Here’s a fairly common Internet experience: You land on the website of a law firm and unprompted, a video player pops open and a talking head in a suit delivers his sales pitch.
Many law firms probably feel that the auto-playing video is a good way to grab a visitors attention and put their best foot forward. Often times lawyers see this on a competitors website and desire the same feature on their own websites.
Unfortunately autoplay video violates the standards and best practices of the World Wide Web. As a web technology professional I’m going explain why autoplaying video is always the wrong way to go.
Autoplay video fundamentally misunderstands the medium of the World Wide Web and the way visitors use your website.
You may think it’s a good idea to put a video on your homepage and have it autoplay. That way when a visitor arrives he or she will be greeted with a friendly message explaining why they should hire your firm. This will establish a personal connection that your visitors will appreciate.
Nope, your visitors won’t appreciate it, they will be annoyed. Many web-surfers listen to music on the same device they use to browse the Internet. Your video will either cut off of talk over their music. Another consideration, which you have no control over, is volume. You have no idea what the volume level of the users device is. Your message could come out screaming at them, which they will not appreciate.
You may’ve spent a lot of money producing a marketing video. Surely your visitors will want to see the hard work you’ve put into it.
Nope, your visitors don’t care. That’s an ad and no one came to your website to watch an ad. Also, your ad is too long. Let’s say for the sake of argument that your ad is a brisk compact 30 seconds. Now, look at your web analytics. Are your users staying on your homepage for 30 seconds? For the vast majority of websites, they aren’t. Autoplay video fundamentally misunderstands the medium of the World Wide Web and the way visitors use your website.
But you might be thinking, “Auto-playing video makes it easier for visitors to learn about what our law firm can do for them.”
Nope, auto-playing video makes your content less accessible. Content bellow your auto-playing video will not load until your video has loaded. If your visitor has a slow Internet connection or are on a mobile device (as more and more users are these days) they may not be able to view any of you sites content at all. Their entire visit to your site will be thwarted and they will never become a client.
You might be thinking, “Well, there are exceptions to every rule. Sometimes visitors want to watch videos and it’s much more convenient if the video plays automatically.”
Nope, that’s flawed logic.
Youtube.com is the most popular video website in the world. When you visit Youtube’s homepage do you see auto-playing video? No you do not. If the most popular video playing service in the world doesn’t let their videos autoplay why would you?
In general, your visitors come to your website to find your email address, phone number, and maybe a contact form. An effective law firm website facilitates this speedy transaction by making contact information as accessible as possible. If you really must include a video presentation of some sort, make sure it is subordinate to these concerns and no matter what: always put it behind a play button.