Does anyone have any evidence or could point me in the direction of a web page that explains why video and audio autoplay is bad practice. I know it is but i'm struggling to find anything to back this up.

  • What exactly will be autoplayed? Will it be an embedded video among other attractions (embedding Youtube video on your personal site). Or will it be a video that is the only video on the page and is the main attraction on that page (directly visiting a Youtube page)?. Obviously the former should not be autoplayed and the latter should. People go to Youtube to watch videos, not to read the title/description/comments and then decide to watch the video.
    – JoJo
    Apr 15, 2011 at 20:16
  • It's best practice to look for evidence if things are positive or negative in the context that applies. Confirmation bias is like a Science Disease
    – Jason A.
    Nov 4, 2015 at 22:56

6 Answers 6


This is the best article that I'm aware of on this topic: http://www.punkchip.com/2009/04/autoplay-is-bad-for-all-users/

  • 2
    PS - Note that the article includes citation of WCAG 2.0 guidelines regarding autoplay of sound (and by implication video), which is surely the most authoritative source of ammunition to help your argument, but the article itself is probably still the best overall refutation.
    – MarcusT
    Jun 24, 2010 at 10:36
  • You're welcome! Incidentally, I notice you haven't yet marked any of the answers on this page as the "best answer" - please do if you feel that your question has been adequately answered, it's integral to how this site/community works...
    – MarcusT
    Jul 9, 2010 at 10:58
  • 1
    Thanks Marcus -- that's a really useful link. I recently came up against this issue, and asked a few users what they expected. The result was that the video "should have a round play button in the middle of the video". One user commented "I might want to put in some headphones so as not to disturb other users", which I thought was UX testing gold :)
    – Alastair J
    Dec 11, 2010 at 12:44

Video autoplay is not great if you are a screenreader user. Imagine you open up a new page with a video of Aqua's 'Barbie Girl' and you need to listen to the page in order to navigate your way to the controls of the video but can't hear the screenreader because Barbie Girl is blasting out in the background.

Robin Christopherson from AbilityNet gave a demo of this once and it really illustrated how bad autoplay can be for accessibility.

  • The number of people using screenreaders is small. If your video site is catered for people using screenreaders, then by all means, don't autoplay the video. On the other hand, if you want your site enjoyable for the 99% of web surfers, then you'll have to ask those people what they want - to autoplay or not to autoplay - that is the question!
    – JoJo
    Apr 15, 2011 at 20:20
  • Thats a terrible argument JoJo. Useabilitiy is about inclusiveness, making sure people are not discriminated against for things outside their own control. Blind folks do actually use sites like Youtube to listen to the videos and if you wreck navigation for them, than thats discriminating against them. No UX expert would think that acceptable. Regardless, people flat out don't like autoplay anyway.
    – Shayne
    Dec 6, 2014 at 4:10

I wish there was an official document published by some large consulting firm that one could present that simply stated "Annoying your users is a bad idea". I could use that type of documentation in SO many situations.

  • I know they're dirty words, but both Gartner and Forrester have some interesting UX reports, and they're not actually terrible. alacrastore.com/research/…. We've used it where I work, as exec types love those types of reports and trust them (even though they're usually terrible).
    – Alastair J
    Dec 11, 2010 at 12:49

I can give a few points from my own experience why auto-playing videos/sound can be a bad practice and how decide when to auto-play without these points being an issue...

  1. 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.)

  2. 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.)

  3. 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.


If you have a couple of hours to invest, this isn't hard to test for yourself. Just find a few "users" (3 at least, 5 would be fine) and ask them to perform some tasks on a website with autoplay (maybe the site you are working on, if that's the case). After the test, ask them for their general impressions. I bet they will mention the music/video autoplay, and not with a positive note.

  • Agreed. Did the same myself, and most were surprised by the autoplay. That's why we test :)
    – Alastair J
    Dec 11, 2010 at 12:45
  • DiD they like it or not? Feb 29, 2012 at 18:36

It's more than four years since this question was asked, and the Punkchip article is even older (but still relevant).

However, Nielsen Norman Group (NNG) recently revisited the topic of video usability with an excellent article which it's worth referencing here to keep the topic up to date.

Here's the relevant part of the article that refers to autoplay:

When users arrive at a webpage, they don’t appreciate being surprised by video or audio content that begins playing without their consent. Video, and the accompanying audio, can confuse or distract users, and can interfere with their consumption of content on the page.

Those users who do not want to watch the video must devote cognitive resources and extra effort to figure out how to turn the audio off or pause the video, rather than focusing on their goals and information needs. Any movement on the page can be a distraction.

< snip ---- example image of rich email message from Boden ---- snip >

The Spotlight on Style section of this email message from Boden included video that automatically played upon opening the message. Automatically playing video can surprise, if not annoy, users.

Users don’t appreciate being surprised by video content that they do not expect. Links leading to video content should indicate the type of content to which they lead. Users assume links lead to pages filled with text and images, not video. Particularly not video that plays automatically.

Users should have control over what content they listen to or watch. When videos play automatically, many users’ first instincts are to either mute or pause the video. Users should easily be able to start, stop or restart a video, as well as mute it or adjust the volume on it, for any video or audio content on the site.

[Ref]: http://www.nngroup.com/articles/video-usability/

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