Previously we reported
that adding videos to your website is a very good thing. This based on research done by others
We weren't seeing the kind of numbers they were reporting. And our Google analytics reports showed the same thing.
We got a few emails from customers, or potential customers, who said they tried but couldn't view the videos.
When you get "a few emails" on a topic from customers, or potential customers, that means there are tons of people with the same message for you, they just don't take the time to write...they assume you're an idiot for putting videos that don't work on your site and they quickly they leave!
We realized from those emails that the problem was the download time and the inconsistencies between browsers, video players, etc. In other words, some people had good equipment, some didn't.
In order to realize the potential of the videos, not to mention the investment creating them, we started a crusade to find the best way to deliver video over the net.
The criteria was it had to stream, without the customer or our (or your) server having any streaming technology. It had to be a file format that just about everyone (99% would be fine) would be able to view. It had to work on the various browsers and operating systems out there. It had to be easy and quick for us to use.
The answer? Only the Flash file format met all of those criteria.
Everyone has it, even if they never downloaded the Flash Player. It is little known, but all of the browsers in the last couple years actually have the Flash Player as part of the browser! So, that's pretty much everyone. Since it is in the browsers, the browser-operating system requirements are also met.
Flash streams video. Streaming means you only wait a little instead of a lot. Normally streaming videos start playing in 5 seconds or so. What is going on is that the Flash Player is starting to play as soon as it has enough of the file to show. Then it continues to download the file as it plays. If your internet connection is fast enough, and most are, you'll see the movie in real-time, without breaks. Oh, a Microsoft note...their Windows Media Player claims to steam and was the player of choice with our old videos, because it "streamed". What we found was that it streamed
alright, it streamed the entire file
and then and only then did it play the video. In other words, it downloaded
it first, and then played it...not streaming. Good old Microsoft.
The last criteria was one we looked into previously, a tool to convert a video file (.wmv file in our case) to a Flash file. We used a conversion tool from one of the premier Flash software vendors, no, not MacroMedia or Adobe...they don't have one that we know of. The company (company-x) will remain nameless, but don't worry, we'll let you know the company and product that did the best job. We don't want to name company-x because their other software is breathtaking! If we told you about the one that sucks, your opinion of their other software may diminish. And since we're going to tell you the best software to get, you won't be considering buying company-x's product.
In any event, we got the software from company-x and it did a terrible job of converting the video to flash. Our videos were produced by a Hollywood cinematographer and looked great. When company-x got ahold of them they looked like a HyperStudio production from a 3rd grader. (HyperStudio was the best selling educational software for years, designed to enable kids to create multimedia presentations, they all looked like kids did them because they did).
Company-x's product, however, was not HyperStudio but was designed by a great company, not 8 year-olds (although HyperStudio was designed by adults, some of whome may have acted like 8 year olds, the 8 year olds designed the multimedia). So, we assumed that company-x's software must have been the best and determined Flash based videos were not for us.
Well, let's fast forward a bit, a customer sent us yet another email and was gracious enought to carry on a conversation with us about his problem, or was it our problem? Based on that, we decided to renew our search for Flash based nirvana software.
It didn't go very well. We found that company-x was actually pretty darn good compared to other available "solutions". But still not up to Hollywood standards. They all sucked
Finally, we came accross a product that looked too good to be true. Note, you always say "finally" in cases like this since you don't continue looking once you've found what you want. That is also why you always find the other sock or shoe in the last place you look.
We didn't find a shoe, however, we found a really simple to use piece of software that converted our Hollywood style videos in to something that met our criteria. Now, having said that, there was some video quality decreases in the final product, but it is the best we've found. And, considering the alternative to this is to not have any video at all, which the marketing guys say will be a bad thing since it sells products, we made a small compromise and are using the new videos.
Ok, what did we find?
It is a program named "Flash Video Studio 1.5". It is available on line at, you guessed it, www.flashvideostudio.com
Don't you hate it when the site name is the same as the product name; flashvideostudio.com, webstudio.com. Oh, forget that last cynical statement...
The program is a simple dialog based creature. You just go thru five steps, three of which you don't really need, and you've got a Flash file with your video sitting in it ready to stream to potential customers and pay for junior's college career.
We used the High Quality setting for the Video, Good fsetting or the audio, and 7 frames per second as the frame rate. If you don't know what all this stuff is, you will once you use the program. And don't worry if you don't understand it then, just use those settings and it will look and sound great.
Let's see, other things, they have a 30 day trial, that's cool. And the price is a resonable $49.95.
As far as the college payments go, our conversion rate of video viewing to downloaded-software increased dramatically. And our conversion of downloaded-software to sales increased dramatically. (Oh, conversion rates? That's marketing-speak for the percentage of people who did one thing and then decided to do another thing based on the first thing...like 75% of people who viewed our videos decided to download our software; and 20% of people who downloaded our software decided to buy our software, your mileage may vary, ours does).
Why did the Flash videos work so well? Our guess is that people who just downloaded our software and tried it out were influenced by past experience with web design software, opinions of others, lack of understanding of the process, etc. Our guess is these people downloaded the software and approached it cautiously, like hmmm, I wonder if this thing will really do what I need and what they say. They were warry of bad things, and hoping for good things.
Our guess is that people who've actually seen it in action, via our videos, approach it enthusiastically because they've already seen it do what they want. A much more positive attitude vs a cautious one. They are aware of good things going in and hoping for great things, which we deliver, of course!
Seems those guys who did the research and found a four-fold increase in sales weren't far off the mark. We're hoping to get to four, we still have two kids in college!