Using video on a website: good idea or bad idea?

McGovern website videoUse of video on the web is a hot topic these days. When our design studio creates websites for our clients, we are often asked to incorporate video. This can be a great way to enhance a website, make it more visually appealing, interesting and interactive. On the other hand, it can also become a hindrance for usability. Here are some thoughts of the pros and cons from our experience:


  • Using video on a page, especially when it is visually engaging and not necessarily for content, can be a nice element of surprise. Anytime a user is pleasantly surprised about a visual element, this can aid in increasing user engagement with the website in general.
  • When used well and not distracting, for example as background, video can help communicate an emotion to the user, that might be difficult to communicate otherwise.
  • Some content can be very dry when just using text. Especially when trying to explain something long, it can be difficult to engage the user enough to actually read the full text. Using video can help break this up and keep people engaged. Many people now prefer watching a video to reading long text.
  • Learning a concept in text form is difficult for some people. Instead, video can communicate a lot easier than to learn just in text format. It can also add to the experience, as people digest content and learn in different ways.
  • Video can be a great tool when trying to explain a concept. Making it visual creates more user engagement and increases learning.


  • Video files can be heavy if hosted on the site, there is just no way around it even if it’s optimized well. Increased load times can be bad for the user experience, as a site will be slow to load. This, in turn, can also have a negative impact on SEO.
  • Even with increased data plans that most people have now for their mobile devices, video can be difficult or frustrating on mobile. To avoid that, you may need to create a different experience on desktop vs mobile. This can potentially increase workload for administrators.
  • Let’s face it: there are more badly edited videos out there than good ones. If poorly executed, using video on your site as content or for visual impact can really be distracting and discouraging for the user. Doing video the right way is time-consuming, which can mean it is costly and difficult to maintain.
  • Accessibility challenges: if your video communicates a concept or has real content, it needs to be accessible for all users. This means you need to create captions for all your videos. If your video is used as a design element only, then you do not need captions.

On a recent website redesign, we were lucky to partner with a client who is very knowledgeable about video production. Together, we were able to create something truly special. On the Homepage, you will see  “Living Portrait” videos about half-way down.

On the Research Area pages, video is used to illustrate visually what the research area is about.