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Present Video With Style

Stephen Biernacki

More than 1 billion people watch more than 6 billion hours of video on YouTube each month. Referencing numbers this large makes them difficult to understand. Luckily and if you’re interested, Greg Jarboe of Search Engine Watch puts them in perspective:

“Let’s start with 1 billion people. The population of North America is 528.7 million, the population of South America is 387.5 million, and the population of Oceania is 35.7 million. So, the population of YouTube Nation is now larger than the population of the New World (“Mundus Novus”).

Now, let’s look at 6 billion hours. Do the math that’s 250 million days or 684,931.5 years of video. Now, imagine one of our ancestors 684,931.5 years ago back in the Middle Pleistocene epoch, when humans grouped together in small societies, gathered plants, hunted for wild animals, and developed the most primitive stone tools. If he or she started watching funny saber-toothed cat videos around-the-clock, then a 6-billion-hour-long YouTube marathon would last from way back then until the wee hours of this morning.”

These crazy-high numbers certainly support online video being one of the top ways for colleges and universities to express their brand. How could it not be? But beyond knowing that it’s a good idea to be putting out video content, how can you be sure to make the most impact with the videos your staff (and possibly user-generated content from your audiences) produce? One way is to carefully consider how you’re presenting the video content to your audience. Your website, in particular, comes with creative freedom and flexibility other avenues do not. Below are a multitude of examples that illustrate how institutions have creatively integrated videos into their website and in some cases, even as part of a bigger, branded experience.

The New School: Admissions Page and Microsite

Straightforward and slick, this Vimeo embed featuring six different videos from The New School is no-nonsense. Each video has obviously high production value, focuses on a single student, and ends with the question, “Are You New School?” They’ve also incorporated these videos onto a microsite, as seen below.

Point Loma University’s Discover Page

Before click:


After click:

By using the play symbol, Point Loma makes it obvious that you’re going to get videos when you click the images, and they each load quickly right on the website. In a unique visual execution like this one, it is helpful to use a familiar graphic so viewers know what to expect. As far as the content of the videos goes, the first contains three students talking about their experiences at PLNU, whereas the second video is a campus tour. It’s interesting that the first video comes from Vimeo while the second does not (and you can’t skip ahead in the video).

Nazareth College Campaign for College and Community Endowment and Scholarships Video Stories

Nazareth College’s Video Stories appear as part of a navigation section of five links, with four different videos to choose from below. Of course, they each load in the designated frame. It’s a very clear-cut approach which seems appropriate for the audience interested in the campaign. The videos are relaxed and primarily focus on providing financial support for students.

Southern New Hampshire University’s Stories

Clicking on a map reveals screenshots in the style of what you see above. Only the most necessary information is displayed to the right of the video: Name – to be sure it’s as personal a message as possible, clickable location and program information from the map, a link to learn more about the program, and a call-out quotation from the video to help grab attention. This approach also allows the user to easily share via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and email.

Boston University: Homepage and You at BU

Always progressive Boston University is teasing commencement in a non-traditional way. Its homepage features an auto-playing Flash animation, and it’s a reminder that all “video” doesn’t have to be something traditionally uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo. By the time you read this their homepage might be updated, but there’s a decent chance they’ll still be displaying some type of video there. The most impressive video magic on their website is the You at BU section seen below.

Before click:

After click:

Possibly the most visually striking example in this list, Boston University’s You at BU section designed for undergraduates serves as a living, breathing multimedia viewbook loaded with features on faculty, classrooms, study abroad, internships, students schedules, student life, housing, and alumni. Prior to clicking, the content may seem overwhelming, but hovering over each square reveals the title of the video and a short description, so the user isn’t going in blind. With this kind of execution, there’s no doubt that videos are speaking louder than images or words ever could.

Greenville College’s Traditional Undergraduate Page

This example from Greenville College shows a traditional YouTube embed with a rotatable selection of three videos below. The primary videos each have a student tell their Greenville College story.

University of Mary Washington Great Minds Microsite

Before click:

After click:

The University of Mary Washington’s microsite designed for prospective students goes large with video. After a student clicks the “It’s How I Think” section, the following page has a large video area that begins playing videos from the UMW Voices playlist. The playlist follows different students as they talk about the University.

Freed-Hardeman University’s Why Choose FHU? Section

You might not see much special in the above screenshot until you see it in the context of the entire, beautiful website. See what I mean! Like the website, the video itself is very unique and fun, and focuses on a student’s story from the beginning.

American University’s Inside AU and My Five Faves Pages

As part of its virtual tour, American University has separate, auto-playing videos for each section beneath the video area. To the right, more information is featured about the video with links to relevant information.

Arizon State University’s My Future

Video is integrated throughout Arizona State University’s My Future website, usually in the format displayed above. The videos talk to different students about the positive aspects of the institution.

Biola University’s Campus Culture Section of Undergrad Website

Before click:

After click:

Reminiscent of the Point Loma example shown earlier, upon clicking, the video appears for the viewer to watch instantly. The video features multiple students.

University of Chicago

Nothing fancy in this prestigious example, but a simple YouTube section with thumbnails that link to YouTube on a somewhat busy University of Chicago homepage is a traditional option.

Goucher College’s Virtual Tour

There isn’t a lot of video integrated into Goucher College’s virtual tour, but what’s there is executed nicely.

University of Wisconsin – Madison’s #UWRightNow

One of the ways the content of this highly-acclaimed effort by the University of Wisconsin-Madison can be sorted is by video, and the screenshot above depicts this. As you’d expect, the videos load right on the website.

University of Nebraska – Harvey’s Perls of Knowlege

A video area housed on a website that certainly catches the vibe of this University of Nebraska video series. If this isn’t inspiration to get creative I’m not sure what is.

Conclusion: Present video with style
While I don’t have knowledge into the backend of these websites, it is highly likely that swapping video content in and out is not difficult to do since most utilize simple YouTube or Vimeo embeds. Even in the examples in which YouTube or Vimeo are not used, rotating video content in and out should not be an obstacle. With short, quick-turnaround Web video capability being increasingly important for colleges and universities to have, creative website executions and presentations such as those shown above need to be flexible so fresh content can be inserted on short notice, if necessary.

Of all the examples shown above, which is your favorite? If these institutions have demonstrated anything, it’s that great videos should have a great presentation.

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