Should Your Virtual Spokesperson Have an On/Off Button?

Have you ever wished you could use a remote control to silence a loud talker in a crowded restaurant? How about when surfing the Web and landing on a webpage featuring avideo spokesperson? While having a virtual spokesperson appear on your website offers numerous benefits and adds a personal touch, it also brings with it the potential for annoying some of your site’s visitors.

This is because people have different learning styles and preferences for receiving information. Where one visitor may love being able to see a video spokesperson and hear an oral presentation, another may learn better through reading and find the audio portion distracting. By having an on/off button, you are giving your site’s visitors the option to silence the video spokesperson.

A common categorization of learning styles is known as Fleming’s VARK Model with the following four types of learners:

  1. Visual preference – these learners prefer seeing information such as through visual aids and pictures
  2. Auditory preference – these learners prefer listening to information such as through lectures and speeches
  3. Reading and writing preference – these learners prefer reading and writing information
  4. Kinesthetic-tactile preference – these learners prefer learning through experience such as through hands-on experiments

Of these learning categories, visual and auditory learners may respond well to a virtual spokesperson on your website. Learners who prefer to learn by reading, will likely want the option to silence the spokesperson as the spoken text could be distracting or annoying to them. By providing an on/off button, you are able to reach most learners in a format that appeals to them without alienating those who don’t respond well to auditory delivery methods.

You may even want to take this one step further by configuring the virtual spokesperson video to play on demand rather than automatically. Why? Having the virtual spokesperson talk “uninvited” could chase off prospects. Rather than looking for the on/off or mute button, some visitors will simply click the button that they’re the most familiar with: the Back button.

While you can’t please all of the people all of the time, you can provide options. If you’re implementing a virtual spokesmodel on your website, speak with your video production company about configuring your virtual spokesperson for on demand playing or at the very least including an on/off button.

If you’re not sure, consider running a test. Keep an eye on the bounce rate for your page for both autoplay and on demand video options. If you see significant numbers of visitors exiting your site right away, it could be because of the autoplay option. Change the video to play on demand and see if you notice an improvement.

What have your experiences been with videos that autoplay? Do you tend to leave a site if sounds start playing without your explicit approval? Or do you find the automatic playback convenient? Share your thoughts below.

Web Usability and Eye Tracking: Location Really Does Matter

In the offline world, “location, location, location” is a common mantra. The same is true online. Where you place your most important messages, calls to action, video spokesperson, and other elements really does matter. This is due to how users interact with their computer screens.

Think about this for a moment from a Web user’s point of view. When you encounter a webpage for the first time, you don’t know much about it, right? You’ll quickly scan, from left to right (the way you were taught to read) in search of clues. Clues usually appear in the form of titles, headings, subheadings, and bulleted lists. These items tell you the page’s general focus. While your own experiences give you a general sense of how users view the Web, eye-tracking studies have demonstrated it.

In the Yahoo! Style Guide, Yahoo! discusses its own eye-tracking studies. Yahoo! concludes that there’s a general pattern to how people browse webpages:

  • First, users scan a page’s main sections to understand what the page is about and decide whether or not to stay on that page.
  • Users make decisions about the page within three seconds of viewing it
  • Users that stay on the page pay the most attention to the information located in the top part of the screen, typically the upper left corner.

Yahoo!’s eye-tracking studies and resulting heat map show that users tend to focus on a triangular section in the upper left corner of the screen. This upper left corner is prime real estate for your site’s most important content. Go to any Yahoo! page and see how Yahoo! puts this knowledge to work. For example, on the Yahoo! Personal Finance page, the Home and Investing tabs are located in this corner as are its most important categories (Banking & Budgeting, Career & Work, Family & Home, Insurance, Loans, Real Estate, Retirement, and Taxes). Less important information such as the date, “word of the day,” advertisements, and Yahoo! Answers appear elsewhere on the page.

In addition to the upper left corner of the screen, there’s another crucial piece of real estate: the area “above the fold.” Like a newspaper folded in half, the top section of a website, the section before it becomes necessary to scroll for more content, is extremely important. While users have become accustomed to scrolling, that first screen impression should contain the page’s most important element.

For example, if you want to feature a high-impact marketing video on a webpage, and that video is the most important element of the page, it should be located “above the fold.” A long textual introduction, advertisements, graphics, and other elements above the video could potentially push the video below the fold, leading to fewer views and poor results.

Location, location, location is a mantra that all Web property owners should adopt. What’s in the upper left corner of your website? What are you featuring above the fold? Share your thoughts and ideas with us!