We have a page with a demo video that we want users to watch but nobody is clicking play. Is it okay to automatically start the video when they hit the page or is that considered bad design?
As a general rule of thumb this is not usually a good idea. That being said, if the user is clicking on a link like, "The demo video explains how the missile knows where it is" then you could consider that to be the same as clicking play.
UX is never about "making" a user do anything.
Unless the user got to the page by clicking a link that says "Play the Video" the answer to your question is no.
Get users to play the video by:
A) Do a better job of indicating why they would want to
B) Get a different video they actually want to watch
Your job is to provide the information the user needs to make the right decision, not to make the decision for them.
It depends on:
- The function the video serves in your platform as a whole; and
- What your users are likely to expect; and
- The size of your video file.
I work on a lot of multimedia and "web-TV" platforms where the primary content is video. In this case, it's totally acceptable to auto-play most videos on page load because that's what users are expecting.
From a user experience perspective, there may be other reasons that your video isn't being played: perhaps it's not obvious enough, perhaps it's importance to your users' experience isn't being presented as valuable and worth their time.
Remember to be nice to your users (and your server) and don't preload a 500 meg 1080p video file unless it really makes sense to do so.
PS: iOS devices won't even preload metadata without a user touching the screen, so if that demographic is important to you, find an alternative that also works for your desktop users.
A few points why auto-playing videos/sound can be a bad practice and how decide when to auto-play without these points being an issue...
If the user has a slow connection (or busy connection) then the video keeps freezing - no time to cache it prior to playing.
(Can be fixed by auto-playing only when caching is complete.)
If user opens up multiple tabs/windows from search results, then they all start playing together instead of only active tab/window.
(Can be fixed by auto-playing only if tab is in focus.)
If the video isn't expected (e.g. an advert or product demo, not intentional opening of youtube), then sudden playback of sound is very annoying.
(Relevant only to non-requested videos/sounds.)
To summarize things up; if you auto-play only requested, fully cached videos when video is in focus, then it might not be a bad practice.
Notes: Answer partially copied from my answer to a related question.
I am wondering if you did any research about why users are not clicking the link to play the video? Is the control hard to find? Is it obvious to the users what the video is about and what the benefits to the users are?
I would probably start with analyzing why users are not clicking vs. moving to automatic video playing right away.
When there is a countdown. Show me a message or animate a countdown and give me the option to skip and plenty of time to think about it.
It is ok to do so unless you give them an option to exit the demo video within few seconds after it automatically started.
E.g If your demo video is 30 sec long, make sure they can get option to skip after 5 seconds or 10 seconds. This will serve both purposes!
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