Since Thomas Edison’s first film in 1895 (that’s over one hundred and twenty years ago), the magic of moving pictures continues to enthrall and delight. Since then the medium has expanded from in-your-face 3D cinema to the inches big screen you physically hold in front of your face.

Ironically, everything on that tiny screen is massive: images, type and buttons have been eating their spinach and grown up to take more space on your mobile device. They grab your attention and are easier to read and use.

Unsurprisingly, many websites want to snag a little of that cinematic magic for themselves. Grab some popcorn and read whether a video background is right for your WordPress home page header.

Why do you want a video background?

Yes, videos are moving and attractive on a typically otherwise static page. They’re the shiny glitter of the Internet. But glitter doesn’t belong everywhere, and more often than not shows up where it’s not wanted.

Do you have a video of part of your production process, someone using your product  or machinery customers would be interested in seeing?

Really what I’m asking is would a video fit with your brand? Is a video background communicating something an image or copy would not? You can have a simple reason, but viewers will notice when you used a video background just because you thought it’d be cool.


Is it big enough, but not too big?

The conundrum of having quality visual content in a medium that isn’t conducive for large files sizes. Videos are especially susceptible, with file sizes starting in the megabytes.

By “big enough,” I mean does your video look pixelated? I highly recommend using a good camera for shooting your video, preferably a DSLR with settings optimized for video, instead of hand-held video from your phone. Again, the quality of the video will negate any of the appeal your video could garner.

Keep the length of the video short, preferably no more than 30 seconds. This will encourage the video to load quickly and play seamlessly without sacrificing quality.

What’s it of?

As I mentioned before, it’s crucial to have a video that’s relevant to your brand. References that are immediately apparent are great, like the ones I mentioned before of products, processes or customer satisfaction. If you’re going for more of a metaphor, keep your audience in mind. Plumbing is plumbing and can only be communicated a few ways before the audience is confused, which defeats the purpose of your website. If you have a video of your cat playing with your water faucet, that’s adorable, but save it for your personal blog or Youtube channel. A customer could imply you approach your work the same way the cat does.

Treat it like a background.

Your video background is just that, a background. Only a few seconds long, treat it just like a moving image. It doesn’t need to tell a story or really do anything impressive. Repetitive movement is ideal so your video looks like a seamless loop and adds to the overall impression of your video.

Backgrounds are also silent. I repeat. SILENT. Especially when users are used to swatting away unwanted information like a mosquito, any audio is particularly invasive and an indication you must be brand-new to the Internet, otherwise you would know better. Please, never have any kind of noise that plays automatically or without the users express intent of turning it on.

Make sure there is enough contrast.

Great headers use an inspiring call to action, meaning words. When you put words over your video, make sure they are legible. Right now it’s popular to place light text on a darker background, but it’s just as agreeable to put dark text on a light background. Make sure your video is either light or dark enough that it provides enough contrast with the text to be legible.

Whether or not you should use a video background for your website header is ultimately determined by whether it fits your brand. I personally find them appealing when they’re done well in unexpected places, like a manufacturing shop’s website where it adds a little extra interest to what could be a mundane topic. Conversely, I think it can be detrimental when substituted for a good idea. A marketing company that uses a video of employees plastering post it notes everywhere doesn’t say anything interesting and implies they couldn’t come up with a better idea, so let’s use a shiny video. Please keep that glitter to yourself.

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Roundpeg is an Indianapolis web design firm.