Home > Distribution > External Factors Impact User Experience with Video

External Factors Impact User Experience with Video

February 17, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

Twice over the last two days I had the opportunity to leverage streaming content for some entertainment. Both times I faced streaming challenges, and it’s a reminder that no matter how good the content we develop, we’re often subject to external factors that can completely change how the end-user feels about our work.

I started out on Saturday with the DVR recording I made of the USA-Russia olympic hockey game. Thanks to my cable provider’s channel guide mistake, I got an extra 30 minutes of commentary that resulted in the recording cutting out in the middle of overtime. So I switched over to the laptop to load up the replay from nbcolympics.com. Plenty has been written about the business model behind the access to the content – if you haven’t heard, you only get access to the full scope of content if you have an existing cable/satellite provider. This of course shuts out many people who don’t have those services, and I’m not convinced that it’s a successful model to use.

Regardless of those issues, I do have a cable subscription and the results were horrible. I needed to catch up on the end of overtime and the shootout that followed – no more than about 10 minutes of video total. It’s safe to say I spent at least double that time waiting for the content to buffer and begin playing. I’d get a minute or two of playback followed by a long spell of buffering. If I had not been committed to seeing the end of the game I’d have given up within the first couple of minutes.

Sunday night was movie night with the kids (well, one of them – the other two refused to watch). We agreed on a movie and ordered it from Amazon video. And the movie loaded. And loaded and loaded. And still loading. And almost but not quite loaded. We gave it about 5 minutes before shutting down the TV and restarting to get it working. The rest of the playback was mostly OK with only some buffering, so overall the experience was pretty good.

The point of all this is that as a creator and manager of content, your users’ experience is dependent on a lot of things that you often can’t control. The issues I faced over the weekend could have occurred in a half dozen places along the path from provider to me. It could be a router somewhere along the internet, my internet connection or the connection between the device and my home router. But I understand the networking issues better than most users, especially as it applies to online video delivery. More importantly, I had an investment in the pieces I was trying to watch. I lived with the issues I experienced because I really wanted to see the video, and I never would have taken the time I did for something I was looking at casually.

As a content provider, you need to be aware of the possible problems with delivery. A lot of corporate video is, frankly, not must-watch video – will your users stick with it if they are facing streaming quality issues? There isn’t unfortunately a lot that can be done about downstream problems – it’s often a user by user situation and you can’t solve that problem for everyone.

You can, however, take certain steps on your own end – use a streaming service provider that has a robust network with multiple sourcing points and plenty of capacity. Contract with them for better service if you’re delivering a high profile live event. Encode your videos for optimum playback without overdoing the bitrates and video sizes – a smaller video that plays cleanly is better than a larger one that buffers constantly. You really, really have to spot check your content to see how it behaves, especially across multiple devices in multiple network situations. A hardwired connection will behave differently than over the air or wifi, iPhones will behave differently than PC desktops. Above all else, if you can possibly provide contact information alongside the video, you give users the chance to learn more even if the video fails for any reason – instead of definitely losing an opportunity, you’ll have the chance that they’ll reach out to you.

The problems with playback often have nothing to do with your work as the content provider, but the result is that you take the blame for it. They don’t say “oh, that lousy telecom and their service”, they say “this stupid company can’t figure out how to deliver a video?” It may not be fair, but the result is the same – your great content doesn’t appear, and sales and communication opportunities are lost. Do what you can to keep it working, and know when it’s not working so you can get it fixed as soon as possible.

Advertisements
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: