I have a web application that takes a Youtube or Vimeo video and wraps it into a SCORM course for distribution.

At the moment, I simply take an ID, which is simple enough to obtain by looking a the video details or the URL. However, I wonder if it would be better to simply take the full YouTube or Vimeo URL and abstract the ID's using RegEx.

The ID is easier to implement and straight forward enough to explain, but perhaps the URL might be easier for the user. Are there other alternatives that I might not be considering?

4 Answers 4


The ID is not as easy as you think. For example, Youtube uses several different ways to display URL, including shortlinks, iframes, URL with complicated queries and so on. And of course, you'll have human error, users copying an additional character, or a character short, or adding spaces and what not.

On the other hand, copying an URL is extremely simple for the user, any user does this on a regular basis. And as you say, it's really easy to regex the ID

In short: ask for URL

  • 4
    And nothing prevents you from recognizing a bare ID in addition to URL should a user inputs one.
    – spectras
    Nov 12, 2016 at 19:12
  • But you have to parse all different kinds of URLs!
    – til_b
    Nov 13, 2016 at 15:34
  • 1
    @til_b, this is not an issue, regex is really easy to implement, and the id has always the same pattern, so even easier
    – Devin
    Nov 13, 2016 at 17:12
  • 1
    From a pure usability perspective, taking the full URL makes sense. Its relatively easy and quick to copy a URL vs select a small portion of the URL. Nov 14, 2016 at 9:21

You are best to ask for a link to the YouTube/Vimeo video... OR a video ID.

Just inspect the value entered to determine if you have an ID or a full video link or a shortcut link.

Try whenever possible to make it easy for users to use your form/app without needing to think.


At the moment, I simply take an ID, which is simple enough to obtain by looking a the video details or the URL

My experience with users and this case, is mostly in phpbb where to add a youtube video you insert the Video ID like so:


It is so bad that there are 2 or 3 different threads explaining how to find the ID and properly embed youtube videos.

Consider what you are asking:

Copy/Paste full Url:

Select Url + Ctrl/Command C + Ctrl Command V And you are done, some folks might right click instead, but I believe this is a widely used operation that might already be internalized and almost a reflex by virtue of use.

Insert ID:

Parse the Instructions given since they are novel. Parse visually where the ID starts and ends, and then Select Id + Ctrl/Command C + Ctrl Command V.

Again, this is a specific case vs what most people seem to do, copy/paste the full url.

Are there other alternatives that I might not be considering?

You could be more explicit with a placeholder showing the ID format and instructions on where to find it, but unless the ID is central to your UX, you might be asking the user to do something a RegEx might easily do.


We asked us the same question in my company for our CMS. We did some testing what the user expects when they see a field named "Submit YouTube video". By default all user tried to submit the full URL to the video. Even some users used the official share function offered by YouTube that also copies the URL to your clipboard.

Off course its technically easier to ask for the ID of the video so you don´t have to extract it from the URL. But from a usability point of view you really should accept the YouTube URLs - even the shortened.

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