“How should I host videos on my website?” is a common question from my clients.
Whether it’s a background video, long-format content or a short animation introducing their product, they often receive high-definition, unoptimized files from their designers.
They want these files on their site - all with the guarantee of great quality and optimal performance, ensuring the videos aren’t buffering or pixelated.
This guide explores the pros and cons of different hosting options to help achieve that.
Self-Hosted Vs. External Video Hosting
A self-hosted video is one where the video file, often in MP4 format, is uploaded directly to your website primarily through the WordPress Media Manager. The serving, streaming, and functionality of these videos are usually managed by the video player, either the one bundled with the browser or one enabled by a plugin/theme.
Sometimes an option to add varying formats like WebM might be available, but this requires encoding the video into these formats beforehand. Some plugins might let you do this automatically by uploading the video and having a third-party service encode it, similar to an image optimization plugin. However, I haven’t personally used any of these plugins.
Do note, storing multiple formats of the same video can significantly increase storage requirements. While third-party video hosting services streamline this process, self-hosting offers a degree of control they do not.
However, there’s an exception to these drawbacks if you anticipate needing custom features and have access to an experienced developer familiar with video encoding.
In this way, self-hosting provides not just greater control, but also design freedom for these more intricate needs.
- Greater control over the video player and branding
- Absence of external branding or end credits
- Large, unoptimized files can slow down your site or exceed your storage limits
- Standard players do not dynamically adjust video quality based on the viewer’s connection, unlike Vimeo and YouTube
- Content created in non-standard formats (e.g., .MOV files) might not be compatible across all devices
External Video Hosting
Among the options for external video hosting, Vimeo and YouTube are the most popular choices, with Vimeo usually being the favored one.
While YouTube offers the “modest branding” query parameter to reduce some of its branding and functionality like end cards, this feature isn’t as effective as it once was, causing the platform to display more of its branding than some users might prefer. On the other hand, Vimeo, though a paid platform, allows more options for you to personalize your video player and remove all of its branding.
Both platforms handle the encoding for you and provide their own players. This means they serve videos to viewers based on their internet speed and can even handle background videos. You have fewer styling options with these players, and once you choose a platform, you may feel somewhat locked in. However, they offer ease of use as they take care of most technical aspects for you.
- Handles large files and automatically adjusts video quality
- Takes care of encoding and different video formats
- YouTube’s videos cannot be fully de-branded
- Vimeo requires a paid subscription
- Limited control over video player’s styling
Different Video Formats
When considering video formats, WebM and MP4 are the best choices for web use.
- WebM: The preferred format due to its superior compression capabilities. Although it boasts broad compatibility with modern and updated browsers, it is not supported by certain legacy browsers, such as Internet Explorer.
- MP4: Universally supported by all browsers, it provides a balance between quality and file size. It is not only perfect for older devices but also serves as an excellent fallback option for minor instances where WebM is not compatible.
Given the proprietary and dated nature of formats like MOV and AVI, their general lack of broad browser support, and their typically large file sizes, it’s best to focus on using WebM and MP4.
Looking to Add Video to Your WordPress Site?
From managing a high volume of videos, upholding best practices in video encoding, or setting up accounts on YouTube or Vimeo - I’d be able to help.
With my extensive experience in WordPress-specific services, I can help optimize your site with the video content you need.
Book an intro call with me to discuss your needs further. I look forward to speaking with you.