The use of audio and video in websites has become increasingly prevalent over the past few years for good reason: when used strategically, A/V content can carry a site to a whole new level of engagement. Audio and video are both essential to certain types of sites—for example, a videographer's website is not of much use without a video portfolio of his or her work. A music artist's website can hardly convey the artist's musicality or image without audio clips and music videos.
But incorporating A/V into web design raises a number of issues. Larger file sizes affect page loading times, and the last thing you want is for a component of your site to stutter, freeze, or pixelate in a visitor's browser. Even worse, what if your visitor's device is unable to display the file format(s) used in your site? Making sense of what works on which devices and browsers, along with the various A/V file formats and delivery methods, can be tremendously challenging.
Browser support for MP3 audio files has become virtually ubiquitous, so using audio on the Web is much more straightforward than using video. However, file sizes and loading times must be given due consideration. MP3s can be encoded in bit rates ranging from 20 Kbps to 320 Kbps (audio quality increases in direct proportion to bit rate—but so does file size). Also, mastering and encoding for MP3 audio requires a different approach than mastering for CD or vinyl.
I provide a complete line of audio production services: recording, mixing, mastering, and much more (be sure to visit the Audio Production section of this site), and I can integrate your audio and video for optimal and effective use on the Web.
There's a simple reason YouTube has become so hugely successful and why other giants like Facebook are now encouraging video posting: video increases engagement by as much as 80%. But two key decisions must be made before embedding video into your website:
1. Where to host
You can either host your video files on your own web server or on a content delivery network (CDN) such as YouTube or Vimeo. Hosting your own video is often not a good idea because of your hosting company's limitations on bandwidth and storage space. Your hosting provider allocates a certain amount of bandwidth and other resources for each server on their network based on average traffic rates that do not include serving large media files to hundreds of individuals (or more) at the same time. Too many requests for a single large file can quickly exceed bandwidth limits and bring your site to its knees.
CDNs have fast servers that are configured to stream large video files, so hosting your video with them doesn't tax your own website. You can also benefit from their popularity; visitors can find your video—and subsequently, your website—who otherwise wouldn’t have known about you. The biggest downside to hosting with a CDN is that unless you pay for a premium service (such as Vimeo Pro), your video will include the CDN's logo or branding, and may also include advertising (possibly from your competitors) during or at the end of your videos.
2. Which video format to use
The HTML5 specification does not state which video formats browsers should support. As a result, the major web browsers have diverged, each one supporting a different format. Although the latest versions of all major browsers support the MP4 video format, many users still use older browsers. If you want to ensure that your video will play back on all of the major web browsers in use you’ll need to host multiple formats: .mp4, .ogv, and .webm.
I have successfully implemented A/V in many of the websites I have developed. If you feel that audio and/or video can help increase engagement for your brand but aren't sure what approach to take, let's get started on a solution that takes the worry out of your web strategy. I can't help thinking big, but I sweat the details.