Articles from June, 2010

Adding Video to Websites

Lots of small business owners ask me about using video in their websites. Do they really need video or is it just hype? Is video more important than text or pictures? If you are considering video for your site, it is important to understand both the benefits and the limitations of the medium.

The ‘pros’ of using video in websites

Using video in websites can certainly be advantageous.

  • People learn differently, and video may be more successful communicating with a certain segment of website visitors. For example, some people process information better if it is presented in images rather than print. For others, it may be the exact opposite. So generally it does make sense to include different types of media in a website to appeal to different types of visitors.
  • Video gives you an opportunity to form a more personal bond with website visitors. For example, if you provide a video clip where you speak about your product or service, you are helping build a relationship with website visitors. Visitors get to see you, hear you speak, and form an impression of you. They then become more likely to trust you and do business with you.
  • Some people believe that video lends a ‘wow-factor’ to a website. (The accuracy of this depends on numerous factors, for example, the target audience, the product, and the quality of the video clip, the player, and the clip content.)

The ‘cons’ of using video in websites

Using video in websites can also have negative side effects.

  • Video can negatively impact website performance. Video clips are large, requiring more disk space for storage and more bandwidth when played back. It often takes longer to load a web page that contains video. You may experience latency problems when playing back clips. Why does this matter? Well, people only have so much time to waste. Research shows that if people have to wait too long to view content, they are more likely to click away from your site.
  • Search engines can’t read video. Certainly search engines are able to distinguish between video files and other file types. So in cases where a person searches specifically for ‘video’, the search engine can find the clip. Likewise, if a search engine organizes search results into media categories (images, video, etc.), the search engine will present the clip accordingly.
  • However, it is important to understand that the content of the video – what the people in the video are saying, doing or demonstrating – remains unknown to the search engine. This means video content may not be contributing to your website placement the way you expect.

Should you use video in websites?

Video can be a useful addition to a website. However, begin by building a foundation of text-based content for your website. Then, add video as an extra enhancement, where the video medium is especially suited to the type of content you want to convey.

Tips for using video in websites

If you add video, you need to think strategically about how to include it, so that you avoid the pitfalls identified above.

  • Duplicate critical content. A video clip should not be the only source of important information since visitors may never watch it. If visitors need to find the information, ensure you provide the information elsewhere on your site in a text-based form.
  • Ensure that video playback is invoked by the website visitor. This means that video clips should not run automatically at page loads, for example, or loop continuously. If a visitor makes a conscious decision to watch a video, they are then more tolerant of having to wait. However, if you force or impose the video on the visitor, they are more likely to get annoyed and click away.
  • Keep video clips short. Web surfers are a notoriously restless bunch of people. Unlike TV viewers, web surfers are active rather than passive. Surfers tend to get bored quickly and click away.
  • Consider using a 3rd party host such as YouTube or Google Video to store your clips, to avoid additional web hosting costs.
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