Drupal video design variables -- The questions you need answered when building your Drupal video site.

Making decisions about how to present Drupal Video content is complex.  There are so many things to consider.  Technology is changing quickly in this space too, making video an even tougher topic to tackle.  Big complex tasks are made easy broken down into their component parts.  This old engineering principle is as true today where web video design is concerned as it was when the Pharaohs built the pyrimads.  This blog will highlight the key decision making variables you need to consider and ultimately answer as a designer. 

  1. Who is your audience?  You want your video content to cater to your market.  Identify that audience and many of your design decisions are already made for you. Are they non-technical elderly people looking for simple advice on HealthCare?  If so, you'll need to choose the solution that requires nearly no user effort.  Browse to the page that contains video and watch it.  If your viewers are technical students from a University, then some user setup might be possible.  Your viewing audience is one of your most important considerations in architecting your video solution. 
  2. Who will be contributing your video content?  Who adds your video is almost as critical as your audience.  Quality, and content, entertainment value aside, do your contributors know anything about uploading video to the web?  Do they know anything about the many video formats?  Do they know anything about file sizes and how long they'll take to transfer?  There are many many questions that you need to answer here before you dive into the more technical details.
  3. Will your User Interface be intuitive?  Facebook is a great site to look to in this regard.  The reason it is the biggest social network in the world is because it's very easy to use.  You can choose a video from your PC and it'll play in facebook.  Drupal by default is not as easy.  Your site needs to be this easy.
  4. Do you want your video to be available on mobile devices?  If so, then you'll need to avoid flash video.  The iPhone doesn't display flash videos.  Flash videos have, up until now, been a web favourite way of showing video content.  Will you consider HTML5 support in your site?  There are a host of decisions you'll need to make in this regard, in order to include the growing mobile browser audience.
  5. Are you going to encode your video?  There are many many different video types.  Flash has .flv files.  Apple Quicktime videos are .mov.  Windows format is .wmv.  There are many more.  You need to support the widest possible number of file formats, if you are to be a success in this space.  This usually means video encoding.  A user uploads any type of video, you convert it to the optimal solution for you, then you present it.  There are a great number of technical decisons to be made here that can make or break your decision.
  6. What web-based video player will you choose?  Will you support one or multiple video players?  Will users need to download players or will it be embedded available through your server?  What licensing is associated with the player?
  7. Will you consider a video service?  There are many third party video services available to encode and store your video for you.  Most of these are commercial services.  There are many questions to consider in retaing a third party video service.  One of these questions is will they guarantee you 24 by 7 uptime?  If they're down when your peak time hits, the only recourse you'll have is to call their support que with the other people waiting for them to fix it.  Will it be worth considering one of these? 
  8. What Drupal Video modules will be the best choice?  There are many Drupal modules that deliver video content: swftools, video, Kaltura...and on and on and on.  Each has it's own unique advantages, depending upon your needs. Which of them will continue to be supported and developed?  Which will get morphed into new solutions?
  9. What are the external limits?  Bandwidth and the cost of it is a major concern when delivering large quantities of video.  Many Content Delivery Networks have gone under by overlooking this part of the equation.  Co-location, backup, hardware selection, operating systems hosting these solutions are all a part of the puzzel.  If your audience is small with no plans of getting big, ignore this.  If you have great aspirations with your video, suffice it to say that these elements need to be considered. 
  10. Have you considered YouTube?  Embedding YouTube videos in your site is a very real alternative.  YouTube is run by Google.  There are many options.  Small businesses all over the world use it.  It's a great way to keep it simple.
  11. Have you considered all of the display and presentation elements?  Not all videos are made alike.  They are different in many ways: file size, aspect ratio, and dimensions.  Many business want to offer advertisements at the beginning or end of their videos.  Many theme designers want the thumbnails generated to fit an exact size within the page.  These are all critical elements.
  12. How much power and control do you have?  A wise man once told me not to worry about things I can't control.  I'd been over-reacting about some foolishness that was getting in the way of doing my job in the professional way I wanted to be known.  A good part of these questions require that you have a great deal of power and control to shape your solution.  More often than not, you don't have complete decision making authority.  As such, you'll need to take the lead in educating your partners, superiors and employees.  This is the hardest part by far.  Patience, persevearance, and diplomacy will be the most important skills you'll need in getting this complex planning stage done right.

These are a few of the video-delivery questions that demand answers, if you're hoping for any kind of successful solution.  My next few blogs will answer these questions.  You'll see that there is a video at the top of this page that represents my solution.  It's near and dear to my heart: my two sons singing a song they made up while they were supposed to be finishing their supper, The Hummus in my Lunch song.  I recorded it and used it as motivation to carry through my research to it's conclusion.   

Please comment as I go along to help shape the best Drupal video solution discussion.

 

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