There has been a growing trend to add video to websites, including a large number of online video providers, who champion this trend. But is video really the great linchpin in the sales effectiveness of a website?

Video certainly is a great tool in making what is often, a cold impersonal digital environment of a website and making it feel more human, intimate and personable. It can be an effective tool in presenting our organization in a positive and compelling way, even helping you standout (for awhile) from our competition. It can also be a valuable tool in providing useful demos or tutorials to your visitors. By using video hosting services like YouTube or Vimeo, you can receive added exposure.

Can video have a downside? You bet! Recently I was discussing the use of online video with one of my clients, a social services agency who helps victims of a highly personal and sensitive crime, one that usually requires a great deal of courage to reveal to others. We considered what happens when one of these potential clients views an online video, and suddenly audio pours forth from their once quiet PC, filling the room and attracting the attention of bystanders or perhaps even those in the next room. Suddenly their secrecy and anonymity is lost, as they scramble to turn off the video…or the sound…or the speakers.

To be fair, this is an extreme case where video can have it’s drawbacks to serving our online customers, but even in a corporate, often cubical environment, video can be highly intrusive to other co-workers no matter the video subject. In fact many company firewalls are setup to block video, especially if hosted by a common video provider like YouTube and Vimeo.

I believe that the best use of video, is similar to using Flash on a website. Not everyone visiting your site will want or be able to view your video. It is important that your video not take the place of any key content or messaging on the site but rather enhance it. Your site should still contain personable photos, good descriptive content, and perhaps even a transcript of the video. Video is not an effective band-aide for a poorly functioning site. And one last piece of advice, please make sure your video does not play automatically. It can be tempting to want to force visitors to see your video, but this is a fast track to losing visitors who hit the browser back-button, rather than trying to stop the video.

Go ahead and use video on your website! It has many benefits. Just don’t forget those visitors who can’t view it or consider it an audio intrusion.