Are Video Backgrounds Right For Your Site?
Great website design isn't always straightforward; a lot like most elements of computing. For example, almost everyone has antivirus software installed to protect them from hackers; but relatively few people daily clear their temp files and cache to reduce their risk of severe hacks. And while background videos might seem like a simple addition to your website design with great benefits, that might not necessarily be the case.
In 2015, dozens of websites which represented major consumer brands all rolled out home pages with video backgrounds. And as a website development trend, it's grown hold and gained steam as a major trend leading into 2016, and is one of the more popular design options for the year. And with good reason: they look cool, and some research indicates that they provide an interesting and innovative visitor UX. But there are also some compelling reasons to steer clear from background videos.
Con: You're Sacrificing Website Speed
Videos, especially self-hosted videos, can dramatically increase any page's loading time. And what happens when websites take too long to load? Visitors click away. And a high bounce rate isn't just bad for business; it's bad for SEO, too. Visitor retention isn't a massive element of the Google ranking algorithm, of course... but it's still important. There are some tricks, such as using Youtube hosting, which can alter how slow your website becomes... but a slower website is almost a guarantee when you're using background videos, unless you opt to upgrade your hosting.
Con: Poor Design and Contrast
Unless you're using a color overlay atop your video, your video can have poor contrast with the callout text which is meant to inform visitors about your website and your services. While that might seem like a minor issue, it isn't: visitors are likely to scroll past or click away from text which is difficult to read. Sure, there are some ways to mitigate that, like using overlays or planning the elements of video that callout text will show over, but transition to mobile can be a complicating factor.
Pro: Get an SEO Boost
Video content is popular with audiences, and Google has been quick to make note of that fact. Sure, it might not be a major SEO boost; but it's a boost nonetheless, and for websites in competitive industries, that boost can be enough to break ranking ties and edge the competition out a little bit.
Pro: Better Communication With Your Audience
There are some cases where a video is a great communication tool. For example, let's say that your website is about something emotional to visitors, or you want your home page to make visitors have an intense emotional reaction so that they'll take an action. Using a video can be far, far more effective than images! Videos are also great for communicating complex subjects or ideas very simply, and can ensure that the rest of the page needs a minimal amount of text.
The Bottom Line
If you're considering using background videos on your website, you need to strongly consider if the pros outweigh the cons. If your website is already a little slow, or you've already got a very strong visual aesthetic which lends to UX, it might not be worthwhile. But if your website is about a complex topic, or you want to elicit emotions from visitors, video can be a powerful medium to add to your web design toolbox. If you decide that you want to add a video background, make sure that all audio has to be user-activated, and consider using an overlay to ensure that the video matches your existing design and color scheme seamlessly.
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