Should a video player (on load / idle mode) always only show a still picture that was 'grabbed' from the video? Or would it be ok-practice or even better-practice to show a photo, that is somehow related to the video, but not part of the actual footage?

I have heard 'this' and 'that' opinion – and I do have my own – but is there any research or rules or other opinions related to this question?

Thank you for your feedback!

5 Answers 5


Should a video player (on load / idle mode) always only show a still picture that was 'grabbed' from the video? Or would it be ok-practice or even better-practice to show a photo, that is somehow related to the video, but not part of the actual footage?

The image should accurately represent what's in the video. Sometimes an actual still might not properly represent the content (it can be quite difficult to represent "commentary" with a still footage of action, for example) in which case it's perfectly appropriate. It's also common to use a title card for the thumbnail even if the titlecard isn't part of the video content. This is especially appropriate for serial content so you add a sense of cohesion; a series of videos could have similar, iterated title cards instead of apparently unrelated action shots.

The important thing is to not use "click bait" inaccurate images (a common practice on Youtube is to have a video still of cleavage for just about any otherwise useless/unwanted content, for example). If your user sees an enticing but inaccurate still/thumbnail they may very quickly leave the video. You'll have low retention but high clicks, overall not a good thing, but it might show as good to certain metrics.

This is why it's important for the thumbnail and opening of the video to clearly indicate exactly what the video is going to be about. If the thumbnail is pictures of fast, sexy cars and the video opens to a random guy in an office talking you better make it clear very quickly why the video has something to do with nice cars.

  • I'd like add something if you don't mind :) The poster image (the image shown while loading) is also a great chance to create interest on the video as well. For example most of the movie/game trailers, most of them show those olive branch award thingies (lol i don't know what they exactly called) with the header of the movie and it's actual poster -which you might not see within the video itself. It's okay to use that image literally as a movie poster cuz in the end, it's a video. As Ben mentioned, only if your poster is heavily relatable with the content, you can use different images.
    – Korhan
    May 30, 2020 at 16:48

I don't think there is an "always applies" best practice here, other than making sure not to misrepresent what sort of content the user will see in the video (including the video's title and description).

It depends upon the circumstances.

Using the same logo image on a series of videos can be perfectly appropriate and help build a brand, yet not necessarily be a frame from the video.


If you want to optimize for click throughs, then you should pick an image that will do so and is also related to the content.

If you're going for accuracy, then you should pick a frame from the video

  • Thank you for your quick reply! Since the usage would be in a news related context I would definitely vote for accuracy, but 'the client' wants clicks… Now I'm basically looking for pointers / arguments / research results / best practice guidelines that could support my argumentation…:) Jan 23, 2013 at 15:54

It depend on the circumstances. If the video were publicly generated items by unknown users, I would definitely not use an image. This would make it far too easy to put up false advertised videos and can lower the trust among your viewers.

However, if these videos are brand related and privately loaded for your own use, an image would work better since you have the opportunity to show exactly what the video is about with a specifically tailored image.


Personally, I don't think you should always pick an image from the video. It actually depends on the situation.

I've got an example from my recent UX review: a product site with a short video, demonstrating product features, etc.

This video was surrounded with a text, describing the main product idea. And the start image for this video was a random image from the video itself, but, as we all know, picture worth a thousand words, so I suggested to get an refined image describing the main product idea and place it as video start image.

Now we have a text, an illustration for that text and a demo video combined together.

Another example is about an image from the movie itself. There is a local online tv-series streaming service which I use every day. It has a lot of titles, which are grouped by seasons and for every season there is a single page with all episodes. And every episode has a start image taken from the episode itself. It's okey, until start image is a spoiler image, i.e. something I don't really expect to see before I watch the epicode by myself!

From the other hand, at YouTube I wish to have a video starting image taking from the video itself so I can decide whatever it's a right video to watch (there are a lot of music videos with a different video track, etc).

So, it actually depends on the situation.

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