Add some movies, images, sounds to your web site as you see fit, but tell your visitors what you’re doing and give them the controls. [First published December 2004.]
Camera, lights, action!
Now that you can buy inexpensive digital cameras, and a cheap microphone to record straight into your computer, you might decide to enliven your website with some multimedia files. That’s an excellent idea and your visitors may be thrilled, especially if they have broadband connections.
Give them the information
If you add a file of any kind to your website tell your visitors what the file is, what software they need, how big the file is, how long it will take to download and any other information they need to make an informed choice.
“Watch the movie of our Conference Keynote” looks good at first, but after I’ve spent 30 minutes downloading and it’s still not finished, or after I’ve spent an hour downloading and I can’t play it, I might not feel so kindly towards your organisation.
To find the approximate size of a file Windows users should right-click and choose Properties. Mac users Control click and choose Get Info. You should then be able to see the size, expressed in KB (kilobytes), MB (megabytes) or even GB (gigabytes). If it’s in GB then you won’t be adding that file to your website as it’s too huge. Don’t bother about being too precise — you can round up. For example, I have a 20.12 MB movie; I’ll just call it 21 MB.
Some people have slow connections; others high speed connections, so how long will my 21 MB movie take to download? You can pick an “average” connection, say 56K or you could give a range of speeds. Visitors with high speed connections will know the file should download a great deal more quickly than with a 56K modem, while those with slower connections can double or quadruple the time fairly readily.
But how long will it take? Well, you can do some maths, or you can visit www.onlineconversion.com/downloadspeed.htm
Just fill in 21, click the MB button, and it tells you that with a 56K modem that movie will take about 53 minutes. In real life it may take longer, as many factors can influence download time.
But I can’t see it!
So, I spend an hour downloading the movie and now it won’t play… Was it a Windows Media file (.wmv), a Quicktime movie (various formats, including .mpg, .mov, .avi), or perhaps a Real media file (.rm)? I wish you’d told me first.
Here’s a sample text for my Conference movie:
Download our [start link]2004 Conference Keynote movie — 21 MB, .avi[end link] file. Estimated download time: 55 minutes with a 56K modem. Get the free [start link]Quicktime player[end link].
You may find shorter ways of expressing this if you have many media files all on one page, or if you have a Help page dedicated to media, but however you do it, make sure you give your visitor control through information.
Written for and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, December 2004.