We still get requests posed to us from time to time where a client wants to auto play music or a video on their website. I get the fact that a video may contain something you want the potential customer to know right away or you may want music to set the mood while the visitor looks through your photos, etc. However, we have always discouraged this practice. This is actually one of those web design 101 things you learn in the early stages in classes, auto-play is a major no-no.
For the most part, the online community crossed the “autoplay=bad” threshold back in 2011 and although most seem to have caught up to what everyone else realized a few years ago, a few folks seem to have lost the memo.
So, what’s wrong with autoplay? In a word – everything.
Back in the day, autoplay was just fine, but this was also the brief period of time from the onset of early broadband internet connections in major metropolitan areas and the onset of the Smartphone revolution. Back then, browsing was restricted to desktop and laptop environments and surfing the net in working environments wasn’t as common as it is today. There was even time when having autoplay audio was a tool to demonstrate multimedia prowess.
Times have definitely changed.
Today is a completely different story; mobile devices and high speed cellular connections mean people are in brave new world. High speed mobile devices mean people use the internet in public spaces and those spaces are still defined by personal space and autoplay music is nothing but intrusive.
Here’s an example: a web visitor is sitting in their office cubicle and see an interesting link for your web page. They click and out comes LOUD MUSIC or SOMEONE TALKING. Embarrassed, they hurriedly look for a way to stop it and barring that, will turn down their volume. Not only is the site visitor embarrassed, but annoyed with the website for being the cause of that embarrassment. Yikes, you just alienated your site visitor.
If you need additional best practice related advice, then head over to the international community created to develop open standard for web growth, W3C (World Web Consortium). These folks have determined that autoplay is sketchy business as well and laid out clear guidelines (section 1.4.2) for non-interference. Even tech style gods like Apple have developed an official position that autoplay auto isn’t kosher and went so far as to disable autoplay in Safari browsers on iOS devices.
Today’s web surfers aren’t stupid. They can find the area on your site that features media clips and play them if desired. And if you’re genuinely interested in bringing in new listeners, they are likely in a generation that knows how to use Facebook, send an email, and has a browser that wasn’t released in 2008. And if cute cat videos are any sign, folks have no trouble finding and sharing multimedia they find entertaining, you don’t have to hammer them with it.
And who’s to say that the clip you select is going to appeal to such an overwhelming majority that it will create a meaningful emotional bond to begin with? Worst case scenario, you could actually turn away a potential customer. You’re only going to kill conversion. For those not in the know, conversion is important to your website. It means new customers, sales, or social shares.
In the end, there are no good reasons to have autoplay music at your organization’s site. Certainly, times may change and the opposite may once again be true but until then, play it smart and play to win the game of online conversion and leave autoplay behind.