Video itself has been around for a long time; in films, on the television and now readily available to play on our phones, tablets and other devices. Video on the web has also been around for a long time. We started out with heavy-weight flash files of videos and animations, whereas now we have HTML5 video and so many more options for including video in our web pages. Heck, half the time it’s even just as easy as dropping some embed code into a website. In short, we’ve never had it as easy when it comes to using video on the web.
The Evolution of Video
Designing with video was much harder in the past than it is now. Taking good quality video footage often involved heavy and expensive equipment and software, whereas now we can use our normal digital cameras (or even our phones!) to take great quality footage. And if you wanted animated sequences on your website, you had to either be very good at illustrating digitally, know a lot of Actionscript, or your way around Flash, or hire someone else to do it. Now, there are tools and pieces of software out there that help you to create animations all by themselves.
Also, think about the creation of YouTube. Founded in 2005, YouTube is the most popular service that people use to upload and share their own videos. Even massive corporations and businesses use it to share popular clips or news from their TV shows.
In my opinion, YouTube brought around a bit of an evolution of video on the web. They made it easy for viral campaigns to spread quickly and video quickly exploded onto the scene. YouTube offered something that few had been able to do before: anybody and everybody could create video and share it to whomever they liked, regardless of their experience or technical ability.
Video on the Web Today
Nowadays, we have so many technologies at our disposal that Flash has mostly fallen by the wayside. HTML5 makes it much easier for us to develop ways to display our videos and other animated, visual footage in our websites. Having this technology is great, as it means that we have much better opportunities to use video in our designs and actually use it to make our users' experiences better.
But I’m not here to talk about YouTube and Vimeo all day, or even to tell you about all the technical advances and techniques you can use to include video in your websites. Instead, I’ll walk you through why it’s good to include videos in your design and what makes video great.
How We Can Use Video
Video can be used in so many ways to enhance our designs and make the user journey and experience better. Just like you would with various imagery (whether it’s photography, icons or animations) you should be aiming to use video in your designs to improve your designs. Keep in mind you want your message to be clear with or without the videos.
With any video it’s important that you think clearly about the message you want to project. While this can depend totally on the brand, product or service, use video as carefully as you would any other elements in your design.
That said, we can use videos...
Videos are great for introducing your users to a product or service without overpowering them with a list of features a mile long. Think of many SaaS websites; how many can you see with an intro video that explains the product or service a little more?
The key with this video is to make it the focus of your design. While you will want to mention the features in text and imagery below, having a video that shows the main features in a creative way is a sure-fire way of getting your users to notice the product and want to try it more.
A couple of great examples of this are on the Clear app and Paper app websites.
Clear is a to-do and list-tackling app. Clear’s website is a great example of using video as a focus, but also ensuring that the message about the app comes through loud-and-clear without the video.
The video is placed in the header of the website, right next to the app download links, and when clicked it loads the video in a little overlay.
This video is just an introduction to the product and app itself, but what works well is the consistency in the brand and visuals from the website design to the video. As you’ll have learned in previous articles, consistency is key to creating a strong brand message and in matching those together so well, it will make users more likely to trust the brand and therefore go on to buy the app.
Paper is an app that allows you to sketch and draw beautifully on your iPad.
The focus on the video on the Paper website is even bigger than on the Clear website, with a larger, really visually-striking header image in place, with a video play icon over the top of the image. On clicking to play the video, though, it also opened in an overlay on top of the rest of the website design.
Again, as with Clear, the brand message, style and tone of voice is kept very similar to the rest of the website design. Creating consistency like this can only help you to gain more users trust in the long run - so be sure to not create a mismatch in styles if you do decide to include a video in your website designs.
One great thing about video (if used cleverly) is that you can use it to delight your users, by introducing hidden features that they might not have thought about. Almost like a little easter egg, but a little more visible, and much more visual!
This use of video in designs is purely subjective and would again depend on how the brand needs to be represented. This might not be suitable in website designs that are for professional companies, but would be perfect in something a little more casual in style.
A couple of websites using this to great effect are Handheld Conf and Playground Inc.
Handheld Conf is a conference that describes itself as “big ideas for small devices”. On the homepage of the Handheld Conf website, there’s a line up of amazing speakers and their topics, along with a photo. Now, when you hover over the speaker photos, they come to life!
