As a creator of online content, it’s important to have a keen awareness of your audience. Not surprisingly, this includes people from all backgrounds. The internet is for everybody - and businesses have a social responsibility to strive for more inclusive design.
People tune in for more than pure sound or image. Videos carry a message, and viewers with hearing or vision loss shouldn’t be made to feel excluded from global communications. Screen readers are making it easier for people with poor vision or hearing to browse the web, and content makers need to step up to the mark. Video producers are being encouraged to be more sensitive to the sheer variety of people who enjoy their content.
Model and deaf activist, Nyle DiMarco, has been outspoken about this issue. He tweeted Ariana Grande when the video for her song 'thank u, next' came out last year, with a reasonable suggestion - "Could you ask Vevo to add captions for 466 million people with hearing loss”. Sure enough, her next song was released with captions.
There’s an added incentive for digital marketers to make their content accessible too: Google ranks accessible web pages higher in its SERPs.
Captions are basically a transcript of the spoken word in video content. They can be described as being either open or closed: open captions are always visible onscreen and cannot be turned off, these are what you see in a foreign film. Closed captions are an opt-in feature, denoted by a small CC icon.
Video captions have been shown to increase average view time, and it's accepted that they generally heighten user experience - especially for viewers with vision or hearing impairments.
And it’s not just the 466 million people with hearing loss that can benefit from captions.
Captions improve memory recall, which is good news for marketers who are trying to make a lasting impression. They also greatly enhance the user experience for people who have learning disabilities, autism or ADHD. Furthermore, they help to provide clarity for people struggling to understand an unfamiliar accent or language (including tricky jargon). They cater for divided or fleeting attention, which is abundant online.
For some, captions are a source of entertainment unto itself. I always switch mine on because sometimes I just prefer to read than listen! Finally, they're vital for people trying to comprehend your video if they're in a distracting public space. In short, captions improve the UX for a whole range of viewers.
Inconsistent - or missing - captions can be frustrating for those that need it.
And there's very little excuse not to provide them. Both Youtube and Facebook have auto-caption capabilities. On Facebook, once you have uploaded your video you can either upload an SRT file, or you can click 'generate' for automatic captions. You can then review these and make changes in the text editor. Youtube instructions can be found on their help pages.
You'll want to make sure:
- Captions are in sync with the visuals
- Phrases are delivered in short, digestible segments
- It’s clear who is speaking
- Unnecessary punctuation is omitted
Other social media platforms support captions too, but require that they be encoded before upload.
Whether it is down to divided attention, lack of commitment or personal circumstances, it’s possible your audience can’t watch and listen to all of your video.Script-writing should cater for the fact that your viewer might have you open as one of many tabs. Your video should make sense without audio.
Descriptive language helps to convey information that isn’t covered by the script. This could be either sights or sounds that are important to the meaning of the scene.
The descriptive transcript can come in different forms:
- Audio recording: a narration of important non-verbal cues. The narration is usually a separate audio track that is combined with the original video in post-production. On social media this can’t be turned on and off, it comes as part of the final package. It may make sense to link this video as a separate 'accessible' version.
- Live description: a host provides descriptions in real-time (best practices can be found here). This is seen less often online than on television broadcasts.
- Text-based: a copy of the script, with descriptive elements incorporated.
For social media purposes, text-based descriptive transcripts work well.
Contrast is your friend
Nearly 1 in 7 people experience some form of vision impairment - be it colour blindness, near sightedness, far sightedness or diagnosed blindness. That's a large proportion of your online audience.
Using a colour contrast of 4.5:1 or more can make your video more visible for those who are colourblind, as well as for those who deliberately use a greyscale mode on their mobile devices (to curb distraction!).
Green and red combinations are more difficult to read. As are blue and yellow.
If you are using a text overlay, make sure there is enough contrast between your text and the image underneath. You may have to darken or blur the image in order to achieve this.
Links and call-to-actions should be emboldened. Depending on where this link is situated (in video or in description), this could be done using a special button, hover animation or text change.
If you are looking for more advice on how to broaden your appeal and make your content more inclusive, check out WebAIM (web accessibility in mind).
There are many more ways to improve accessibility for video, but these 3 principles are a good place to start.