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Originally answered on Quora:

I help companies with conversion rate optimization.  One of my clients recently wanted to make most of their home page into a video that users had to watch prior to continuing.  As a result, I did a lot of user testing to determine what makes a good home page video.

  • The purpose of the video is to sell, not educate. When people look at the home page video, they’re looking for you to “sell” them, so a video which simply explains how the product works is not effective. Product walkthrough videos should be part of your product training.
  • The video has to be more like a commercial than a movie.  The video should be between 30 and 90 seconds (max) and has to open very quickly.  People will decide in the first few seconds whether it’s worth watching the rest of the video.
  • Make sure you explain what job or problem your solution is solving.  People are generally looking for answers to their problems, so it’s important that your video clearly explain what the problem is and what the solution is.  Don’t use jargon-y terms like “cloud”.  People generally know that Cloud means Internet, so that word adds little value.
  • The video should supplement the copy on your site, not reiterate it.  People browse the web quickly, looking for signal over noise in their search.  They came to your site looking for something, so the copy needs to support that.  If they watch the video, that’s a bonus.
  • Realize that not everyone will watch the video.  It varies, but assume only 10-20% of your site visitors will ever watch the video.  Those that do are likely to be much more “sold” on your solution if you do a good job.  Don’t try to force users to watch your video as some people just don’t want to watch a video, ever.
  • Make it clear that it’s a video.  Most video sharing sites do this automatically by including what is obviously a play button.  However, if you’re going to open the video in a lightwindow, you’ll need to make your own preview image.  A circle with a right-facing triangle in it is a sure sign that it’s a video you can click on to have it start playing.
  • Include the words “Watch to learn more” on the video preview image.  This simple bit of explanatory text makes a huge difference in getting people to watch your video since you’re now giving them a value proposition.  Lots of companies embed a 9 minute training video, or an otherwise irrelevant video, on their home page.  By including this text, you’re telling them the video is designed to tell them more about your solution and you’re not going to be wasting their time.
  • Use a premium video sharing service.  I’ve seen commercials play before YouTube videos embedded on a company home page.  This will make your company look unprofessional and desperate to save money at best, or incompetent at worst.  Vimeo allows good control over the preview thumbnail, what controls are shown, sharing controls, what happens at the end of the video, etc.
  • Make sure the video is easy to watch.  If you want people to watch the video right in the page, then make sure it’s in a large enough area.  Another good solution which almost all consumers will accept is watching the video within a larger lightwindow which pops up when the video preview frame is clicked.

There are lots of ways to make an ineffective home page video, unfortunately, I’ve seen many of them.  Poorly made home page videos result in confused users and reduced conversion rates.  Conversely, a valuable and well implemented home page video can excite users and increase conversion rates dramatically.

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