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Pros and Cons of HTML5 Full-Page Video

Anca Bradley

Businesses know that in order to stay competitive online, they must capture and hold the attention of the visitors to their websites. In an age of shorter attention spans and faster, more advanced technology, this objective has been both harder and easier to achieve.

Videos have been a favorite of Internet users since YouTube gained traction in the early 2000s, which has since given rise to the prevalence of businesses using these formats and platforms to capture those consumers. Now, with HTML5, businesses can turn their entire website into a video—a new, visually interesting way to make them stand out from the herd of similar websites owned by others in the field.

If you don’t know what it looks like, Ulmer Dermatology and Fazoli’s are great examples—as is the homepage. They all employ HTML5, which is a standardized format for embedding videos on web pages, even allowing browsers without the Flash plug-in to play the video.

Related: Download our free Guide to Web Design

But before jumping on the latest bandwagon, it's important to have a full understanding of what the actual advantages and disadvantages of HTML full page video are. Only then can you decide whether a video background is right for your site.

What Are the Pros?

It’s Engaging

Keeping a visitor's attention can be difficult, especially when there is not that much visual difference between your competitors' sites and your own. Text, static images, gifs, and embedded video: everyone's seen it before. A full page video background, however, is a design feature that will immediately make any visitor sit up and pay attention.

If people find your video to be beautiful, intriguing, or funny, they're more likely to stick around and explore your site. If it truly makes an impact, they may even tell their friends—spreading knowledge of your company by social media and word of mouth.

It’s Cutting Edge

If your site uses the latest technology, it sends a much more positive message than a site that looks like it hasn't been updated since the ’90s. Keeping abreast of the technology curve assures potential customers that your company is a forward-thinking organization that keeps pace with the latest developments.

It’s Informative

Video can convey information that text and static images cannot, and full page video has an advantage over normal embedded videos for achieving that goal. For one, covering the entire background of the page makes it a lot easier to see than standard embedded videos, which are often too small to have the desired impact. Furthermore, embedded videos are easily missed by visitors who don't scroll down far enough or who don't bother clicking "play." Full page video doesn't have that problem; it's likely the first thing a visitor will notice when coming to a page. If information that is only easily shown through video is one of the biggest selling points of your company, you'll no longer have to worry about potential customers missing out.

What Are the Cons?

HTML5 full page video might offer some big advantages, but that doesn't mean it is right for every site.

It Has a Longer Load Time

When it comes to website performance, milliseconds matter; if a visitor finds that a page is taking too long to load, they're likely to hit the back arrow and try a different site. A video won't be of any benefit if people don't actually see it; if it causes such a slowdown that people with older computers are no longer able to speedily access your site, it's doing more harm than good.

Related Article: 5 Reasons Why Customers are Leaving Your Website

It Presents SEO Challenges

Human visitors might find a video impressive, but the web crawler Google uses can't actually see it. For purposes of determining the subject of your page and its search ranking, the attention-seizing video that touches on all the keystones of your company is only visible as a line of code. Google must look at the rest of the page to determine what your site is actually about; therefore, it’s important to add content—informative, useful content and not just filler—to the page besides just the video. Otherwise, a page that is stunningly attractive and informative to a human viewer can appear downright skeletal to the crawler.

Not Every Browser is Compatible

Because the Internet is by its very nature disorganized, there is no video format that is universally supported by all browsers. Thus, whichever format you choose, there is a risk of some viewers seeing a site with a background that is one enormous error message instead of your captivating video background. There are steps that can be taken to mitigate this risk; you can use multiple sources to provide a video in various formats depending on the user's browser and display a static image as a last-resort fallback. The fact remains, however, that there is a risk that viewers will not see your site as you meant it to be seen.

Autoplay Isn’t Always Appreciated

Autoplay video is inherently disliked by many people—particularly autoplay video with sound. What happens if someone visits your page from a computer in a public location like a library, and it starts blaring music at high volume? The visitor is going to close the page as quickly as possible—and depending on how embarrassed or angry they are, they may not ever come back.

While it's impressive to show off technology’s capabilities, you should never forget that you're building your site to appeal to your customer. If a full page video background is distracting or angering potential customers instead of enticing them, then it's not doing its job. And no matter how impressive it may look, your site would probably be better off without it.

What's the Takeaway?

Using HTML5 full page video offers a great opportunity to give your site visual flair and make it stand out from competitors, but it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Used properly, it can give your website a fresh and innovative new look that grabs visitors' attention, making them want to know more about your company and products.

It also presents a variety of pitfalls, which must be carefully avoided if you choose to use full page video to its full advantage. Any impact on loading time, potential browser incompatibility, and customer needs should all be taken into consideration when deciding if a video background can make an impact on your site and, ultimately, your business.

Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images
Anca Bradley Member
Anca Bradley, Fruition's Associate Director of Search marketing, is a recognized marketer in many industries. In her free time, Anca enjoys various outdoor activities, such as hiking, zip-lining and rafting, and traveling.