This is an amazing little treat for users; almost uncannily like photographs in the world of Harry Potter, that move. As soon as your cursor hovers away from the photos, they pause at the point where your cursor left the photo. And if you go back on to them, they resume.
Using video like this is a great way to add a little more interactivity into your websites, but also creating small ways for your user to enjoy browsing the website more.
Playground Inc are a creative digital agency based in Toronto. On their homepage, they use animation brilliantly to help illustrate their ideas and beliefs. These animations only activate once you've scrolled to that part of the page and before that, they look like static illustrations.
This is a great way to add interest to your website that will delight users, as it is something that is totally unexpected but that enhances the way they can interact with your site.
..To Add Interest
Hand in hand with using video to delight your users, you can also use video to add extra visual interest and weight to your design elements. This is a great way to use video as it ensures that you can keep the interest level in your website higher than if you had much fewer visual elements to catch the user’s eye.
A great example of this is seen on the Symbolset website.
Symbolset create icon web fonts for all of us lovely web people to use. Personally I think the way that Symbolset works is pretty inventive and the way they use video on their website is no different.
If you’re using the Symbolset fonts on the Desktop (in Photoshop, for example) then you can type out the keyword for the icon you require and it will appear for you. In the same manner, they have used this in their video.
Symbolset also really cleverly make use of colour alongside each of the messages they type out to you in their video, keeping visual interest at a massive high. This sort of video is also really inclusive, as it makes it feel like the website is talking to you and connecting personally with you; which again will help to build the trust between the user and the company itself.
..To Replace Large Background Images
A trend that has long been around is the large, often (though not restricted to) full-screen-sized background image. Some companies are now instead using this as an opportunity as a space to place their full-screen-size video.
While this is nothing new, you have to think carefully about how you use this style of video in your designs. Instead of just a large full-scale background image - which is relatively easy to work around with your design elements - a video is something that is always moving and may cause havoc with your design elements (think typography, colour, buttons, other elements like that) when mixed with the moving video. It’s a new challenge, but can be used cleverly with careful thought.
A couple of great examples of large background videos are by Spotify and Slow Mo.
Spotify are a popular music-streaming service. Their website homepage utilises the large-scale background video to great effect, with a looping video with a minimal amount of other design elements laid over the top.
Spotify have also decided to include audio on this video (which you can turn off very easily, a must have when including audio on any website), which enhances the video even further.
The video, audio and design of the homepage overall helps to set the tone for the service and helps the users understand a little more about the service and their tagline of “music for every moment”, all without directly saying what Spotify actually does.
Slow Mo are high speed camera specialists. They use video in place of an image for the hero area at the top of the homepage. What’s clever about Slow Mo is that at their essence they are a company that sells high speed cameras, and they use video to help sell that.
The videos they use on their homepage are all played automatically in a slow-motion style and tie in perfectly with the brand’s name. It also creates a lot of visual interest, while the contrast between the video and the text that overlays it is always kept strong.
..To Improve Your Storytelling
One final thing that you can do by using video in your designs is to use it to improve your storytelling skills. Storytelling isn’t anything new, but you can use video to enhance it even more. Storytelling should be at the heart of your designs and video is one step to take that can help improve the experience that your users will have on your website.
A great example of this in action is on Dan Eden’s personal website.
Dan is a designer, who has recently been hired by Dropbox as the first Dropbox Design Intern. In the portfolio section of Dan’s website, alongside the project title and descriptions he also has (beautiful looking) videos that walk the user through the project.
This is brilliant. Instead of showing simple screenshots or linking to the website, Dan is improving the experience of his users by allowing them to see the project in action without going anywhere else. This is great as it adds interest to the page, but it will also encourage users to visit a website if they like the look of it.
It can sometimes be very hard to get an inkling for how a website works without browsing it yourself, but Dan has managed to cross that bridge without adding any extra steps for his users.
So video is great in web design, as long as you use it well. What I want you to do now is look at videos on the web. Find as many examples as you can and take the time to see what works well and what doesn’t, in your opinion.
Then, think about how you could possibly go about integrating video into your own designs and how you can use it to enhance and improve your designs in the future.