While online video on websites and elsewhere online has exploded in both size and scope, the professional usability and user experience community has still remained generally silent? Fortunately I’ve uncovered several good resources that online video professionals should check out for learning about, and applying, best practices with web video usability for increased engagement and conversions.
“Usability” in Web Video, Explained
Since 2007 I’ve worked as professional, albeit unlicensed, web usability specialist. That had inspired me to write for ReelSEO in 2008 on the need for web video usability standards, and again in 2009 in my articled titled “Usability Standards for Web Video (Where the Hell Are They??”) Since that time, I’ve updated my definition for what is web video usability, which I’m expanding from the definitions of “usability” and “user experience” provided by Usability expert Paul Bryan and Wikipedia, all provided here below:
- User experience (“UX”), is about how a person feels about using a product, system, or service. UX is both about perceived objective and subjective needs of the user, which can change over time as circumstances change.
- Usability is a term that’s used interchangeably with user experience (UX), but which I consider having more of a goal-specific orientation for business and marketing purposes. Particularly, it speaks to the ease with which people can employ a particular tool or other human-made object (with the assistance of technology) in order to achieve a particular goal.
- Web video usability is the practice of influencing how a person uses and experiences video on a website – tested and measured both as a stand-alone entity and in context with the website it is presented and played on – for the target audience in mind.
For clarification, I am not referring to recorded videos of users testing a website – either on-site at a studio or remotely. What I am talking about here is the actual user experience with a video on a website they are interacting with, and being measured for usability purposes.
Why Web Video Usability Standards and Resources Are STILL Very Scarce
So why is it that the UX professional community has been generally quiet about online video, including web video? For the answer to that, I thought to have some well-known UX and Information Architect experts in web usability offer their own comments:
- Jared Spool, Founding Principal of User Interface Engineering (UIE)
- Peter Morville, President of Semantic Studios
- Paul Bryan, Founder of Usography
- Peter Van Dijck, SVP Global User Experience for Fox Mobile
- Dan Klyn, Information Architect and Co-Founder of The Understanding Group
Here’s my organized list of some of their responses:
Finding a sizeable pool of applicants to choose from with all that criteria can prove to be a challenge.” – Paul Bryan
” I’ve used video to do remote user testing, to record user testing, etc. It’s always messy. It often takes 20 minutes just to set up. Screen sharing is complicated to set up. Recording video is complicated to set up. Pretty much every solution right now is complex to set up. I think it’s due to bandwidth limitations, but I’m not sure.” – Peter Van Dijck.
Sharing video in a format everyone can see is complicated; and depending on connections the video can end up being very low quality. Video UX testing is clunky and usually not worth it versus other methods. Not only is it too much work to set up, it often doesn’t work as well (as other methods).” – Peter Van Dijck.
Lack of community discussion
I’ve never seen these sorts of questions (on web video usability) raised in a UX publication or event.” – Peter Morville
“We haven’t done any research involving online video… You’re the first person to even ask us about it.” – Jared Spool
Lack of client demand
I think that IA and UX folks’ interest in and noise-making about online video and online video for commerce is roughly commensurate with clients’ and analysts’ interest in and noise-making about it. Another way to explain it is that (businesses) still don’t have fundamentals of great user experience nailed, and since they also don’t have unlimited money to spend on what we do, we’re all still working on the fundamentals. Some day soon they’ll spend money on video specifically, but if they don’t have a basic and effective merchandising strategy and tactical capability, “adding video” isn’t gonna make the list of primary focus.” – Dan Klyn
What is Needed for Web Video Usability Standards to Become Commonplace?
Paul Bryan mentioned to me that while the UX community has generally remained silent on video, he and others I interviewed say that they expect it to explode in the next 2-3 years, and become ubiquitous within 5 years.
With that as the forecast, I asked this group of UX and IA experts, what would take to have a reliable means of doing reliable and practical user testing with website video? How exactly can that best be achieved?
- Better and simpler technologies. “We need reliable, quality screen-sharing that isn’t complicated to set up or remove afterwards, with audio too.” says Dijck.
- More community support. “I’d love to see an organization like Shop.org or Internet Retailer get behind some custom UX research around this on behalf of its members.” says Klyn. “Otherwise, the market will take care of this eventually. Once the leader in each category for each generation nails the effective pattern and unlocks the ‘code’ for how to do video in retail for these products and these audiences, their performance will make them conspicuous, and everyone’ll notice and copy them.”
Web Video Usability Resources Available NOW
Fortunately ReelSEO has been covering web video usability and UX video tips for several years now; and both last year and very recently, a couple UX companies have published their own reports. So the timing is right to now provide you with an updated list of web video usability resources worth checking out:
For Retail and E-Commerce
- “Top Approaches for e-Commerce Product Videos” by Paul Bryan, UX Booth
- “Optimizing User Experience with E-commerce Product Videos” series at Video-Commerce.org (Part 1 and Part 2) – October 2011
- “21 Tips for Creating Usable Ecommerce Sites” by Dan Klyn over at Flat Frog Blog, May 2010. (This isn’t specific to web video, but does make mention of video; and lots of the other tips can be applied to video as well.)
User Interface Web Design
- “Seeing Is Believing (How to Design for Video)” by Human Factors International writer and John Sorflaten, PhD.
The ReelSEO Guide to web video usability features
We’ve also reported at ReelSEO on the following features applicable to improving the user experience with web video:
- Video heatmaps
- Transcripts and closed captions
- Clip-and-share video excerpts
- Time-stamping (both video search and on-site search, allowing people to go directly to the time marker in a video of what they were searching for.)
- Remote user testing
- SEO – Yes, SEO and Video SEO are also important for web video usability. Search is part of the discovery process, and optimizing your videos with metadata that speaks with relevance to the end user (and not just a search engine), is what induces them to click on that video, and onto the website. That’s why the best Video SEO today is not about optimizing for a search engine, it’s about knowing how to engage with your audience on a social level – something that greatly adds to the overall user experience.