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Should you use autoplay on website video?

autoplay website videoIf you’ve looked at Facebook, Twitter or YouTube lately you probably noticed something they now have in common: All videos autoplay. When you search through your Facebook feed all those cute kittens, dogs, sheep, and kids get moving as soon as you scroll far enough to see them. YouTube now has autoplay on by default for all videos and Twitter is testing it in your feed.

When I first saw the autoplay on Facebook I was pretty annoyed. I wanted to turn it off, but like most things on Facebook it isn’t obvious how to do so. I gave up and now know I’ll have to deal with the videos when I look through my feed, scrolling faster to avoid the videos. At least though, there isn’t any sound.

And sound, is the bane of any website using autoplay. Study after study, and the studies after those, have shown that autoplaying sound on a website is bad. But I still encounter many websites that automatically play videos with sound in hopes of getting my attention. Usually one of two things happens. If it’s a website I need to look at, I frantically search for a pause or mute button. If it’s a website I don’t need to look at it, I close the tab. Occasionally I won’t be able to find the pause button so I’ll simply mute my computer, but that’s only when I really, really need to be on the website for research or something other than my own personal pleasure. Otherwise I’d close the page simply on principle.

So at least Facebook got the muted sound right. But YouTube plays both the video and sound. On one hand this makes sense. If you click on a link to a video, you’re expecting a video so why not have the sound start? Well, what happens if you have a dozen YouTube tabs open, your browser crashes then recovers all those tabs? Cacophony. That’s what happens, and I can’t think of a better word for it. It also happens if you have your browser settings set to reopen all tabs the next time you open it (this feature is in Chrome at least). Even if you have just one tab with YouTube on it, you still have to search for the tab to pause the video. All the while you’re hearing whatever video is playing.

By now you can tell I find this all annoying. Maybe I overreact. But in a study last year of B2B buyer’s opinions of various website elements, 93% listed autoplaying video or audio as annoying. It was the number one worst website element in the study. That’s a pretty strong number. I couldn’t find an exact matching study for B2C buyers but I’d bet my hat the numbers would be similar.

Should you use autoplay for video on your website? As with everything, it depends on what you’re trying to do. But I think you should leave the sound off. Don’t you?

Oliver Burt

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