What are Video Thumbnails, and Why Do They Matter?

What are thumbnails? And why use ’em? You’ve heard it a million times, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” And while...

Video thumb nail

What are thumbnails? And why use ’em?

You’ve heard it a million times, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” And while in most cases that may be sound advice, it doesn’t mean people listen to this warning. People judge images and videos by their thumbnails every day. In this visual day and age, thumbnails have the ability to give either a good or bad first impression.
But what exactly are thumbnails? Thumbnails are reduced-size versions of images or videos that originally got their name from being about the size of a human thumb nail. They’re easier to scan and organize than their full-size counterparts. In fact, thumbnails serve the same role for images as a normal text index does for words. If a viewer is interested, they can click on the thumbnail to expand the image and see the full picture. Thumbnails make for smaller, more easily viewable pages and also allow viewers to have control over exactly what they want to see.
Video thumbnailsA great custom video thumbnail can make all the difference when it comes to a viewer clicking through to your video or deciding whether or not to watch another. It lets your viewer know what they’re about to see, and why it’s something they should be interested in—just like a book cover does. You’ve probably experienced this on YouTube once or twice. You watch one video, and then see a thumbnail for another video that may interest you. The thumbnail is what drove you to click and watch. A great thumbnail makes a creator’s content stand out.

How to Use Thumbnails

You’ll notice that thumbnails are everywhere. Most visual search engines and image-organizing programs like Google Image Search and YouTube use thumbnails to organize media. And so do most modern operating systems such as Microsoft Windows and macOS.
The thumbnail is often the first introduction to your content, so make sure you take advantage of this opening. Tubular Insights points out that apart from making content that viewers and fans want to watch, video creators should follow some guiding principles when it comes to making great thumbnails, such as:

  • Conveying the subject of the video content
  • Compelling the viewer to click-through to the video
  • Differentiating their brand
  • Making sure they are optimized for any device

Also, check out How TechSmith Optimizes YouTube Custom Thumbnails for Viewers.

Video Thumbnail Best Practices

Video search thumbnailsYou may have created a video thumbnail without even knowing it. For example, when you upload a video to YouTube, it uses a handy algorithm to help content creators like you pick out the best thumbnail for their video. This is definitely a convenient feature, but you may want to give the automatically chosen thumbnail a glance to be sure it fits your content just right.
Vidyard, has put together some great tips on how to create a click-worthy video thumbnail image. They suggest the following:

  • Use your thumbnail as your video’s movie poster
  • Use a closeup of the subject
  • Include the title or select key words
  • Use highly expressive faces and hint at controversy
  • Remember: lighting matters!
  • A/B split test to select the perfect image

Now that you’re acquainted with thumbnails and some best practices for video thumbnails, it’s time to start making thumbnails that give a great first impression. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Lauren North

Direct Marketing Specialist at TechSmith. I enjoy painting with watercolors, visiting our National Parks, and eating nachos.

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