Websites that Auto-Play Audio/Video: Good or Bad?

Auto Concepts 808

Auto Concepts Custom Paint Work

“If you ain’t got no money take your broke ass home”…

These lyrics, from a song by Fergie, are what you hear when you open an automotive repair website we recently performed a free website analysis for.  The song, an embedded MP3 file, plays for over four minutes.  Now this may resonate with some people- it may also serve as customer repellant for others. So the question we asked the owners of this business was, “what percentage of your target audience are you willing to offend?”

Upon deeper analysis of this shop’s website we see that they do a lot of custom body work, motorcycles, air-brushing, and custom paint jobs that may well match the demographic that listens to Fergie/Black Eyed Peas music.  If that’s all this business wants to target then what they’re doing may be just fine (short of copyright laws).

This business appears to be trying to grow their non-custom body repair work side of things.  So having this song immediately come up and in your face is likely turning at least 20% of the target audience away in less than a few seconds. Probably more.

Don’t Force Me to Listen

There are pros and cons of embedding sound on a website.  There are especially cons of having sound or music automatically play if there isn’t an option to turn it off.

A good rule of thumb, when considering embedding sound, is the target audience. For certain demographics it might be fine, like sites for children, musicians, gamers, artists. But give people a very visible option to turn the sound off should they want to.

For all others, it would be our recommendation to NOT have sound or videos play automatically.  Let it be the individual’s choice as to whether or not they would like to listen to or watch something.

Imagine sitting in a library and hearing “If you ain’t got no money take your broke ass home” suddenly blasting from the computer of the person next to you as she frantically tries to close the window to escape further embarrassment. That’s not the sort of response you want to see from your visitors!  People may be browsing at work, or listening to music, or browsing in a bedroom at night while a spouse sleeps, etc. etc. etc.  Any one of these scenarios would make automatic sound or videos annoying at best, alienating at worst.

Video Spokespeople - Just Say No

"Welcome to our website! For the next 90 seconds, I'm going to annoy you whether you like it or not!"

For most sites we also advise against those online site spokespeople, or, as one of our team calls them, Satan’s minions. We cannot overstate how much we hate these things, although studies show that they can keep people of some demographics engaged with a page longer.  Once again, it would be our recommendation to have these NOT automatically play, for all the same reasons given above.  In addition, when you go to subsequent pages of a site and return to the home page most of these online spokespeople walk onto the screen and start over from the beginning. Ugh!

Visitor’s Choice – An Alternative

Okay, so studies show that sound and video can help keep a user engaged, or can drive them off… How can we engage our visitors without annoying them? Easy: give them a CHOICE in whether or not to engage. Place a well-crafted video on your home page, front and center, but let the user click the video to play it (and to plug in some headphones before blasting your message to the entire library).

The benefits of proper use of video in an SEO campaign are clear (and growing) – a Forrester research study recently indicated that you’re 50 times more likely to hit page 1 with video than without – but you’ve gotta do it right. The video needs to be optimized for SEO – and video spokespeople aren’t. (More on video SEO later this week…)

Our partner, Brainroot Light and Sound, has a great example on their home page: it’s tailored to their brand and their message, and gives valuable information about their business which might not come through purely in text. Plus, it’s not simply a canned product you can see on thousands of sites, displaying an ad for the company that created it. And did you notice, even though it’s central to their site, you need to click to make it play. Well done, guys! Video can be a fantastic tool to promote your web presence when you do it well like Brainroot has.

Seriously, think twice before embedding sound or video that plays automatically. Otherwise risk annoying or alienating potential customers for your products and services.  What percentage are you willing to do that to?  The answer should be none.

2014-11-21T20:13:31-06:00 By |Web Presence Management|5 Comments

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  1. Sarah January 20, 2013 at 11:03 pm - Reply

    I despise suto-playing videos! I often open many of my search results one after the other and then have to go searching to find which horrible page is blaring an intrusive ad or show. I vow to not patronize any perpetrators-the site, show, or company that makes the product being hawked.

    • Kyle Claypool January 21, 2013 at 9:15 am - Reply

      Thanks Sarah – we tend to agree! I might have to quote you to the next client who says they want auto-playing video or audio on their site.

  2. […] audio on a web page that is dedicated to simple content or selling a product, and should never remove the ability to turn it off besides muting the sound on the browser […]

  3. Ron January 28, 2014 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    Okay, so what does draw them in? We have a product. Our client satisfaction with that product is OFF THE CHARTS. But connecting clients to the product is everything. We place an ad on a website. Our only hope is that the ad convinces a potential buyer to click to the website for more information. Our thinking is a 10 second video to create a quick attachment to the product and cause them to look further is a viable possibility. So if not this, then what?

    • Kyle Claypool January 28, 2014 at 4:49 pm - Reply

      Hi Ron – good question. We’re totally in favor of having short videos. Just not in favor of those videos starting automatically. By asking users to click to play a video, you’re getting them to engage – going from viewing a site to interacting with it. That’s what we prefer.

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