Early last month Facebook announced they were to include a new element within their video feature: autoplaying sound.
This new feature would allow videos to automatically play sound as you scroll through your news feed, fading in and out as you come across videos and while Facebook appear to be feeling positive about this new plan, it’s safe to say that others aren’t so happy about this new development.
While you can opt out of having sound automatically play and the fact that sound only works if you have sound on your phone or laptop, it’s a small, yet notable change that continues to push video content into the lives of online users.
Autoplaying videos and sound might seem like a creative and innovative way of making your content stand out from the crowd, but the reality is, not many people actually want or enjoy automatic videos and sounds, in fact for many it can have the opposite effect and drive audiences away rather than encourage them to find out more.
But Why Do People Hate Autoplay?
Picture this, you’re browsing the internet quietly, minding your own business, maybe you’re in public, even at work, maybe you’re listening to your own music in the background, scrolling through the page, clicking on what appear to be relevant links when suddenly..
NOISE. So much noise.
Be it music, people talking, dogs barking, it doesn’t matter, the noise is there, interrupting your browsing, often leaving you scrambling to find the volume, the stop button or a way to escape the page. Autoplaying sound is a sure fire way to annoy people, they want to browse in their own way, not be forced into listening to your content, so while the short answer might be that people hate autoplaying sound because it’s annoying, let’s look at these reasons in more detail.
One of the first things we’re taught as children is how it’s bad to interrupt, the same goes for autoplaying sound on videos. If a user is browsing your website, listening to their own music or watching a separate video when suddenly sound from another source unexpectedly appears, conflicting with others, it’s likely their first thought will be to close the tab or window completely, away from the interrupting sounds. There’s nothing more distracting and frustrating than stumbling across an automatically playing video or sound when you’re trying to do things your own way.
Disrupting the user experience isn’t a good idea, not only is it annoying, but it can make people view your site as unusable, effecting bounce rates, lead generation and unusable websites.
Forcing Data Usage
A factor that is incredibly important for mobile users, is the fact that by autoplaying sound and video is essentially forcing huge amounts of megabytes of unrequested data through a website connection that simply isn’t optimised for mobile users, slowing down the ability to view the page or potentially even crashing the browser if not tested properly, as well as potentially costing your audience money. There are still plenty of people out there still paying for their data and by forcing them to use more of it with autoplay, they’re the ones who’ll be paying for your content.
There’s nothing people want to do less than pay for data they didn’t want to use, forcing your content upon audiences and making them pay for or even waste their data to do so, is a great way to annoy people enough for them to dislike your brand.
Makes Assumptions About Visitors
It’s incredibly unlikely that you’re ever going to know exactly what an audience want to see and hear and it’s likely that you’ll never fairly assume that users want to hear autoplayed sound, even if you’re confident they like your products, services, music or video content. These days people are often multitasking, doing other things while they browse online such as viewing multiple tabs and windows or even watching videos in the background, meaning they likely don’t want this to be disrupted.
Autoplay makes assumptions about your audience, presuming that they want you to be the focus of their online experience, instead of allowing them to view your content in their own way.
It’s Comes Across Arrogant
Not only does autoplay make the assumption that your audience want to see your content, but it can make your brand seem arrogant. These days people expect to be able to control what they do online and by autoplaying a video or music your content is taking away this control, often leaving people thinking “why would they have the right to take over the browser?” or “why do they think their content is so important?” In some regard it’s no different to kids at the back of the bus playing their music out loud, it comes across as cocky and makes it seem like you’re trying to use autoplay to appear top dog, when instead your audience need to choose to listen.
It’s unfair to try and take over and distract from someone’s browsing and doing so can not only make your content seem annoying but can also make your brand come across as overly confident.
Video can be an effective tool for both websites and social media but they way they are shown is incredibly important and context matters. Autoplaying videos headers or silent videos can annoy others but can still work effectively, however if you’re looking to follow in the footsteps of Facebook and begin playing sounds automatically you could face problems. Don’t demand attention, encourage audiences to listen to sounds and video through visual content in a way that helps your brand appear approachable, rather than one simply looking to take over.