The Color of Your Video Player is Affecting Your Play Rate

Ezra Fishman

Ezra Fishman

Business Intelligence

Dark Orchid. Burly Wood. Sea Green. Medium Sea Green. When choosing a color for your Wistia player, the world is your #EAE6CA. Sorry, we mean oyster.

There are hundreds of thousands of videos hosted on Wistia. And since users can select the color of their player from a color palette, there are also millions of colors to choose from. 16,777,216 to be exact.

Given this plethora of opportunities, we wanted to see what colors Wistia customers were choosing for their video players. We also wanted to see whether these color choices impacted how often viewers clicked play.

Let’s dive into the data to find out.


50 Shades of Grey? Pah! We’ve got hundreds. But one shade is particularly important to us: Warm Gray.

Warm gray is the more descriptive name for color #7B796A, the default color of the Wistia player. If you don’t customize your player, this is the color that will be shown to all your viewers.

The majority of people use the default color for their player. From our sample*, almost 60,000 videos rely on #7B796A:

In fact, the warm gray default color is over 5X as popular as all other colors combined. We also measure plays. This is a crucial first step for any video — to get played — so it is an important metric to track. Videos with the default color account for the vast majority of unique plays as well:

A video enclosed within the warm gray embrace of a Wistia player is played almost nine times as often as when immured in any other color. The data (so far) seems to suggest that you should just leave the player color alone, go with the default, and start counting the views.

But is this really a good idea?

When we look deeper at the data, it doesn’t seem as sunny for warm gray. Videos with a default-colored player were played 46,577,051 times. However these videos were loaded 400,173,986 times. That means that videos with the default-colored player loaded on users’ webpages 400 million times, but the viewers only pressed play to watch those videos 46 million times.

“When we look deeper at the data, it doesn’t seem as sunny for warm gray.”

This pushes their play rate down. The play rate is defined as:

The play rate for default-colored player videos was 11.64%:

So almost nine times out of ten, the video player loaded in all its warm gray glory, and the viewer chose not to play.

Beyond gray

Let’s compare these numbers to the videos not using the default color. As we said above, this is a much smaller sample size. There were 10,732 videos in total that fit our sample criteria and weren’t using the default color. These videos were loaded 42,365,480 times and played a total of 5,260,868. This means the average play rate for non-default color videos was 12.42%:

This is a 7% improvement in play rate for the non-default colored players. Why is this? Is warm gray not warm enough for viewers? Should we be offering hot gray as the default?

“This is a 7% improvement in play rate for the non-default colored players.”

We don’t think the default color is solely to blame for a lower play rate. Rather, the effect of player color on play rate is a matter of correlation rather than causation.

The people that customize their video player with their own colors tend to be the same people that also pick great thumbnail images, adjust the player controls to suit their needs, promote their video for their followers to watch, and put in the extra effort to increase production standards.

It is the combination of all these factors that increase a video’s play rate. But it seems that customizing the player color doesn’t hurt.

Improve your play rate

So if you are going to change the player away from warm gray, what other colors should you be choosing? If we take #7B796A out of the equation, we can begin to see how the other colors perform.

In terms of unique plays, it is #000000, black, that comes in a healthy second. Black accounts for 14.9% of all non-default color videos, and 30.5% of all non-default video plays:

Though black and red have the most unique plays, blue is the color that most players are made of. Six of the top non-default 10 videos by unique plays have a player color that is predominantly blue.

Play rate

But black is similar to warm gray in that it has a large number of unique plays, but a relatively low average play rate. The color with the highest play rate is #C7C7C7 – more commonly called silver:

Videos with a silver player had a play rate of 47.3%. Almost half the videos loaded with this player color were played. So silver has 4X the play rate of the default-colored player. While not quite up there with warm gray and black in terms of unique plays, silver’s play rate equates to almost 26,000 video plays from 54,000 loads, so it’s still a substantial amount.

