If you've been using WordPress for some time, you probably know that it's a horrible idea to use the WordPress Media Library to host videos on your site. Not only are those files large and going to use a lot of bandwidth, but your visitors are probably going to have an equally horrible experience because your server isn't set up to encode and deliver video as seamlessly as the big guys like YouTube.
Speaking of - that's what most people end up doing - uploading their videos to YouTube. And that's totally fine if you're actively looking to take advantage of YouTube's built-in audience.
But if you're only intending to use the videos on your own site, YouTube isn't always a great solution because its video player is essentially designed to funnel people to the YouTube website. And if you want to keep people on your website, those are conflicting goals.
In my Swarmify SmartVideo review, I'm going to show you an alternative that lets you still retain the ease of use of YouTube's upload system while gaining access to a clean, unbranded, and most importantly quick-loading video player.
Swarmify SmartVideo Review: How SmartVideo Works
SmartVideo is a minimalist, uncluttered video player that you can easily start using on your site with all of your new and existing videos.
It's designed to:
- Start playing quickly
- Eliminate buffering
- Play in the highest-quality possible
But here's the cool thing about SmartVideo:
You still get to use YouTube to upload and manage your videos, which is especially great if you're already using YouTube videos on your site.
So how does that work? SmartVideo and YouTube at the same time?
It's not just reskinning the player, though. Swarmify SmartVideo will actually handle the delivery, as well.
While most people are probably familiar with YouTube, SmartVideo will actually work with other services like Google Drive and Dropbox, as well.
And if you want to use your own self-hosted videos, you can use the SmartVideo tag manually on individual video files to play and deliver those files via Swarmify.
Who Is Swarmify SmartVideo For?
According to the developers themselves, they built SmartVideo to serve the needs of two different groups:
- Developers who need to offer a professional native video experience for their clients.
- Small-to-medium sized businesses that want to look more professional and get rid of YouTube's interface and branding.
On a personal note, I see SmartVideo as being an especially great solution for membership sites and other sites with private video content.
Hands-on With Swarmify SmartVideo And WordPress
Ok, so to get started I set up a post on my test site with a regular embedded YouTube video.
It looks like this:
See all those lovely YouTube interface buttons? That's, in part, what we're trying to get rid of. Here's how you do that:
Step 1: Add The SmartVideo Code Snippet To Your Site
The developers have an official plugin in the works to make this even simpler. But even without a dedicated plugin, the install process still only takes a minute or so.
The developers have just released an official plugin that handles the install process. I've also left the manual process below (which still only takes about a minute to do - so you don't necessarily need the plugin)
You can use your theme's options or add it directly to your child theme. But I think the easiest way to add scripts to your site's header is via the Insert Headers and Footers plugin.
All you do is grab the code snippet from Swarmify:
Then you paste it into the plugin:
Then, you just need to replace the dummy CDN key with your own, which you can get from your Swarmify account.
One potentially neat thing is that, if needed, you could turn off the SmartVideo service for certain types of videos by changing true to false.
Step 2: Enjoy Your New And Improved Video Player
And...that's all there is to it. Now, when I go back to the same post from before, I see the new SmartVideo player which definitely offers a much less cluttered interface (this process might take some time depending on how many videos you have and how large they are):
I'm not sure how to empirically test how quickly the video actually loads…
But here's what I'll say:
I live in Vietnam, which has the 74th "fastest" Internet in the world. So...suffice it to say, my Internet speed would struggle in a race with a turtle.
To my human eye, the SmartVideo loaded just as quickly and in just as high quality as videos hosted on YouTube. So while I don't have any data saying that SmartVideo is faster or slower than YouTube, I can say that I didn't experience any noticeable difference in video quality between the two - just a much more pleasant video player.
Using The SmartVideo Tag To Manually Deliver Individual Videos
The above method is all or nothing. But Swarmify also includes a separate SmartVideo tag that lets you manually insert individual video files that you host on your own site (or something like Amazon S3).
The basic tag looks like this:
<smartvideo src="path/to/my/video.mp4" width="1280" height="720" class="swarm-fluid" poster="path/to/my/image.png" controls></smartvideo>
But you can also add parameters to do things like:
- Mute the player
- Autoplay the video
- Loop the video
To test it, I uploaded a short .mp4 video to my WordPress Media Library and then wrapped it in the SmartVideo Tag like this:
On the front-end, it came through in the SmartVideo player without any hiccups:
To give it another test, I added parameters to:
- Autoplay the video
- Mute the video (because otherwise most browsers will block autoplay)
And when I went back to the front-end, the video did indeed automatically start playing on mute.
Viewing SmartVideo Analytics
In addition to helping you deliver videos, SmartVideo also provides you with real-time analytics that let you, among other things, see how often your viewers need to rebuffer the video by browser or location.
For example, you can see that, even though I'm viewing from Vietnam, I still haven't had to rebuffer:
How Much Does Swarmify SmartVideo Cost?
Thankfully, SmartVideo has surprisingly simple pricing. You're not charged for bandwidth or the number of videos you have. Instead, you only pay for the number of video views you have per month.
Plans start at just $19 per month for up to 5,000 video views. If you go over that, you pay just $1 per thousand additional views.
There are also some smaller feature differences that deal with background video acceleration, the player interface, analytics, and more:
Final Thoughts On Using Swarmify SmartVideo
I know SmartVideo is solving a real pain point because I've talked with people about it. Many people don't want YouTube's branding but still end up going with it because of its simplicity.
I like SmartVideo because it matches that simplicity. There's no new workflow - you just add the code snippet and continue doing things as you were before. Only now, you get a much-improved video player interface.
If you want a better way to deliver video on your site, give it a try.
You can get a 14-day free trial and it only takes a minute to implement, so you're not risking anything to give it a go.