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April 29, 2015 By Hendrik-Jan Francke

Video Backgrounds - when NOT to use them

Sleek video backgrounds are the latest trend in web design. Many B2Bs that like to stay on the cutting edge have adopted this trend on their sites.

But are the full screen loops of blurred city traffic, zoomed in shots of fingers typing, or the muted videos of “employees” walking around an airy office loft effective in making a good first impression with prospects?

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The 80's Taught Us to Embrace Trends with Caution.

You knew you looked great rocking your feathered hair in those prom photos. You were “in”, on the cutting edge. But after your “new look” became too mainstream, the novelty wore off. (Probably for the best – that Aquanet quaff took up too much time and created an ozone hole over your head.)

Video backgrounds aren’t likely to evoke the same “What was I thinking?!” moments as your high school photo album. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think twice about their purpose, function, and place on your website.

What's Below

What NOT to do | When to Debate | When to absolutely use!

Video Conveys that Your Brand is Current – for Now

Looking current helps your site make a good first impression. But on the web – what’s “current” only lasts for 2-3 years (often less).

Compounded with the hard truth that B2Bs tend to reinvent their marketing position every 18-24 months, your “cutting edge” website has a short shelf life.

Once the novelty of this trendy design trend fades, its presence on your site will make you look all the more dated.

Movement can Attract and Distract the Eye
– So Use Strategically

Our visual system is hardwired to detect motion. If you are eating dinner and a mouse suddenly scuttled across your floor, you’d catch the movement in your peripheral vision.

Motion is a powerful tool to attract user attention. But used incorrectly, motion diverts your user from their goal-finding a solution to a problem.. If you are going to use motion on a page, make sure it tells them how your company can improve their situation.

Example: Various Ways

Trying to read copy on an image that’s racing in the background is extremely difficult. When reading is difficult…let me put it this way—don’t annoy your user! The more motion distracts user attention, the more compelling and complete of a story the video must deliver.

DON'T Use a Video Background if it’s Useless Filler

Unfortunately, most of the video backgrounds I encountered I found to be useless website filler.

Example: Square 2 Marketing

This site looks contemporary from a design standpoint. Value wise, this video does nothing to enhance the messaging. Don’t waste your site’s bandwith on a filler video that just “looks cool”. This type of execution will be the first out the door.

Debate a Video Background if it Enhances your Value Proposition

Video can help you explain not only what you do, but how your company and services add business value. From showing you are a group of real people (not stock models) to showing your services creatively, video backgrounds can differentiate you from the competition.

A conceptual video that enhances your value proposition might be difficult (and expensive) for B2Bs with intangible services. If you fall into this category, a short explainer video or product demo might more effectively communicate your message.

Example: Wistia

The video hosting platform does a video background right. It's a a lovely sneak peek into production and the personality of the company. Best part - I can believe those people really work there!

Example: Squat

This video mash up is a borderline inclusion. The video clips show what type of agency it is, an advertising agency. (Real estate agencies don’t create commercials and would have images of homes or buildings). The motion is distracting, but it clarifies what the agency does.

Absolutely! use a Video Background if it Delivers this Much Punch

Brilliant video backgrounds deliver a compelling value proposition.

Example: Eagle Clean

A London based cleaning service, Eagle Clean, wins the Oscar for pairing a video background with the essence of what they deliver.

Wow. With the brilliant acting of this yellow rubber gloved hand, I can actually feel the disdain Eagle Clean has for dirt. When the fingers pick the lint from the screen and flick it away with a vengeance, I can see the face contort in disgust. I truly share the sweet satisfaction when the smudge is wiped clean.

Bravo, Yellow Rubber Glove Hand. Bravo. This type of video background will stand the test of time.

If you Embrace the Trend, it’s Easy to Let it Go

The wonderful thing about websites is that we are able to try, test, and change. Maybe you want to try a video background on your homepage for a while. If it doesn’t work out, you can change it back. But just to recap, please don’t.

  • Don’t use a stock video
  • Don’t make it too fast, distracting
  • Make sure your copy is the priority

Find out what users had to say about these homepages!

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SEO Implications of Video Backgrounds

Video has been touted lately as a way to improve a site's SEO. The question is whether video backgrounds have a positive or negative affect on your SEO. Duncan Lauder of Marketing Practicality explains the best way to make video backgrounds count for SEO. Check it out!

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