Another factor that’s obvious from the above graph is the range of colors that have a high play rate. Compare this to the graph of unique plays, which was mostly a palette of blue.

This array suggests these are different branding colors. It lends credence to our idea that it is branding and design that likely contribute to higher play rates.

“It lends credence to our idea that it is branding and design that likely contribute to higher play rates.”

So, what about those at the bottom of the play rate list:

In general, the colors with the lowest play rates are darker than those with the highest play rates.

If we look at the lightness values using the HSL (Hue, Saturation, and Lightness) color system, the ten colors with the highest play rates have an average lightness of 0.47 (black has a lightness of 0, white has a lightness of 1), with silver having a lightness value as high as 0.78. Four out of the ten have a lightness value above 0.5.

The bottom ten, however, have an average lightness value of just 0.35, and none of the colors having a lightness above 0.5. This suggests that when you pick your own colors, choosing a player color that is brighter might increase the play rate, as this can make the player stand out.

How to customize your player with Wistia

Given this data, if you haven’t already customized your player color, we think you should consider a shade that fits better with the rest of your design and branding.

Changing your player color is super easy. In the Customize panel within the Video Actions menu, choose the Appearance dropdown, and you’ll be presented with a color palette:

Here you’ve got two options:

  1. Drag the circle around within the palette until you find the right color for you.
  2. Alternatively, if you’ve already got an idea of what color you want, enter the hex code, such as #7b796a. You can go here to learn more about hex codes and how they translate into colors. (Math _is_ fun!)

Match your brand

You still have to choose the right color for your player though, and choosing from the 16-odd million available isn’t an easy choice.

The best place to start is with your branding. If you look at the highest play rate graph above, you’ll notice one of the names looks awfully familiar: Wistia Blue.

Wistia Blue is our brand’s color, and the majority of our video players are customized to match our site’s design. If you have branding guidelines, you can choose the hex code of your primary or complementary colors to make sure your player fits with the rest of your site.

This is what sales analytics platform InsightSquared has done. Like us, their main branding is blue (#00B3E9 in their case) and they use this as the player color for their case study videos:

If you don’t have a style guide, then the color world really is your #EAE6CA (oyster). In this case, we suggest using color theory as a starting point for discovering the right color combinations for your videos and brand.

Color theory is the science behind why colors make us feel the way we do. Certain hues of color are explicitly represented by groups of cells in the brain, so this makes choosing the right color a great way to stand out and be noticed. For instance a 2012 study found that companies with red-dominant branding were perceived as exciting and dynamic and those with blue branding as competent and trustworthy.

With our cool Wistia blue we hope we are seen as competent, but also still a bit exciting!

The right colors

If you are choosing colors, here are how some of the major colors are supposedly perceived:

  • Red: Exciting, dynamic, passionate.
  • Blue: Dependable, stable, friendly.
  • Green: Natural, healing, calm.
  • Purple: Luxurious, spiritual.
  • Black: Powerful, Sophisticated.

Beware. Color meanings change with culture, so your bright, joyful yellow player is the color of mourning in Egypt.

Design is in the details

From our data, it seems that too many Wistia users are still using the default, warm gray color that’s applied when you first upload your video. Though this color does get a lot of plays, the play rate isn’t as high as with other colors.

Your player color might seem like an afterthought, but in design, these little details matter.

Next time you’re uploading a video to Wistia, try customizing your player to better fit with your own brand and design. By doing so, you can create a polished first impression that will likely result in a higher play rate.

* This dataset doesn’t include every video on Wistia. We only analyzed 74 separate colors from the millions of options. The sample was filtered to exclude the following videos:

  • Videos with fewer than 35 plays: This makes sure we only analyzed videos that a significant amount of people had played.
  • Videos with a play rate of >50%: As a video could be loaded once and played once and therefore have a play rate of 100%, we set a play rate cutoff point at 50% to exclude these outliers from the analysis.
Ezra Fishman

Ezra Fishman

Business Intelligence

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