One of the big annoyances in modern web browsers is when using multiple tabs and having video or audio content auto playing in background tabs. Well reality is catching up with imagination as the next update to Google’s Chrome browser will disable auto loading and auto playing video and audio in tabs that are not active.
Doesn’t sound all that ground breaking but auto play content, especially auto play video can have a big effect on the usability an impression a website can give visitors.
Background Loading Issues
Chrome has had audio indicators in tabs for a long while, so that users can quickly find what tabs are playing sound. Most often when content starts playing in an non active tab it can be a big distraction, and is often very inconvenient.
But with more and more browsing being done using battery powered mobile devices the issue of background loading content becomes more practical. Constantly loading large amounts of video and audio data in background tabs will often deplete the device’s battery life far quicker. If the device is using a mobile data connection rather than a WiFi connection then extra data costs can also be incurred.
This new feature in Chrome hands more control of the browsing experience back to to user.
Practicalities of Using Autoplay
Setting video content to autoplay in general, whether you are using video for marketing or entertainment purposes, may make sense on the surface. You want people to watch your content so start it for them so they’ll watch it.
But often times having video content play automatically can be an interruption. Rather than watching the video content, the website visitor will often press stop or if autoplaying in a background tab, they may close the website all together to get rid of the uninvited distraction.
The user should be given the option to choose to watch then content when they are ready.
When Can I Use Autoplay Video?
Setting your video content to autoplay has its place. The key is to think about website visitor actions and the context of the content.
Take YouTube as an example. This is a site built around video. When a user clicks on a video thumbnail they are taken to that video’s page. They expect to see the selected video here. As they have chosen to watch that video, autoplaying makes sense, it makes their use of the website a smoother experience.
Similarly if you have a button or option on your own website that indicates it links to a video it makes sense to have the video autoplay enabled. Your visitor has chosen to watch the video.
A greyer area is when a visitor navigates to a page on your site and they get an autoplay video and no other content. They may not know they are getting a video but as there is no other purpose for the page the video might as well play. Indeed if there is only a video player box, in this case they might expect the video to play automatically.
When Should I NOT Use Autoplay Video?
As autoplay video can be received as an interruption there are some instances that it should not be used. When considering using autoplay remember to think about the website visitor’s point of view.
Home Page – A big NO. When a visitor comes to your website homepage they are often presented with a lot of information, who you are, what you do, contact details, social media feeds etc. There is a lot to take in. Visitors will take in the information they want in the order they prefer. To have a video play alongside (or on top of!) all this information at the same time is information overload. The homepage is a great place for an introduction video – but allow visitors to choose to watch it. Your home page often makes your first impression – don’t be impatient and pushy.
Mixed Content – News sites like Huffington Post are guilty of this. When presenting a news article or blog entry the main content is the written copy. This is often (like our own blogs) supplemented by video content in the article or at the top. Some people like to read the article first, some will start to read then be interrupted by the video. This creates an interruption and takes the choice of what content to take in first away from the visitor. Also many sites not only present vaguely related video content but a whole playlist of tenuously related video content – making the experience confusing.
Mobile – If your website gets a lot of mobile traffic autoplay video should be deactivated. Devices like tablets and phones can eat through battery life with unrequested video content diminishing their experience. Mobile data connections can be limited, resulting in poor video playback – again diminishing the visitor’s experience of you website. Offer video but give visitors the option to view it, if at all possible mobile optimised – to improve playback quality and reduce the possible data cost to them.
Get Direction for Your Video Marketing
This brief autoplay dos and don’t is not a complete list nor are these guidelines etched in stone. The world of online video is constantly changing as well as web users tastes.
Get in touch with Workshop Media today.