Using Vimeo for video on websites

Since web developers have been working to make websites device-compatible in the last few years, we’ve run into a lot of challenges with regards to hosting videos on our sites.

Years ago, before the iPhone changed everything, the best way to get a video onto a website was to format the video as an .flv (Flash video) file and build a custom Flash video player (in .swf format). 99% of users had the Flash plugin in their browser and could view the video on their desktop and laptop computers with no problem.

Once the i-devices came out (iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch), Flash was no longer an option, but we weren’t left with a good option to replace it. The most viable solution wasn’t a very good one: We had to save the video in three or more different formats — .flv, .mp4, .ogg, etc — and embed them in a javascript-based video player that serves the correct video file to the correct browser/device. This was a nightmare for a lot of reasons. One, we had to create all these different huge video file formats, and re-export and re-upload all of them every time we made a change to the video; a very time-consuming process every time. Two, we had to burn dev hours setting up our video player code for each instance of video on the site. Three, we had to do a ton of cross-browser and cross-device testing, and mysterious compatibility problems would often come up where the video would display fine everywhere except this one version of this one device, or this one version of this browser, or this one client’s old computer. It was maddening. De-bugging usually took more time than setting up the player in the first place.

My own agency’s EVP creative director once said to me, after the dev team spent a very long and frustrating day dealing with all of the above, “I refuse to believe it takes a whole day to put a video on a website.” He was right; it shouldn’t. And it doesn’t have to.

Enter Vimeo. Vimeo is a video hosting service that’s very similar to YouTube: Users can upload a video, and it’s instantly compatible across all browsers and devices. It’s effortless and works perfectly. While we’ve spent tons of dev hours formatting multiple video files and troubleshooting video players for every site, Vimeo has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars making this process extremely simple and completely compatible across all browsers and devices. You upload one video file, in any format, and you’re done; it streams perfectly for everyone on every device. Another great advantage that Vimeo offers is very robust tracking.

Now, this part is crucial for our clients: With a Vimeo pro account (which is only ten bucks a month) it’s easy to set the privacy settings of a video so that it can ONLY be viewed on the brand website. We enter a domain name (like www.[brand].com) and set the video to only be viewable if it’s embedded on that particular site. The video can’t be viewed on the Vimeo website, and it can’t be embedded on a user’s Facebook or blog. We disable comments and likes. There is no Vimeo logo or watermark. To the user it’s no different than if we’d gone to all the trouble to set up our own player with multiple video formats. All of these things make Vimeo the right choice for our clients and their audience, and for us! So let’s advocate for this approach whenever possible.

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