Harmonic follow-up: Unappealing aesthetics and embedded video

Posted by Rob Walker on August 20, 2008
Posted Under: "Good Design" (Tyranny of),Murketing.com

Following the passing mention, in the recent post about Murketing videos, that I “positively hate the way embedded videos, especially YouTube videos, look on Murketing.com or my other sites,” I got an email from someone who says he is a product manager at YouTube. (I have no reason to doubt that he is, I just have no way of confirming it.) “If you had a moment I would love to get some more detail so perhaps we can incorporate that feedback into our product plans and understand what you’re looking for in an embedded player,” he wrote.

I already replied, but since the topic of unappealing aesthetics has come up recently here, I thought I’d share an excerpt of that reply here.

I would point to two aspects in particular:

One is the start screen, the blurry image and the big arrow “play” button. It just looks bad. Why not a crisp screen image? Doesn’t everybody know at this point that you click the screen to start the video? And even if they don’t, there’s a play arrow right below in the control bar.

Second is that the YouTube logo is, for my taste, too large. I understand wanting brand the thing, but it seems to me it could be handled with more subtlety, preferably in the control bar, so that the embed doesn’t look like a big ad for YouTube.

If you just glance at a blog or other site that has a YouTube embed, it invariably jumps out as a visual spoiler. There’s nothing else blurry on the page (most likely), nothing else that looks so incomplete and tentative. For many viewers of that page who have no intention of viewing the video, it’s just visual noise; a distraction. And I actually think a crisp, focused image is MORE likely to make someone want to click.

As a side note, I wish there was more control in the “customize” feature for embedding YouTube videos — different sizes being the most obvious thing. The current visual customization option, changing the colors of the control bar and so on, is kind of meaningless.

Just to be clear, I’m not solely picking on YouTube; I’m not crazy about the way any embedded video looks. Although I do think YouTube may be the worst.

Your thoughts? YouTube may be reading!

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

I agree youtube really doesn’t look to good… I’m a big fan of vimeo. But I’ve never seen youtube used better than on the FTC site http://www.ftcsf.com/
A very innovative use youtube… better than anything other i’ve seen.

#1 
Written By Taylor on August 20th, 2008 @ 11:35 pm

That is pretty clever, I agree.

I also tend to think Vimeo looks better, for sure, as an embed. But I still find it distracting. Maybe someone from Vimeo will write in and ask me for specifics!

#2 
Written By Rob Walker on August 21st, 2008 @ 7:16 am

vimeo allows you to remove elements (title, author, etc) when you embed the video. And generally looks cleaner.

#3 
Written By Steve on August 23rd, 2008 @ 10:28 am

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