Web Design Tips & Principles (Part 5)

Using Video

If you're adding video to a page then the simplest method is usually to upload it to YouTube or Vimeo, and then embed it using their code. If you want the video to be private, and not publicly available, then there are a variety of video hosting platforms you can use - depending on the level of security you require.

If you don't want to use the YouTube standard 'player', (as it's not very configurable,) then the famous JW Player is available free for non-commercial use - or very cheaply for commercial use. The JW player will also play YouTube stored videos, as well as locally and remotely hosted videos; it can function alongside the Amazon S3 Cloud file-sharing service for example, to allow a number of security and access options.

Remember when encoding your video that if you use a large picture with a high bit rate, you could end up with a high 'bandwidth' requirement. This means that visitors with slow connections may not be able to spool the video fast enough to watch it in real-time, and may have to wait for it to buffer a large portion before they start.

Using YouTube protects you from this to some degree, as their standard player selects the most appropriate version from the several encodings that they create automatically. For example, if you uploaded an HD video (1280 x 720 pixels) to YouTube, they would store an HD version, 2 medium definition versions and a low definition version. (Commonly seen as 720p, 480p, 360p and 240p). Each one requires a progressively lower bandwidth, by utilising a lower resolution and audio quality, together with increased compression. The number before the 'p' indicates the number of horizontal pixel lines in the video (or the height in pixels).

Forms & Feedback Pages

If you provide a web-based form for feedback, comments or contact, then ensure you use some method of form security and spam prevention - as otherwise you'll be inundated with spam-bot messages!

When it comes to form handling with PHP or ASP, you should error-check and spam-check the form server-side, as well as using JavaScript. JavaScript with forms enables you to give users immediate feedback, and prompt for missing or incorrect information. But, when you're handling the form submission server-side, for security reasons you should always perform a variety of checks there.

Mailing & Subscriber List Opt-ins (Auto-Responders)

All websites should provide the option to opt-in to your mailing list or newsletter, and generally a good enticement is to offer something free for subscribing, such as an e-book. Building a mailing or membership list should be one of the prime goals of any website, as any marketer will tell you that an opted-in subscription list is worth its weight in gold.

There are a variety of professional auto-responder services available including 'GetResponse', 'AWeber', 'MailChimp' and 'iContact'. All of which allow the easy management of your mailing list and content. These services provide a simple way to collect people's details, and then auto-send pre-created e-mails at preset intervals. A monthly newsletter or update bulletin is a great way of staying at the forefront of your visitors' minds.

Do NOT spam your list; no matter how important you think your message is! There is a fine line between staying in touch and spamming; and that line is in a different place for each person - according to their privacy beliefs. More than one email per week is considered too many by most people.If you send a barrage of emails in quick succession, expect a lot of unsubscribes - and even some complaints. A 'weighted' plan of slightly more at the start, with the frequency tailing off over the months is a wiser option. It is better to 'tap-tap' gently at people's sub-conscious, than to bang on the front door of their conscious mind.