Video on the web has evolved quite rapidly with the emergence of new technologies such as HTML5, a vast array of mobile devices, and various hosting platforms. With the changing landscape, we've gotten a lot of questions lately regarding the proper use of video across web platforms.
There are no absolute answers-your video strategy should depend entirely on your business logic and the goals for your website. In this post, I will address three questions we're commonly asked about video and shine light on some best practices for using video with Ingeniux CMS.
YouTube has full HD video support and a sleek
Should I host my videos on Ingeniux or an external service, such as YouTube?
Lately, we've had more clients going the YouTube route for the sake of web marketing. Consider the following advantages:
- YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google, so hosting your videos there gives users another path to find you on the web.
- High ranking videos also appear in Google search results, so it's a double-win.
- Hosting externally takes any bandwidth strain off your web server. This is great, especially if you expect any of your videos to go viral.
In the past, the quality of videos and styling of the embedded player on YouTube was questionable. Now, they have full HD video support and a sleek-looking player, so it makes more sense to go the externally hosted route. Other services, like Vimeo, have been a good option for our clients as well. Although you have to pay for the service, Vimeo has a sleek and skinnable player, they don't display ads, and they have a robust support area.
The main arguments against using YouTube are that you may not want videos to be available outside of your website, or you may feel uncomfortable hosting videos with a third-party. Perhaps you have a members-only area of your site with videos restricted to a certain audience. Or you want to train your users to upload their videos directly to the CMS. In cases like this, it may not make sense to host externally. However, if your videos are not audience-restricted, I'd recommend uploading your videos to an external service, like YouTube, as a second path to your content.
If you choose to host videos on your Ingeniux
What format do my videos need to be encoded in for best results?
If you're hosting through an external service, you can upload videos in almost any format. YouTube and Vimeo video encoding standards give broad support for videos from all cameras and phones.
If you opt to host videos on your Ingeniux server, you have two options:
- Encode videos in multiple HTML5 compatible formats with a Flash fallback. You will need versions of the video in .MP4 for Safari & Chrome, .OGG for Firefox, and .FLV for Internet Explorer.
- Encode videos in MP4 format with the H264 codec and use JWPlayer, a plugin that standardizes the video experience across all browsers.
Although JWPlayer costs a bit up front, it's affordable
and most clients who choose to host videos go this route. You would only want to use the first option if you
don't have many videos to maintain, as it creates a decent amount of additional overhead and testing for your users.
Regardless of what path you take, you can use the open-source program Miro Video Converter to encode your videos into most of the formats mentioned above. You can also use Adobe Media Encoder, especially if you need to convert a video to Flash (.flv) format.
Should I display videos in-line with my content or in a lightbox?
The lightbox solution, often executed with a plugin like Fancybox, works well on desktop sites with videos hosted on external services like YouTube. You don't have to send users to an external site and the functionality works flawlessly since embedded code is generally provided as an iframe.
However, our research has shown that lightboxes are not an optimal solution if you are trying to support mobile and tablet devices. During testing on my iPhone, I've found that a lightbox has a decent chance of breaking both on launch and when you're trying to close it. Given the user experience of mobile devices, it also doesn't make sense to launch a new window the same size as your original window.
For more complex cases like cross-device support, we generally recommend playing videos in-line with the content. This is often accomplished by linking a thumbnail with a play button to a separate video landing page. The advantage of having a separate page is that you now have additional content that people can find through a search engine. And it's essential to play videos in-line if you're trying to embed multiple videos on a page using JWPlayer, as iOS will choke when you try to switch to another video.
Are your questions answered?
As you can see, there are many potential solutions, and I expect more will emerge as video continues to evolve. Our recommendation is to explore your video strategy as part of the requirements gathering phase of your website so there are no questions which route you plan to take.