Saturday, December 20, 2014

Embedded Video Best Practice | Video Volume

Greetings from Allan at, I hope this post finds you well. With embedded media, specifically video and advertising being used frequently on websites, it is important to understand some simple rules of courtesy that will make your user’s experience pleasant and enjoyable. 

How many times this past year have you visited a site or clicked on a video link only to arrive at the page or video that begins playing at live concert sound levels? Or how many advertising videos have you encountered that don’t have controls at all and have volume levels that your neighbors down the street can hear?

I don’t know about you but I have been shocked out of my chair several times by some of these videos and advertisements that start playing at maximum sound volume. It is very annoying and in my opinion, disrespectful. 

If you have other people in your home or office, this can be quite intrusive and distracting. It happens quite frequently on big sites like Yahoo, YouTube and other sites including news sites too when you click on a news story, article or video. When did the web become so inconsiderate? I’m not sure but I don’t recall it being that extreme prior to the last year or two.

I remember not too long ago there was a campaign to stop TV and Cable stations from blasting loud commercials that were 2-3 times the volume level of the program you were watching but the concept or rather consideration hasn’t been upheld and doesn’t include the web. It is so inconvenient to keep adjusting your speaker volume on every web page you visit or to have an advertisement start playing out of nowhere while you are reading an article, then to have to scroll down the page to find where the embedded video or ad is located which often doesn’t even have any volume or player controls at all.

What is up with that I have to ask? Trickery is not a best practice in web design nor is placing media on your page that the user can’t control or opt-out of listening to. Even with your computer volume set to a low-level, some of these sites, especially the big guys with all of their advertising just explode with loud intrusive volume levels that are mind-boggling and you are forced to listen to or watch before you can see, read or watch what you came there for in the first place.

As a designer who has to build, upload and test a lot, I frequently do a lot of work during off-peak hours while many are sleep and bandwidth is plentiful. There’s nothing like doing  research or visiting a website at 2 in the morning and the website you visit has video or advertising at volume level 1000 that scares everybody including your neighbors out of a deep sleep.

To me it is just common sense, common courtesy to adjust volume at a respectful level or to leave the option to the user to turn volume on or skip your ad altogether. But advertisers especially want you to hear their commercial even if you are down the street from your house at the gas station or walking your dog around the corner, unbelievable!

So this post is to remind designers to be respectful, be considerate and always embed your media with low or no volume. Or at least give your users the option to play the media or not with clear direction. Never, never, never put a video at the bottom of your page that starts automatically with high volume and your visitors must scroll down or look for the source of annoying noise or check other open browser tabs and windows to see where the sound is coming from, that is just plain rude and projects a sneaky methodology and purpose.

I know with YouTube video embeds, you have limited control over the volume as it relates to the end-user but there are options in the YouTube Video API section using JavaScript to control the volume but you must adhere to the API parameters and restrictions for use. It gets a little technical and complicated for some but below is a link to that information.

To be safe in general, I recommend just having the video set to not autoplay and allow your visitors to select the media to play it at their convenience.
YouTube Embedded Player Parameters and API

If you’re tired of advertising and video from websites, especially the big boys and News sites blasting uncontrollable advertising videos with inconsiderate volume levels and no player controls to opt-out, help spread the word on social media, write a post about it and start the conversation in your circles. Maybe the FCC and these sites will get wind of the issue and start to pay attention, thanks!

Allan Whitney


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