Think about the last time you watched a video online or tried to. What prompted it? Was it just a distraction: a guilty pleasure in your Facebook feed? Or something you sought out but either couldn’t find, had to sign up for, or took too much effort?

For all our advances since garage band 'Severe Tire Damage' first brought video to the web in ‘93, the typical online video experience is still somewhat random. More often than not, the information contained in the video is not what we’re expecting. Finding a specific video can be a challenge, and when we do gain access we are bombarded by pre-rolls, pop ups, unskippable ads and “related videos” that are not related at all, whereas truly related material such as background info and products to buy remains far from our fingertips.

Asking the Right Questions about Online Video

With all the web offers, we still haven’t figured the right way to situate video in the stream of online content. Online video offers incredible potential to move beyond the advances of film and television, yet there is little consensus around questions like: Where does it go on a page? What’s the right length? How do we best inform viewers about what they are about to see? Which is the best play mechanism? Is there a better way to navigate from page to video and beyond? While the answers to these questions are largely dependent on context, more often than not we get them wrong.

video user experience confusion

A Seamless Flow Between Video and Other Media

Imagine what could be...You’re reading an article and a video pops up like a genie to clarify what cannot be explained in words. Then you’re reading again, the words now enlivened by what you just watched. You click through to a gorgeous landscape with floating text and more video options and soon begin to lose yourself in a seamless flow of image, text and video that enriches your understanding of the subject.

Now picture a mosaic of thumbnail-activated videos that aligns and reconfigures according to your preferences and interests. A mouseover offers more detailed information and a bar at the top allows you to reconfigure your video options according to subject.

The above scenarios are actually real but far too rare. The New York Times integrates video, text and image in their “Op-Docs” series and Ted Talks includes a wonderfully interactive mosaic of video thumbnails that allows you to sift through an array of talks to find the one you’ll like. So why isn’t there more?

nyt op docs

Improving the User Experience of Online Video

We all want our videos to succeed online. We want lots of people to watch them, to get our message and act on it and make more informed purchasing decisions. We spend time and money to produce great videos. We embed them on websites, optimize keywords, add metadata, and build systems to allow for easy sharing. But this represents just a part of what's possible for video in a connected world.

By taking the time to plan in advance and configure certain elements that impact a video's "user experience," we can make our videos even more relevant and accessible in our everyday experiences, both before and after we play them. Often overlooked attributes, including the physical setting, the information to set it up, and the media that surround our videos can ensure that a video finds the right audience (and vice versa), that the audience makes a more meaningful connection with the material and is better able to act on that information to share, make a purchase or discover related material.

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