How to embed YouTube video in a webpage with a custom play-button, original poster at the best resolution and responsive container, keeping aspect ratio
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README.md

styled-youtube-embedding-labwork

Embed YouTube video in a webpage with a custom play-button, original poster at the best resolution and responsive container, keeping aspect ratio.

Try it in action!

Often we need to embed a YouTube video in a custom design (with a custom play button), but for that purpose, we only have the URL of that video. Let`s disassemble the task in several steps.

Get <id-of-video> from URL

YouTube video URLs can be provided in several formats, like:

In all the examples presented, the desired video identifier will be jIHvgUAW5vE. So, we need a way to extract it.

In most cases, we will do this on the server side by regular expression and even in combination with check: if we have a valid YouTube video URL (of any format), then we can, for example, insert its poster image into the page.

I will use PHP:

<? if (
    preg_match(
        '/[\/\=]{1}([a-zA-Z0-9_-]{11})([\?\&]{1}|$)/',
        $anyYouTubeVideoURL,
        $matches
    )
): ?>
    <img
      src="https://img.youtube.com/vi/<?=$matches[1]?>/maxresdefault.jpg"
      alt="video"
    />
<? endif ?>

Get the poster image for YouTube video

As already shown above, poster image can be loaded from img.youtube.com. Best resolution images available at URLs like:

https://img.youtube.com/vi/<id-of-video>/maxresdefault.jpg</id-of-video>

But in some cases they may not exist (when the original video was in low resolution).

We can find the following variations of the image file names used:

  • maxresdefault
  • mqdefault
  • sddefault
  • hqdefault
  • default

And we need to determine if the image exists or not. With the 404 error response, YouTube also transmits a default placeholder image, which prevents the img tag’s onerror event handler from being called. Thus, we can only check the “natural dimensions” of the resulting image.

The idea is to try to load the highest resolution image (maxresdefault.jpg) and test the result with onload script:

<img
  src="https://img.youtube.com/vi/<id-of-video>/maxresdefault.jpg"
  onload="window.youtube_img_load_check(this)"
  alt="video"
/>

But before the img tag, we must register the youtube_img_load_check function in the head section of the web page:

window.youtube_img_load_check = function (e) {
  var thumbnail = [
    "maxresdefault",
    "mqdefault",
    "sddefault",
    "hqdefault",
    "default",
  ];
  var url = e.getAttribute("src");
  if (e.naturalWidth === 120 && e.naturalHeight === 90) {
    for (var i = 0, len = thumbnail.length - 1; i < len; i++) {
      if (url.indexOf(thumbnail[i]) > 0) {
        e.setAttribute("src", url.replace(thumbnail[i], thumbnail[i + 1]));
        break;
      }
    }
  }
};

If loading maxresdefault.jpg fails, the script will try the next option from the array. Etc.

The default YouTube stub image size is 120 x 90 pixels. Thus, we can detect errors when checking the naturalWidth and naturalHeight of the resulting image.

Preserve the aspect ratio of the poster image in a responsive design

The YouTube documentation says, “The standard aspect ratio for YouTube on a computer is 16:9”. And most videos are in this format. As I found, even videos with a 4:3 aspect ratio in most cases have a poster in 16:9 format, until default.jpg which 120x90 (same as 404 error image).

Thus, we cannot determine the aspect ratio of the video when measuring the loaded poster. That’s why I just think all YouTube videos in 16:9 format. The result for my cases is acceptable. Here is the layout.

HTML:

<div class="youtube-video">
  <div class="youtube-video__aspect">
    <div class="youtube-video__wrapper">
      <img
        class="youtube-video__poster"
        src="https://img.youtube.com/vi/<id-of-video>/maxresdefault.jpg"
        onload="window.youtube_img_load_check(this)"
        alt="video"
        loading="lazy"
      />
      <div
        class="youtube-video__play-icon"
        data-link="https://www.youtube.com/embed/<id-of-video>"
      ></div>
    </div>
  </div>
</div>

CSS:

.youtube-video {
  width: 100%;
}

.youtube-video__aspect {
  width: 100%;
  height: 0;
  position: relative;
  padding-top: 56.25%; /* This line gives 16:9 aspect ratio */
}

.youtube-video__poster {
  width: 100%;
  height: 100%;
  position: absolute;
  top: 0;
  left: 0;
}

.youtube-video__wrapper {
  /* Needed to properly resize video */
  width: 100%;
  height: 100%;
  position: absolute;
  top: 0;
  left: 0;
  display: flex;
  justify-content: center;
  align-items: center;
}

.youtube-video__play-icon {
  ...;
}

.youtube-video__iframe {
  /* Needed to properly resize video */
  width: 100%;
  height: 100%;
}

Launch YouTube video player

One final piece of the puzzle - we need to replace the poster image with a real YouTube player when the user hits the play button. This JS can be placed at the bottom of the page.

const videos = document.querySelectorAll(
  ".youtube-video .youtube-video__play-icon"
);
videos.forEach(function (video) {
  video.addEventListener("click", function (e) {
    const link = e.target.dataset.link || null;
    const parent = e.target.closest(".youtube-video__wrapper");
    if (link && parent) {
      parent.classList.add("loading");
      parent.innerHTML =
        '<iframe class="youtube-video__iframe" src="' +
        link +
        '?autoplay=1" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen' +
        'allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture"' +
        "></iframe>";
    }
  });
});

You can optionally use the .youtube-video__wrapper.loading CSS selector to show the loading indicator.

Now try it in action!