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Video backgrounds suck
Ban them from your website

Video backgrounds suck and should be banned from your website

November 26th, 2017 – 29 Comments

“I just love those video backgrounds and we need them on our new website.” No, you don’t. “They are so engaging and set a friendly mood.” No, they don’t. “It’s an amazing new feature and it helps conversion.” No, it doesn’t. Besides that, the conversation is annoying me. Video backgrounds suck big time. Our good friend Karl Gilis of AGConsult said it perfectly: “Video backgrounds are the new sliders. They’re a distraction.” And just like sliders suck and should be banned from your website, so do video backgrounds.

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Why do you need that video background?

I dare to state that video backgrounds were invented by web agencies trying to convince customers of a particular design:

  • Hey, this will make you stand out!
  • Now this really sets a mood on your website, don’t you think?
  • Of course we can create that video for you at a mere x dollars extra
  • Video backgrounds will keep your visitors’ attention, so time on page goes up and that’s good for Google.

What!? You’re not maintaining that site for Google, but for your users. The second reason for video backgrounds is that we all have said at one point in time: well, that looks nice. We should have thought about it before saying that. Our customers have seen that video background as well and now they want it.

Video Backgrounds: you don't want one

This GIF file probably got your attention already, but background videos are worse, IMHO. I honestly can’t think of any additional benefit of that background video for your visitor.

Why video backgrounds suck

Think about it:

  • Video backgrounds increase loading time for a page (source: common sense).
  • They distract from the primary message/call-to-action on a page. Even if that button or whatever is bright orange and your design is monochrome, a video is distracting!
  • Video backgrounds usually use videos not hosted by you. But if it doesn’t load, you’ll get the blame anyway and your design will look like crap.
  • ‘Cover the entire screen with video and set white text on top of it as the homepage’ probably is a trend. Let’s all put an end to this trend.
  • Autoplay sucks, and how on earth would it be logical to have a start button for a background video!? A call-to-action for your background? C’mon!
  • Video backgrounds only might perhaps work on very specific landing pages in very specific niches, most of the times you’ll just hurt conversion #alwaysbetesting
  • The things that go for informative products videos do not apply to video backgrounds. It’s a different thing! Really! Sigh.
  • Why do you think successful sites on the web don’t use video backgrounds? Right!

Video backgrounds suck and should be banned from your website. Even with all the nice looking examples in this article: Dos and Don’ts for Using Background Videos on Your Website, I still think the don’ts outweigh the dos. And that post is two years old. How come we haven’t put an end to that trend yet?

And what about mobile data plans and such?

Yes! Now that we have established that you just don’t need that video background for any reason, think about how much data you will have left at the end of this month! You’ll be able to watch another episode of The Ranch while commuting.

No, seriously. On your mobile website, that video background simply makes even less sense. We talked about mobile UX in this post, and video backgrounds don’t fit in with recommendations like ‘tone it down’ and ‘optimize for speed’. It’s a bad idea. Period.

The world doesn’t need video backgrounds

We have to start somewhere to eliminate the evil that is video backgrounds. Heal the world, start at your own home. Convince your customer that there are little upsides to video backgrounds. Show them a dozen websites that either support your claims or that fail to convince the visitor to use a video background. And please, please stop recommending them. On behalf of the entire internet, I thank you.

Read more: ‘Sliders suck and should be banned from your website’ »


29 Responses to Video backgrounds suck and should be banned from your website

  1. Nick Sharpe
    By Nick Sharpe on 29 November, 2017

    how can anybody disagree with that?
    Because SEO is part art, part science and all voodoo.
    I know what works for me, and it prolly won’t be the same for someone else.
    I have been the exception to the rules for almost a decade, so…
    but all in all, I agree. Its all about conversion rate and revenue. If not , then you have a vanity site.
    Lotsa luck!

