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How do I add video to my website?

19th September 2012

5-minutes read

Faster broadband and plentiful data storage mean that including video on your website is both realistic and practical. How do you do it? What will it cost?

In a nutshell, you have 4 choices when considering how to include a video on your website. In this article, we'll look at each option in turn and highlight their pro's and con's:

1. DIY - hosting your video on your own website

It seems like the obvious solution, doesn't it? Ask your web designer to upload your video to your website, add a link on the right page and you're done!

Sadly, it isn't so straight forward... for two main reasons.

Hosting Problems

When you upload a video to your site, the video has to download each time someone views it. Video files are huge in comparison to other files used on your website (such as images and HTML files) and so by hosting your video yourself, you will significantly increase the amount of data that gets transferred from your website. Without over-complicating matters, we can call this amount of data "bandwidth" and your hosting company will only permit you to use a certain amount before they:

  • charge you extra or
  • suspend your website's hosting!

This problem escalates in proportion to the popularity of your video: if you publish a video that appeals to your target audience and attracts a lot of interest, the hike in your bandwidth usage will be even more dramatic, which is therefore likely to incur lots of extra charges or bring forward the time when your hosting company suspends your site!

Download or Stream?

The second issue relates to the technicalities of how a video is presented on a web page.

"Adding a link" on your web page to your video, as alluded to earlier, isn't going to achieve what you're after. When a visitor clicks on that link, they will be offered the chance to download the video to their computer; what you really want to happen is that the video starts to play in their browser. This is called "streaming" - the video is embedded within your web page and the first part of the video starts playing while the rest of it streams.

However, streaming is only possible if you embed the video within your page using a recognised video player.

You already get the sense that adding video to your site using the DIY approach is potentially:

  • costly (extra bandwidth charges)
  • risky (will your hosting company suspend your site if your bandwidth usage escalates out of control?)
  • and complex (how do I embed a "player" on my web page? Which player is the right one for me? Where do I get one from?)

So, if you can't host the video yourself, what are your other options for adding a video to your website?

2. HTML5

HTML5 is the latest version of HTML, the technical language that underpins every website on the Internet.

It warrants a mention because HTML5 effectively includes its own media player, which takes care of the "video player" issue mentioned above.

With HTML5, embedding your video within your web page is a far more straight forward matter. There's no need for you to source an appropriate video player.

However, only the most recent versions of web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari support HTML5 to any notable extent. It's probable that a fair proportion of visitors to your site use a browser that doesn't support HTML5, which means that this isn't yet a viable option for adding video your website. (But this will change with time!)

3. YouTube

YouTube is the website most associated with video and by using YouTube to add a video to your website, you immediately get rid of two of the problems mentioned previously:

  1. Because your video is hosted by YouTube and not on your own site, you have no bandwidth issues. YouTube takes care of that for you
  2. When you upload your video to YouTube, it provides you with the snippet of code that you need to get your video embedded within your web page. You don't have to worry about sorting out a "video player" as you do with the DIY option.

Straight away, YouTube looks like a better bet!

However, there is a downside you need to be aware of:

  • YouTube is not intended for commercial use! Although there is a huge number of videos on YouTube that clearly are commercial in nature, you will see from the T&Cs on their site that YouTube clearly states:
  • The YouTube player that you embed within your web page carries its own branding, which you can't get rid of
  • YouTube videos are shown in the public domain, so you have no way of preventing your video appearing on YouTube's website as well as your own
  • Unless you specifically disable the option when you upload a video to your account, the YouTube player will automatically prompt the viewer to watch other related videos when yours finishes... which might mean that your website ends up promoting videos belonging to your competitors!

Despite these points, YouTube is a very popular means of adding a video to a website: it doesn't cost anything to create a YouTube account or to upload a video, the setup process is straight forward and YouTube take care of all the technicalities involved in streaming videos online.

4. Other 3rd Party Provider

Arguably the best approach to adding a video to your website is to use a commercial alternative to YouTube. These commercially-minded providers tend to offer the same benefits that come with a YouTube account:

  • no bandwidth concerns
  • no technical issues to resolve with regards to "video players" - just add a snippet of code to your web page and everything works

And the proprietorial video players used by 3rd party providers often have the intelligence to stream an appropriate version of your video, based on the viewer's browser and bandwidth speed.

Some - but certainly not all - providers may include their own branding within their video player, which you might prefer not to see on your website and it's unlikely that you'll have any problems with competitors' videos appearing after your own.

The obvious disadvantage with 3rd party providers is cost: you will be charged for using their service. This is usually based on:

  • the number / size of videos you upload and / or
  • the amount of bandwidth used when people view your video

Including a single 60-second video on your website might cost £20 per month in hosting costs, for example.

So what next...?

The benefits of including a video on your website are clear as you provide your visitors with a dynamic, engaging experience that can't be replicated with simple text and images.

The "DIY" approach might be the one you think of instinctively but it's rarely appropriate for a commercially-minded website owner. HTML5 is not (yet) a viable option but YouTube is definitely worth considering, if you're happy to accept its branding and other "features".

If not, using a 3rd party provider is the right option for you... and if you need any help getting that set up, give us a call!

Jeremy Flight

Jeremy Flight

Technical Director

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