We all love bells and whistles, and wouldn’t we all love an extravagantly gorgeous and creative hero video at the top of our destination marketing organization’s homepage? 

Resist the temptation to complicate your hero video, advises Travis Yewell, Simpleview’s design director, who created a shortlist of criteria for what makes for the best hero video to reside at the top of your DMO homepage. According to Yewell, the most effective hero videos: 

  1. Build trust
  2. Provide context
  3. Are short
  4. Inspire viewers to scroll

Let’s review each of the criteria in detail.

Hero Videos Should Build Trust

“When done correctly, video can be very cinematic. We want our websites to build trust, and that’s an instant thing,” said Yewell. “It can be really great for capturing a mood and capturing an audience.”

Willamette Valley Wineries Association is an example of a homepage video that is both cinematic and garners the sense that you’re in good hands. The website appears professional, and it’s clear there’s thought and effort behind it. The drone footage offers a sweeping view of the Valley, and the declaration, “WE ARE PINOT NOIR,” assures website visitors immediately that they’re in the right place if they’re looking for a weekend of wineries.  

Williamette Valley homepage capture with We Are Pinot Noir over grapevine field in sunset

Click on the above image to view the actual hero video.

Willamette’s video does not try to tell a story or keep the viewer at the top of the homepage. A short video is all that’s needed to convince viewers to scroll and learn more about the destination.

Hero Videos Should Provide Context

Not all DMO website visitors typed in a URL to land there; many arrive organically without any forethought. It can be jarring if a video just starts playing with no context.

“If all we have is a navigation bar and an auto-playing video, we haven’t provided context to our user,” said Yewell. “When I just see a hero video without any text, I’m waiting to see if the page is done loading. I don’t know what the video is about. If there’s no context to the video, I’m going to scroll right past it.” 

You instantly understand what you’re watching and why with a good hero video. Yewell says the text should be present at all times, not introduced partway through the video, in order to:

  • Serve as a welcome mat 
  • Give a sense of place
  • Signal to viewers that the page is fully loaded, which helps reduce bounce rates

Explore Charleston accomplishes several of these goals with its well-done hero video, including providing context. However you get to the homepage, you immediately know where you are. It sets a tone, “History Loves Company,” and invites you to “See Charleston through the eyes of people who love to call our city home.” As soon as you take in the message, you’re ready to move on to check out lodging or things to do.  

Explore Charleston homepage with "History loves Company" overlaying a coastal scene

Click on the above image to view the actual hero video.

Tip: the text should not be embedded into the video because if it’s ever cropped, it will be chopped and look amateurish. Instead, the text should be a layer within the collection.

Hero Videos Should Be Short — Fifteen Seconds Is Often Plenty

The length of your video speaks to its purpose and usability. You only have website visitors’ attention for a limited period — do you really want them hanging out on the top third of your homepage for two minutes? That’s if you can manage to hook them for that long, which Yewell says isn’t likely, anyway. 

“If the hero video does its job well, people aren’t going to be at the top of the page for more than a couple of seconds,” he said. “Especially on mobile, people don’t stay at the top of the page for longer than three to five seconds.”

The upper end that Yewell recommends is 30 seconds of looped video. 

“We want people in the content. We want them clicking around,” he said. “A 15-second loop done well should build the trust needed and captivate the viewer, so find the shots that take the user’s breath away. You can stop them in their tracks, build that trust, and inspire us to scroll. If a hero video does its job, I’m no longer looking at the hero video.”

A case in point is Visit Tucson’s newly redesigned website, which launched in October 2021. In the span of 20 seconds, viewers see the beauty of the Sonoran Desert, the food for which Tucson is famous, a few iconic images, and the proud inclusion of the destination’s Mexican heritage. All the while, viewers are taking in this message: “Bienvenidos A Tucson. The soul of the Sonoran Desert. The flavor of the Southwest. Tucson means Wide Open Spaces and plenty of room to unplug, explore, and Free Yourself.”  

Visit Tucson homepage

Click on the above image to view the actual hero video.

Site speed is also important because a fast site speed results in a better user experience. Users stay on a site longer, convert faster, and bounce less; a slow site speed affects search rankings, and longer videos take longer to load.

Hero Videos Should Inspire Viewers To Scroll

If you succeed in keeping viewers engaged with the hero video, it comes at the expense of them booking lodging, choosing itineraries, and checking the events calendar. Using the welcome mat analogy again, you wouldn’t keep your guests standing at the entryway. “Come in, come in!” you’d say because that’s where the real fun starts. 

The hero video for Visit Greater Palm Springs is cinematic, and the message “Find your oasis” provides both context and inspiration. In addition, the video is shaped with a subtle down arrow, a nice encouragement to scroll for more content, and an unspoken acknowledgment that you aren’t meant to linger with the video for long. 

Visit Greater Palm Springs homepage capture of a neighborhood with find your oasis word overlay

Click on the above image to view the actual hero video.

For those DMOs that have invested in longer videos, Yewell recommends that you indeed feature it on the homepage — just not in that top hero spot. You could create a 15-second looped video with text over the top for context and add, “If you’d love to learn more about {destination}, click here.” 

Then the choice is left to the user, who can enjoy it with volume if they so choose. Meanwhile, the site speed of your website doesn’t suffer, and you better serve the true purpose of hero videos: to inspire trust and encourage viewers to scroll to more content.