  2. Raby Dong
    By Raby Dong on 29 November, 2017

    I think video on the background will be good to attract visiter in website and show them throught video what is your product. some how after read all the information i am bit confused what is good and what is not good; because i am from the non IT part.

  3. naziman.azlye
    By naziman.azlye on 29 November, 2017

    Really hate it when open a website then somehow have audio out of nowhere. Shocked due to sudden sound.

  4. Hero Howard
    By Hero Howard on 28 November, 2017

    Not sure if this post retains to video as a whole (Header and Background) or just background

    While I can agree that a video background throughout the entire site would be a distraction, I do believe a video header is an attractive Showcase piece to help sell a mood or add visual appeal to your brand.

    While I can understand why such a rant would come from a text driven company, there is no doubt in my mind that video used the right way, incorporated into a site at the right time can add to the viewers appeal to stay longer or mentally retain your brand vs. the drones of others who wish to text you to death.

    Personally, as an ex-retail manager for one of Holland’s best denim brands, I have seen the brick and mortar world fall to the online world (with good reason), but only since video’s introduction, I feel like motion adds lovely ness and can come to mimic the “walking through the mall” from the comfort of my home in this faceless and motionless world we are creating!

    As a former, former (going way back) video editor and videographer, the artist in me is looking forward to creating a mixed world for our subscribers or great content (many thanks to the Yoast crew for this) and visual appeal to captivate and differentiate our brand from the masses.

    Note: If i go for broke, let me forever chew on these words! ;)

    Thanks again Yoast crew, hope to someday meet.

    Hero Howard

  5. James Ravelle
    By James Ravelle on 28 November, 2017

    It is VERY easy (with 1-2 lines of code) to turn off video backgrounds on mobile and replace with an image, so the point about them not being mobile friendly is invalid.

    Also, the Chrome update will NOT pause video if it doesn’t contain audio, so actual video backgrounds will not be impacted: https://blog.chromium.org/2017/09/unified-autoplay.html

  6. Michael Pace
    By Michael Pace on 28 November, 2017

    Video backgrounds can be set to “not display” on Mobile and/or tablet instead present a static image…

  7. Andreas
    By Andreas on 28 November, 2017

    Good article. The most people using it because it’s nice (to have). I think it’s depending where it is. As slider option why not . Just simple and not a blockbuster. As background for some content boxes – too much.

  8. scott
    By scott on 27 November, 2017

    I disagree. For an industry that is focused on outdoor adventure, where people come to experience adventure and create memories, projecting the story through imagery and video is beneficial.

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 28 November, 2017

      Note the difference between videos and video backgrounds. I love videos to tell a story. We do that ourselves.

  9. James York
    By James York on 27 November, 2017

    So why have any backgrounds at all? No photos either. Eliminate sliders and get rid of carousels also. Write your text for google too. Google is the only entity that reads websites anyway.
    There is one reason for all of the above: clients, who pay for their websites, like this stuff. And they feel that their competitors who have these eye-catching page elements have better websites and want that stuff too.
    So, before you eliminate everything – try this: clients are paying for what they want and I, for one, am NOT in the business of telling them they are wrong. Eye candy sells clients – and they are paying the bill.

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 27 November, 2017

      So what you are saying is to give that client short team gain instead of delivering the best long term solution? Nice.

      You are in the business of telling them they are wrong, IMHO. Quality over quantity. If you are in the conversion business as well, or know any conversion company, convince your client they need to A/B test this, before just fitting everything to their needs, no questions asked.

  10. Phil
    By Phil on 27 November, 2017

    I’m not advocating for background videos. In most cases I would likely agree. However, this post did not consider the possibility of only adding background videos in specific scenarios. For example, you could have it only show on desktop and not on mobile. Additionally, every site has different content and target audiences. Rather than simply taking all of your video backgrounds down, run some A/B tests of your own to see if they help your site’s performance or not. Make sure you know what performance looks like to you as well – is it more sales? Longer time spent on site? Etc, etc. It’s definitely worth considering to take a look at whether they help you accomplish your goals.

