Who really prefers info in video form?

My hatred of the shop Lush is a bit of a joke among my friends. I love the products, but I can’t bear the experience of shopping there.

I’ve described Lush staff as “human pop-up ads” in the past, but on my most recent visit I realised there’s a better metaphor. I picked up a tub of something goopy, to read what was written on the side of it, and a perky Lush-ette immediately intervened. She got right in my eyeline, made eye contact, picked up a second tub of the same stuff and began reading the label out to me. Obviously, her reading-out-loud was a lot slower than my reading-in-my-head, and the strain of trying to maintain eye contact and a polite facial expression made it quite tricky to take in the information that I could have absorbed almost instantly by reading. And that’s when it dawned on me: “She’s a human videocast!

Videocasts do what Lush staff do. They get between you and the information you need. They slow down your ability to take in that information and they make the process harder. You can’t skim or skip like you can with web text or a printed label.

I’ve heard a lot lately about how people “prefer” to get their information in video form. A friend tweeted “Citation needed!” when someone made this point at a recent web conference, but the problem is that nobody’s really looking for evidence.

I’m not talking here about videos of cats doing funny things (obviously essential) or music videos, or comedy. I’m talking specifically about information in video form: watch the video to learn how to use our app, watch the video for an explanation of recent organisational changes. At their absolute worst, information videos just involve someone sitting still and reading out a prepared speech. You know they wrote it in text form; why can’t they just give it to you in text form? All they’re doing when they insist on reading it out is disadvantaging fast readers. And I think we’ve all been disadvantaged enough already by having to be the narrator in the school play instead of a proper character with a costume.

The VideofyMe app was obviously created with the assumption that video is a good thing. And they seem to think it's a good thing for job applications too. But the job of sifting through CVs is time-consuming and difficult enough as it is. I assume when you do it a lot, you have shortcuts – a bit like automated keyword-matching, but (I hope) with a bit of human thought behind it. But what if you’re forced to sit through each CV in video form? You can’t control the length, you can’t skim through looking for e.g. “bartender experience” or “Javascript”. You just have to watch.

The BBC story about VideofyMe quotes a survey where 94% of respondents say they actually want to see video CVs of candidates “as part of the recruitment process”. The crucial question is: is that really in place of a CV, or in place of a first interview? I can completely see why watching a five-minute video is less hassle than setting up and conducting a candidate interview. But I absolutely cannot see why watching a five-minute video is easier than taking thirty seconds to skim a two-page CV, stopping and re-reading the bits that catch your eye.

Of course if you seek it out, there will always be surveys telling you that people like their info in video form, or dreadful ev-psych explanations about why people prefer video : [A]nother trait that runs deep in our collective anthropological DNA is the power of peripheral motion.”

I’m convinced I’m not alone here, but I’d love some feedback. Given the choice between text or video for the same piece of information, which would you choose?


In the many years using the web to get info, c. 15 years, I think only once I ever found a video useful. And it was v. short & to the point (2 mins or less). I resent the fact organisations/businesses think I have a lot of time to sit and wait as they slowly dole out the info to me. Give me text every time. I can read at my own speed and pull out the info I specifically am looking for, which may differ from person to person. It's also easier if I want to refer back to it at any point. Videos are generally a waste of my time and I've pretty much stopped even clicking on them. If organisations/businesses want to waste their time with video, fine as long as you include a text option too!