Ask a Geek

Everything You Need to Know About Using Videos on Your Website

This story appears in the February 2015 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Q: Should my website launch with a full-screen video?

A: It’s the latest trend in website design: launching a site with a full-screen video to tell your brand and product story. PraytellStrategy.com and mediaboom.com are among the sites that use videos to set a specific mood while highlighting products and services in new and compelling ways.

The jury’s still out on the ROI of using full-screen video on your website, but the approach can have benefits for businesses that are able to condense core themes and values into a short-form video. 

Dudley Storey, a Calgary, Alberta-based web development instructor and author of Pro CSS3 Animation, teaches people how to code their sites and take advantage of this latest trend. We asked him what’s involved. 

Why should I add a background video to my homepage?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, video is 24,000 words a second. It’s uniquely suited to provide visitors with an instant impression of your business and services.

Do videos have any value from an SEO perspective? 

The technique is relatively new, so that’s difficult to judge. Video definitely increases visitor engagement, but Google weighs file size and delivery speed when ranking pages (a knock against it).

As far as we know, video doesn’t directly help SEO, unless the video has subtitled text attached to it. And since background video shouldn’t have any dialogue or voice-overs, that’s a nonfactor.

If I go this route, how often should I update my video, and what are the costs?

The shorter the video, the more often it should be updated. In general, an effective looping video is no more than eight seconds long, and should be replaced with a new one each month so you don’t bore regular visitors. As for cost, an eight-second, professionally produced video, shot with no sound, on location, using natural light and a small crew, will run you about $1,000.

Do I need a new website or can my existing site be recoded to handle full-screen video? 

A new site isn’t necessary, although adding video offers a chance to reconsider your site’s design. With video as a background, text content on the page must be reduced to a few key sentences so it doesn’t cover up the video. Intermediate knowledge of HTML5, CSS and JavaScript is sufficient to do the work.

What type of server configuration is required?

An up-to-date Apache or Nginx server will deliver the video just fine, but older servers may need some coaxing and guidance to do so—thus the requirement of .htaccess editing skills mentioned above. 

Will full-screen video place a bandwidth drain on my server and cost more to operate?

It can. A 10 MB video downloaded by 10,000 people represents 100 GB of traffic, which can be very expensive. Monthly costs will depend on your hosting arrangement and any bandwidth caps in your site service contract.

Are there instances when full-screen video doesn’t work?

Most mobile browsers won’t auto-play video, in order to avoid unexpected and unwanted bandwidth use or roaming charges. That’s important to know if mobile is the primary market for your site.

Are there plug-ins I can use for my existing site? 

There are: mb.YTPlayer is popular for WordPress, as is jquery.videoBG. A web developer can add video to a page without special software, but restrictive web publishing systems such as Squarespace and Wix can make adding background video difficult unless you upgrade. 

Edition: December 2016

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