    If you are a videographer looking to sell yourself to potential clients, a video background definitely helps to set the tone of the site as a “video professional” site – and fits the brand.

    If you’re selling pottery, it probably doesn’t fit your brand as much. It all depends on what you’re doing.

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 27 November, 2017

      Agreed to some extent. Even if your business is making videos, the focus should be on your portfolio (or product example, etc), and that focus shouldn’t be distracted by a video background. Now I am sure you can come up with great examples where video backgrounds serve a purpose, but that is like sliders: a lazy loading product images slider on a mobile website might be a nice option.

  11. By  on 27 November, 2017

    So true!!

  12. Ranko Kuljanin
    By Ranko Kuljanin on 27 November, 2017

    Funny, but true.

    Never used a video background on a website, for these particular reasons.

    Thank for making me giggle :)

  13. Ed
    By Ed on 27 November, 2017

    This post is good for two reasons;

    1) You’re right about video sucking. This whole thing came about because AirBnB did it. I also get very little engagement with my slider header and am going to take a look at the stats.

    2) I discovered the ranch and just watched the first three. I’m gonna take my SEO knowledge from Tebo to Ellway.

  14. Jamie
    By Jamie on 27 November, 2017

    This article is just ignorant. C’mon Yoast WTF

  15. Michael
    By Michael on 27 November, 2017

    Hmmmm I see where you’re coming from, though I’m a professional speaker. Do you think that it’s good for me as I’m what is being showcased, and if they come to my site, they for sure want to see video of me on stage???

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 27 November, 2017

      Sure, but that doesn’t have to be a video background, right? I like videos, don’t get me wrong – we use videos a lot ourselves. Just not as a background!

  16. Andrew
    By Andrew on 27 November, 2017

    > Video backgrounds increase loading time for a page…
    So does anything that isn’t a static HTML file.

    > They distract from the primary message…
    How?

    > …if it doesn’t load, you’ll get the blame…
    How is this different to JS/CSS?

    > …Let’s all put an end to this trend.
    Why?

    > Autoplay sucks…
    Why?

    > …only might perhaps work on very specific landing pages in very specific niches, most of the times you’ll just hurt conversion…
    I’d love to see your A/B on this.

    > …things that go for informative products videos do not apply to video backgrounds…
    Ok.

    > …successful sites on the web don’t use video backgrounds…
    I’m more concerned with how your blog returns a 500 error when I try to submit a comment.

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 27 November, 2017

      Thanks for your comment.
      1. So all blank pages then? Don’t get your point here.
      2. Movement, which we all are attracted to / distracted by.
      3. It’s not.
      4. Don’t just add it because your customer wants it, use it if it makes sense. And it rarely does.
      5. Ever been in an office where video and / or sound suddenly plays? I want to be able to control that. Same discussion has been going on for Facebook videos as well, for instance.
      6. So you actually tested and found out something else? CRO companies I spoke to tell me different stories. Love to hear other stories about how awesome video backgrounds are, but have never come across these.
      8. Thanks again for your comment.

  17. PingSunday
    By PingSunday on 26 November, 2017

    What do you mean Video background? A YouTube embedded video? I really like embed a YouTube video in my article. It increases dwell-time, which is the main core of RankBrain 2018.

    • Michiel Heijmans
      By Michiel Heijmans on 27 November, 2017

      No, there is a huge different between using videos in your content and using video backgrounds!

    • Shyam Chathuranga
      By Shyam Chathuranga on 27 November, 2017

      I think the post already answered about the difference of video backgrounds and embedded videos.

  18. Nathan Veenstra
    By Nathan Veenstra on 26 November, 2017

    Some of these videos even screw up the functioning of a website. I recently recorded a screen capture of a website where the background video opens as a stand alone video on mobile. How’s that for a conversion killer?


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