It’s the list you’ve been waiting for all year. A list of things not to do. A list of rage-worthy mistakes. A list of rules to break. A list of things you will not do because you’ll find any old excuse to justify sticking with the status quo. It’s the list of the top UX Don’ts of website video!

But it’s not our list

It’s by Tom Haczewski, the head honcho at The User Story. He has kindly put it together for us, so everything you read from this point on is most definitely his fault but drawn from his rich and deep Biblical beard of UX experience. So don’t try any of this at home, but do try it on your website. It’ll work wonders.

The Top UX Don’ts of Website Video by Tom Haczewski

At The User Story, we spend a fair chunk of our time speaking to users of websites and apps, and observing their behaviours, so we can improve their experiences. It’s fun and frustrating in equal measure, trust me.

More and more, we’re seeing companies turning to video as a way to explain their services to customers, or show off their products in a vibrant, interesting way. Whether it’s an animated explainer, animated GIF or some other sort of video production. That’s great. But with that comes a relentless horde of video, poorly thought-out and poorly executed, which ends up being worse than not actually having it in the first place.

Cheap explainer videos from offshore video factories are pushing these things out so fast that the zombie horde of poor video is becoming enormous. It’s not all bleak, barren video wasteland though. Of all the things we’ve seen, here are some of the things to avoid when you’re thinking about creating video for your website, and turning those potential mistakes into absolute wins.

Stop the waffling introductions

“Hello, my name is Boris, and in this video, I’m going to show you how to use this part of our application. This part of our application is very useful for doing this thing that you want to do…” Aaaaand I’ve turned off. Nobody wants to hear your waffle at the start of a video.

People want instant gratification from video – that’s why Netflix has a ‘skip intro’ button, after all. If someone clicks ‘play’ to start your video, do them the courtesy of getting to the point. If your video is designed to demonstrate the benefits of your product, hit them with a compelling fact, or a problem you’re going to solve.

If it’s an explainer video, just explain, already. First impressions really count, and if you’re not getting your point across and hooking a
viewer within 5 seconds, you might as well not bother.

Where are my subtitles?

It’s not just deaf people that need subtitles. If I’m on a crowded train, I probably can’t hear my phone, or maybe I’m in a busy office without headphones.
Subtitles are also handy for confirming the words you’re hearing and following along with the points being made in video. And if you’re ever going to use video in marketing somewhere, captions are crucial – most video on social platforms starts muted, after all. Plus, deaf people buy products too. You’re probably required to provide content in an accessible way, so it’s a good idea to just comply with the law and caption that funky stuff.

If another video autoplays on me I shall scream

If you’re autoplaying videos on your website, just stop it. And I know you’re about to say “but it’s fine in our case, because-” NO. It is not fine. It sucks up bandwidth from people that might have tightly metered internet connections. It’s annoying if you have multiple tabs open and you can’t find which one is playing the music or talking at you. It’s distracting if you’re trying to read something while a video plays in the corner of your eye. (I’ve already had a “discussion” with Lee at Curveball about their use of autoplay too! :)

Give them back the choice

But most of all – users make good decisions and enjoy their experiences when they feel like they’re in control of the interface they’re using. If you autoplay videos at them, you take away that control. You are telling them you know better. Stop it. Unless you have an incredibly good excuse and impeccable execution, give users a nice big play button with a video duration and a short title of what you’d like them to see, and give them back the choice.

Don’t hijack me while I’m watching

We’ve seen a few sites open video in modal windows, or block out content around it. It’s an interesting idea and provides focus on the video that’s being watched, and in some circumstances it might work. But most of the time, forcing someone into either watching something completely or nothing at all isn’t a great plan.

If your user is trying to get an overview of the page, they might want to scroll further down and read some of your other, no doubt delightful, content. Try moving the video into a floating panel when they scroll down so they can still watch while they explore. It works great on news websites like BBC News, and the other benefit is that pause and volume controls are always in view, too. Lovely.

Don’t just video a static product, show me what it does

Videos of a washing machine are boring. I know what a washing machine looks like and a video of it is, you know, meh. But show me the thing working. Let me hear it, and see the bubbles in the window. Let me experience what it would be like to use it. The power of video is in bringing people closer to the action, which they wouldn’t get unless they were right in front of you.

LUSH do this really well, with their product videos. Short, looping, autoplaying video (yes, I know – but only on fast connections, and engineered impeccably) – they don’t just show a video of a pot of goop, they show it being used in such a way that it evokes the smell, feel, and experience of using their products in a unique way. Check out the video for their peachy bath bomb.

Hopping off my soapbox now

I hope sharing my top UX don’ts of website video will help to turn your boring zombie videos into clever, user-centred and experience-led masterpieces! And if you have any questions or extra don’ts to share with us, drop me a line.

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