Video Essentials

Best Practices for Online Video Usability: Fix What’s Wrong

How many times have you found yourself in this situation: You visit a company’s website, one that has video on it’s homepage, and the video leaves you with a worse impression of the brand than you had before? Maybe your experience was so bad that you shared the site with others.

The brand never saw it coming. The question is, did its marketing team understand what they were getting themselves into?

Crutchfield Electronics is an outstanding example of a customer-centric online video user experience.

Ask most marketers today what it takes to succeed with online video, and they’ll say things like production, storytelling, advertising, SEO, and social media. They’re right, yet what they often miss is the fragile link that decides a video’s fate: a user-friendly experience.

The website is the strongest online presence consumers associate with a brand. Whatever video you place on it (especially on the homepage), that video speaks more for your company’s identity than any YouTube video or social media page. It also speaks to what you think of your audience — something that goes beyond the content itself. This is where web video usability comes in.

Online video usability is the practice of providing a simple, consistent, and relevant design to help your intended audience experience the video on your site. Like general usability tips, it speaks to ease-of-use, completion of tasks, and overall impression. It involves all of these components:

  • The technical quality of the video
  • The presentation of the video
  • The playback of the video
  • The content of the video
  • The length of the video
  • The video player
  • The placement of the video on the web page
  • The appearance of the video compared with other content on the page (including other videos)

Online video can leave your visitors with a considerably stronger impression than can other media, and those visitors are likely to share that experience with others (for good or bad). There’s are several reasons why:

  • Online video continues to show increased levels of consumption.
  • User expectations for video are increasing.
  • You’re asking visitors to make an investment of their time.
  • You may be asking visitors to make an emotional investment.
  • Mistakes stand out larger than accomplishments. A small distraction in an otherwise great video content can have people remembering the distraction more than anything else.

Without giving proper attention to user experience, even the most professional content and marketing activities can leave consumers with a negative impression, something that will diminish your video production and marketing efforts. Without first providing a positive user experience that includes ease-of-use and meeting expectations, your visitors won’t engage and certainly won’t convert.

So what can you do? Always provide your users with a professional-quality video experience on your website — whether it’s on the homepage or a thank you page. Make sure you score positive marks in all these criteria:

  • Appearance: How your online video looks. Is the video player appropriate for the type of content your business is showcasing? Is it an appropriate fit for the brand? Is the video sized properly for the page where it resides? Is the thumbnail image good quality, and does it accurately represent what people will see? Can the design be made simpler?
  • Delivery: How the video renders. Does it start up quickly? Does it run smoothly throughout? Or, does it suffer from pixilation, frame drop, out-of-sync audio, or buffering? Does it play well on all web browsers and devices, including smartphones and tablets? What about at certain bandwidth levels or high traffic times of day?
  • Communication: How well you share your message. Is the audio quality clear or does it sound like someone is speaking underwater? Does the presenter speak with an accent that might throw viewers off? Do clothing or mannerisms enhance or detract from the message? Do you include closed-captions in the video player, or transcripts on the page where the video resides? Do you provide a short list of the main points, with time stamps?
  • Features: The properties within and surrounding your video. Does the video player include Share and Mute buttons, as well as a full-screen option? Can the viewer scroll through and select related videos? Does each video include a title and short description?
  • Transaction: The investment you expect of your audience in return. Is the length of the video reasonable, or can it be shorter? Is there a clearly spelled out incentive for watching the video? Is there a clear call-to-action that doesn’t negatively effect the viewer experience?
  • Engagement: What you’re willing to do for your users. Do you provide a mechanism for your audience to share feedback, one on the same page as the video itself? Is there a comments section? Do you include social networking tools, so that viewers can share, bookmark, and e-mail the video?

Companies that are serious about online video need to think hard about user experience, just as they do for every other part of their business. Once you better understand how to deliver a strong experience, you’ll have the tools to optimize your online video strategy, making users more likely to engage and convert.


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