Jakob Nielsen: Video on the Web Sucks

By Deane Barker on January 1, 2006

Talking-Head Video Is Boring Online : Jakob Nielsen has published a bit about how bad video apparently is for the Web.

What’s interesting is his eye-tracking study, where he shows you what someone looks at while they’re watching video. He has an image which show where the viewer’s eyes rested, and he also has a video (WMV link) that shows where their eyes traveling in real-time while watching the video.

It’s more interesting to notice how much attention was diverted elsewhere in the image, including the road sign behind the interviewee. There’s even a brief glance at an object over his shoulder that looks like a trash can.

Most interesting of all is the tremendous attention spent outside the video itself on things such as alternative headlines and video controls.

The eyetracking data clearly show that a talking head is boring, even for 24 seconds. On the Web, 24 seconds is a long time — too long for users to keep their attention on something monotonous.



  1. That’s so true. When watching a video of “a talking head”, usually I just select another window and do something else while I listen, keeping an eye on visible part of the video window behind it just in case something interesting appears. But this doesn’t only apply on the web. I do the same with a TV: looking outside through the window, distracting myself by doing something else.

    Why should I look at someone talking if he can’t see me? I listen to what he has to say, just like I do with radio, and look at the visual content when there is something interesting to look at.

  2. My first thought when I read the title of Nielsen’s article was “Duh!” (with all due respect, of course.) Why have video if it’s only someone talking? If there is video footage of what’s being discussed, that’s one thing, but I’m not interested in seeing the reporter report.

    One of his guidelines further down in the article says

    … avoid using video if the content doesn’t take advantage of the medium’s dynamic nature. …it’s better to use video for things that move or otherwise work better on film than they would as a combination of photos and text.

    That should be more of a rule than a guideline. Maybe I’m thinking with a limited-bandwidth-mindset, but unless the video is worth seeing I won’t waste my time waiting for it to load. A lot of times if there’s any doubt as to a video’s worth, I won’t even try it. If you can get the job done with audio and a static image, why mess with video?

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