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However I am interested in getting some opinions from designers and developer. I have heard the usual "I don't like to hear audio or sound when I go to a website"...so bearing in mind people can choose to either turn down their speakers, or click on a mute button within the video itself, I was wondering if others had opinions on this technology - whether good or bad!
So unless you are YouTube - where visitors know to expect sound - it is always best to make it optional, so that something has to be clicked before the audio starts. I wouldn't use automatic sound on the front page of a site like all the MySpace kiddies do.
One thing you said did get me thinking though...and that is what if people go to a site (while browsing in work) not really expecting sound and all of a sudden the audio blares out. When I talk to clients they have a fear that if you give people a choice to click a lot of people may not bother, whereas if the video begins to play a lot of people may be enamored initially with the technology and then by the message to stay long enough on the site to hear what is being said and to act upon it.
A couple of things to point out, if I go to a products site I want the dirt, I get enough fluff watching TV. I can read much faster than any spokesman will ever be able to speak, the only thing they are doing is slowing me down and/or distracting me from my main purpose. I have left such sites in the past using the video spokesman because of very poor implementation.
When I talk to clients they have a fear that if you give people a choice to click a lot of people may not bother
The alternative is to force many visitors to have something they (a) do not want or (b) cannot handle - this might not bother some of your clients but I would suggest that it is generally counter-productive as it will certainly bother some of their potential customers, and I for one react very badly to such "hard sell" tactics.
I have been using video on websites since 1999 and definitely think the technology is good, but it is not safe to assume that everyone has the requisite video player (even Flash), and it is fatal to forget that visitors to your website always have the choice to go elsewhere.
Oh and welcome to WebmasterWorld.
I think having the Stop or Skip buttons on the videos goes a long way towards not strong-arming people into watching the video.
Looking at it from the website owners point of view and not necessarily the site visitor, I have used these things along with FLV analytics and I have seen a definite trend of people staying on web pages with these spokespeople than on pages without. I have even compared the exact same pages with and without the spokespeople and people usually stay anything between 50% and 70%. So although some people may be turned off and click away, it seems that a lot of people also do stay longer.
Thanks for the welcome by the way! I have been looking at some of the other threads, and there are some interesting conversations going on!
I think it is very hard to get the right balance!
Correct - designing for the web is often about compromise, and things can change very fast.
I rarely make commercial sites but I would be less concerned about how long visitors spent on the site than how many actually spent some money - and I would want to make doing that as quick and easy as possible for everyone.
The point I would stress is that it is very common for clients to assume that everyone uses the same hardware, operating system, screen resolution, browser and software that they do - but as webmasters we know that this is not the case (far from it).
It is great fun to work on a high-spec computer making bleeding edge websites that require a fast processor, the most recent operating system and some cool new third-party software, but it may not be the best way to sell stuff to the general public.
Old webmasters never die - they just degrade gracefully...
But what about people who can't read...or have poor eyesight?
They have browsers for such people, and for your example audio would be a better tool than video.
Try an experiment. Put a play button on one of your presentations and see how many people use it. Make sure it's clearly marked something like "View video presentation" my guess is you'll get very few hits for the video.
With the manual starts about 50% of visitors to the page seem to click the Play button and of that 60% close to 70% let it play to the end. These videos last between 30 and 60 seconds, so they are not really long files.
With regards to browsers for the hard of seeing and hard of hearing, not everybody with those problems have browsers that will assist them. I have to disagree about simple audio always being the better option for certain people e.g. realtor, attornies, etc. having people see them on their sites has a huge benefit when people call their offices asking for them by name simply because they saw them on their websites.
One thing you said did get me thinking though...and that is what if people go to a site (while browsing in work) not really expecting sound and all of a sudden the audio blares out.
Unexpected audio can be extremely annoying. It will cause me to back out of a site immediately. This is true whether you have background music or a spokesperson... and in fact a spokesperson might cause me to run away faster. Also, don't forget the time factor. People surf the web to get information quickly. This is why splash pages and mandatory Flash intros are disappearing, and why I have some doubts about low quality videos as a long-term strategy.
Here are two classic WebmasterWorld discussions about background music on websites. While some considerations in these discussions might be unique to music, I think there are more parallels than differences. IMO, anyway, it's a bad idea....
Is it a good or bad feature?
How to politely talk a client out of music on their site?
Loves his MIDI files playing in the background...yikes
One thing I am interested in finding out is people think there are any search engine optimization benefits by including this type of video on a site.
No direct SEO benefits. I could make some arguments for well-done stand-alone videos that work for viral marketing or Universal Search... but unless you've got someone who catches on (for a while anyway) like Ms. Dewey, there's not going to be any traffic boost, certainly no search boost, from an embedded spokesperson.
...doubts about low quality videos as a long-term strategy.
To modify this comment just a bit... instead of "low quality," let me say "unengaged." I've occasionally seen some very compelling film and video that's almost technically primitive, and I've seen a lot of very slick film and video that's the cinematic equivalent of brochureware and puts me to sleep.
[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 6:38 am (utc) on Jan. 25, 2008]
With regards to browsers for the hard of seeing and hard of hearing, not everybody with those problems have browsers that will assist them. I have to disagree about simple audio always being the better option for certain people e.g. realtor, attornies, etc...
I said audio because you alluded it would help those that were seeing impaired. I'm no expert on the matter but I's assume only if done properly with the seeing impaired in mind, most video made for the general public is going to be of no use to the seeing impaired. For example, you're doing a product demonstration and it includes a section that visually shows how fast something can be done without any descriptive narration.
An audio file or video file specifically made to meet the needs for those with impairments on the other hand could have great benefits for them. a very descriptive narration or a video that includes subtitles.