When You Shouldn’t Make a Video

March 29, 2011

Topic tags

Alyce Currier


Are you considering whether or not to make a video? Well, before you hit the record button you need to make sure you’re making a video about the right thing. Sometimes a different type of online media does a better job of getting your messages across.

Using too much video

Our product tour does not use video at all. Instead, we have an interactive menu with text and screenshots:

Considering that we’re a video hosting company, people tend to be surprised that we don’t have a video tour. But there’s a reason that we chose not to use video, and it’s not because we’re camera shy (Adam is a natural born star). It’s actually because we tested our tour page with and without video and found that people responded more positively when we didn’t include video.

Through extensive testing we came up with three situations where video will not be your knight in shining armor:

1. When your audience will want to go at their own pace

Over time Wistia has become a very comprehensive product. There are tons of features, many of them only useful for very particular (but important!) purposes. When we tried to cover everything in one go in a few tour videos, viewers had to slog through an overload of information.

Some people look to our tour for an at-a-glance view of the product and others want to spend more time delving into features. Our videos felt overly detailed to some viewers and not detailed enough to others. Videos encourage a controlled stream of information (which is one of the greatest benefits of video), but our goal for the tour page was to do the opposite — we wanted to let people absorb information at their own pace.

2. When skimming the content is important

When your content is packaged into a video, viewers won’t have the luxury of skimming everything until they find what they’re looking for. Your audience shouldn’t have to watch an entire video to find one sentence that matters to them.

Unlike video, which follows a linear progression, other types of media let people see all of your content at once. Then, viewers can mentally zoom in on what they care about and ignore the rest. On our tour page, we lay everything out on the page in text and slides so people can see the whole product and then cipher out what interests them. Each section stands on it’s own, so if someone only want to learn about Wistia’s analytics features, they can jump right into the analytics section of the tour. Non-video formats are better when viewers will want to weed through content and pull out only what interests them.

3. When you don’t want to sound pitchy

When you use video, you can present your information in the most attractive way possible. You can organize your content into clever spiels, use alluring graphics, and have a personable subject. But your audience will recognize a pitch when they see one.

When you don’t use video, you allow viewers to control how they take in the information that you’re presenting. One reason we think that people like our non-video tour page better is that it doesn’t feel like we’re trying to sell them a product. Instead, we hope, it seems like we were just trying to teach them what Wistia does. Non-video media gives the audience more leeway to mold their own opinion.

Your audience will thank you for not using a video

Viewers will become frustrated if your video moves too quickly or too slowly for them, if they have to watch a lot of content that doesn’t interest them to get to what they’re looking for, or if they feel like they’re seeing a sales pitch when they don’t want to be. Keep your audience happy by checking the three guidelines above to see if you should think about leaving your camera in its case.

It all comes down to trust. You want your audience to trust you, your story, and your content. Make the wrong videos and you’ll lose your audience’s trust. Make the right ones and you’ll delight them.

March 29, 2011

Topic tags

Alyce Currier


Mailing list sign-up form

Sign up to get Wistia’s best
and freshest content.

More of a social being? We’re also on Instagram and Twitter.