Video backgrounds – pros and cons for your website

Consider carefully before using video as your web page background.

One of the popular trends in web design at the moment is the use of a video as the main background feature for the home page of a website. This can be quite appealing but it is not something you want to implement without careful consideration. So why is this?

It’s always been important to consider ‘form’ and ‘function’ when it comes to producing beautiful and efficient websites, but this is even more important now than ever before. And using video backgrounds on websites always involves a compromise.

The pros and cons of background video

In the introduction above I mentioned ‘compromise’ when it comes to the use of video for this technique. What this actually refers to is that video files are very large, particularly at a quality which gives a good viewing experience. However, large files and web design aren’t ideal partners, particularly now that we have to be sure that sites can be viewed easily on mobile devices on slower networks as well as desk-top machines and fast networks.

Indeed Google is strenuously pushing fast web experiences and rewarding sites in the search results which achieve this. Websites which are slower and deliver a poorer user-experience, typically see their Google rankings fall away over time.

To give an example, we were recently asked to build a website which used a full practice tour video as the home page back-drop. Unfortunately we had to explain why this isn’t practical, simply because the size of the file needed to achieve it would be prohibitively large and load very slowly, particularly on slow networks. This is exactly the scenario you need to avoid if you want to comply with Google’s web guidelines (and you really should!)

What compromises are needed to use video in this way?

If you really want to use a video on your dental website like this, there are some compromises and techniques to take into account as follows:

  • your video must be short – maybe 10 – 12 seconds max. A full practice tour is out of the question.
  • video file size must be minimised. This means compressing the file, dropping resolution and frame rates etc. Unfortunately this can make the video quality poorer than you might have hoped for.
  • consider using “special” techniques to serve your files e.g. a content delivery network.
  • be prepared to prevent the video from showing on mobile devices
  • eliminate the audio feed – this can be irritating as well as making file sizes even larger

Considering the above, it is important that you design team understands the limitations and compromises to use video in this way. Even when they do, it will always be a compromise in performance terms and one you might wish to avoid.

If you see a website, dental practice or otherwise, which uses this technique, you may wish to run the web address through the official Google speed and usability checking tools to see how it performs for yourself. If you find anything that performs in the upper quartile of performance results we’ll be keen to take look! The majority are way down the performance list unfortunately.

Summary

If you are considering using video as a background feature for your dental practice website, it is possible but there are some compromises you need to understand. You also need to make sure your designer understands the implications and knows how to implement the techniques needed to get a reasonable result – but even then, it will always be a balance between poorer performance and aesthetics.

If you need to discuss this or any aspect of modern dental website design, then please do not hesitate to get in touch. Our team of designers have been building websites for dentists for over 20 years and will be delighted to help. Simply call through on 01332 672548 or use the website contact form to arrange a discussion.