining on the right. Users should have the ability to fast-forward or rewind manually using the slider (#2 above).
- Option to maximize and restore the video window (#3 above). This option may be more appropriate for entertainment videos or for videos containing great detail.
- Play and Pause buttons directly below the video or easily accessible upon mouse over of the video.
- Closed Captioning option or a text transcript of the audio.
- Lower Lights feature (seen on Hulu.com as shown above) that dims everything on the page with the exception of the video window.
- Ability to adjust the video resolution.
- Options to send a link or embed a video on another page.
International and Multi-Cultural Considerations
- Race, ethnicity, and accent are perceived differently by individuals in different countries as well as individuals in different regions within the same country. Therefore, ensure that the individuals presented in the video portray characteristics that correspond to the expectations and worldview of the targeted demographic.
- Ideally, videos presented on foreign sites should have individuals speaking the native tongue. If this is not possible, present the original video overlaid with audio in the native tongue. At a minimum, provide accompanying transcribed text in the native language.
If done incorrectly, videos can frustrate users or be perceived as a waste of time. However, if done correctly, videos can be a very powerful tool that can provide users with an optimal viewing experience of high value