When I come across a really good video online (and I mean a really good video), I get excited. It’s like I’m having a beer with a friend and sharing an enlightening, inspiring,  passionate conversation. It’s a night to remember. Great videos should give you that buzz… but without the beer.

Remember Schoolhouse Rock? Who the hell could make learning about adjectives fun? Well, Schoolhouse Rock did — and they did it with video. Videos have evolved since then and have taken the online community by storm. So if you incorporate video in your next site, what do you need to know?

Here are our DOs & DON’Ts for making videos really work on your site. That way, if you go for video, you’ll make the most of it!

1. Don’t Talk Your User’s Ear Off

Remember that your users have limited time and attention spans. Once they see how many minutes they’ll have to commit, they may bail on you. After all, are you more likely to stick around for a 2 minute or a 15 minute video about a flashy new app?

Speaking of talking, bombarding your visitor with audio upon arrival could be starting on a bad foot. You probably don’t want your first interaction with your user to be them cursing while turning down the volume that just blared through their headphones.

Spotify’s UK splash page has figured out a visceral video that certainly doesn’t talk your ear off; their video shows more than tells. They’ve also figured out that allowing the user to turn on the audio (instead of angrily turning it off) is the way to go.

Spotify site

Also, don’t forget that page load times will affect whether users engage with your videos. Be sure to factor that into your video strategy.

2. Don’t Be Redundant

People like videos, but redundant videos look like spam, which no one likes (Sorry, SPAM). It’s simply not OK to bombard your visitors and post unwanted, unwarranted, repetitive videos. If you’re going to post more than one video on your site, then each one must communicate something unique and informative.

Need inspiration for your multi-video vision? Here’s a great site from Genentech that incorporates video in a useful, unique, and subtle way.

Genentech Site

3. Keep Your Video Relevent & Educational

Make sure your videos are relevant to your purpose, convey useful information, and make sense to your visitors. Take the opportunity to teach your visitors about your product or service.

BKWLD’s site is a prime example of a subtle background video that’s aesthetically pleasing and puts the digital agency’s services, workflow, and philosophy on display.


4. Figure Out Your Style

Let’s talk about style — live action or animation. If you have the funds, time, and resources to pull off a series of live action videos, the results can be amazing. But, if you’re going to have multiple videos on your site, your budget will rapidly skyrocket. It’s almost impossible to have too much excellent video if you have a never-ending budget. “Go big or go home” is a good rule; if your video looks low-budget, then scrap it.

Animated videos, when done right, can be the way to go. They take a while to produce, but you can modify them down the road if needed. Animated videos don’t have to be cartoons, and they can certainly be professional. They can be excellent at educating your visitors, and they’re reliable.

This Jack Daniel’s Holiday Select site features nostalgic, detailed animation that plunges you deeper into the Jack Daniel’s brand — and it’s balanced with live action videos to illustrate the company’s process.

Jack Daniel's Holiday Site

And don’t forget that videos can get dated pretty quickly. Your actor’s sweet haircut may be totally trendy right now, but you can’t change that ‘do in a year when that style is out. Animation can also follow current trends and look old school before you know it. Always remember that when it comes to videos, low-budget looks low-budget.

5. Tell Your Story Well

So, if your video looks low-budget, tacky, and unprofessional, your company/product’s story is going to take on those same adjectives — and that’s definitely not the image you want to present to your visitors. If you’re using video, realize you’re setting the tone for your product/service/brand.

Furthermore, the quality of the storytelling experience is key. Visitors have come to expect a narrative that’s at least well thought-out, if not outright impressive. Your users will hold you to a high standard for your video & its narrative, so you simply can’t get away with badly produced videos. They reflect poorly on your brand.

Looking for a site that tells a story of their customers’ experiences? The Yacht Company provides an example of top-notch live action.

The Yacht Company's Site

6. Prepare Your Video Well

Storyboarding, casting, art direction — all of these (plus those inevitable pivots & edits) take time. Often projects will add video as an afterthought, neglecting to channel in the time and money it’ll take to make an outstanding experience. Planning ahead will serve you well if you’re going to add video to your site.

Video Wisely

Video can be great if it’s done right, but doing video wrong can be awful. Just like how a conversation with a friend over a couple beers can be a great time, getting hammered and having a slurred conversation you don’t remember can have terrible repercussions. So, hopefully, after reading this post on videos, you should be in a better position to choose just how you’ll use video on your site.

Balance, planning, and strategy are key. Video responsibly.

  • I am one that prefers videos to reading. I have a classmate that hates videos and will click away if there is a video on the landing page. He is too extreme. The Auto-play is carnal sin of the web. You never want to annoy the visitor(i am with Stephanie on this one). All the super crappy BS marketing sites blast a video with no pause. Why not let the user engage in getting the info by clicking play.

    • Stephanie Irvine

      Oh wow, what an oversight by not including that specifically in the post! I totally agree with you on the auto-play videos and ads. They’re the worst in my personal opinion, especially when you’ve got multiple tabs open. It’s almost as annoying as this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZN5PoW7_kdA. Almost.

      Great point on letting the user engage the video(we’re all about the user experience!), and thanks for your input!

    • We are lucky to have less than 10 tabs open at a time. All web people do that opening up multiple tabs at a time. Never fun to click each tab to find the annoying one. That and the random ads that start to play.

      Just today a product site asked for my email before I could do anything else. “Forget about building trust or seeing our products we must have your email now”

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  • Hi Stephanie,
    Great article! Also, one of the things I love about animation is that it’s kind of “impersonal” and abstract: when you show an animated picture of a house to a person, s/he doesn’t think how much it costs or whether they would like to have the same one. They perceive it just as an “idea” of a house.