Given the immersive nature of VR content, and the fact many users are new to the medium, there is a lot of discussion about the recommended length of VR content. Studies from CableLabs suggested that while consumers guessed they would be willing to wear a VR headset for 1-2 hours, short-form content would be favoured. This matches the predominant YouTube content length well.

While consideration should be given to potential motion sickness and length of time adjusted for new users familiarising themselves with such a deep level of engagement, determining the length of your VR content is less about the actual time and more about your goals and audience.

There are four considerations when deciding the optimal length for basic video content, that in fact can be equally applied VR content.

1. What type of content are you offering?

A fun, entertaining video is best in a shorter, easily digestible length, while documentary-style branded content can be longer (upwards of two minutes). And don’t shy away from those long-form videos. A TED Talk-style presentation can be great for those really engaged on a topic or brand. For longer stories, consider breaking them up in a way that makes sense to create several episodes.

2. How and where is the audience viewing the video?

The device and platform on which your content is delivered is one of the most important considerations when determining how long your video should be. Social videos, are usually short form, with the aim that users will share virally. In terms of video hosts, if you house your content on YouTube or Vimeo, viewers are open to watching longer, more stylized videos.

Given social sharing is not the current goal of VR content, it would make sense that the length of time would reflect the longer form nature of YouTube and Vimeo. Further the act of set up and the level of personal involvement suggest if users are looking to watch something on VR they are prepared to spend significant time with the content.

3. What expectations does your audience have?

The appetite and attention span of viewers vary depending what they expect from your video. Cues like titles and image previews set these expectations, and ultimately determine how long a viewer is willing to watch. Games and creative experiences will naturally engage the user for longer, whereas B2B or informative content should naturally be kept shorter.

4. What action do you want the viewer to take?

What you want the viewer to do or take away from your content will also help determine the right length.The hallmark of good video content is always a well-designed user experience. Ask the following questions:

  • Do I want to simply entertain the viewer?
  • Do I want them to get involved (for example with your brand)
  • Do I want to educate this consumer or prospect?

At the end of the day, as with all best practice product design, it really comes down to what the user wants and correlating this with the product purpose or business outcome.