Before I begin, let me clearly state that I am not a huge fan of using auto-start media on websites. I don’t think there is ever a reason it should be used. If not done correctly it can really disrupt the users experience on your site. If done incorrectly one of three things is bound to happen:

  • The user is already listening to something and the dual audio will be unpleasant.
  • The user (for some reason) doesn’t have any speakers to hear the audio. Not to mention if you’re using something other than traditional video embedding (YouTube/Vimeo), their computer may need to update/download in order for the video to function properly.
    • I’ll admit most users should make sure their computer is up to date and all peripherals are working properly, but it is still a risk to take.
  • The user may get confused when the audio from the video is someone speaking and visible text on the website is different from the speech. I can’t think of very many people that can read something while hearing someone talk about something else and comprehend both at the same time.
    • If the video is of someone talking, I think it best to keep the amount of text to a minimum, unless the text is a script of the audio so users can read along.

So if you must use it, I recommend paying attention to the following.

Keep It Above The Fold

A video typically has two elements, visual and audio. One thing I look for immediately when something starts up, is the source. If the video sounds like something I’d be interested in I’d also like to SEE it rather than scroll down and start it over to see what I missed. If you’re only giving visitors’ one element they’re missing the other or may assume it’s just an audio file. So if a video is important enough the users should see it immediately when they arrive place it in a place where they can see it and hear it right away.

On the flip side if the video/audio is perceived as an annoyance but you want the user to stay place in a location where he/she can see it, turn it down/off.

Make It Easy To Find/See

If you’ve got the media above the fold, perfect, now the controls and settings need to be user friendly. Nothing frustrates me more when I try to stop something but can’t find the pause button/volume. If you want to

The smallest embedded video dimensions I’ll put up with are those found on Facebook, which is roughly 400×260. Even then the resolution of the video at a normal viewing level had better be good in order for it to be seen well when scaled down.

Know Your Intended Audience

If you know your target visitors would enjoy the auto-start media, then use it. Though, I don’t know if that’s even possible to know. There are things to watch out for like the audio level and clarity of the video. But aside that if you’re 100% positive users would enjoy hearing classical music when they arrive, fantastic.

So those are my thoughts on the topic. But again I’ll say I’m not a huge fan of it. I honestly don’t think there is anything wrong with displaying a play button for users to click on. I believe part of a user’s experience is about giving them choices. But that’s just me, let’s hear from you.

Comments (3)

  1. Auto-start media is a no-no for me too! Every webmaster should respect the visitor and give him the choice to play media or not. If I come over a website that begins to sing/say something, my only reaction is to close the browser window. Only if I’m really really interested in that website I search for a button to shut it up.

    • Amen Brother

  2. Choice should be at the end of visitor either he/she play or not. Because its very unpleasant when a media start suddenly it interrupted the course of visitor. Now a days most of single page websites are using auto media. overall you write nice words for “Using Auto-Start Media Correctly” really a new and debatable topic.