In today’s blog, Instructional Designer Andy Houghton gives an insight into the importance of closed captions in making your video content more accessible to a larger audience.
Why is it important to add closed captions to videos? The simple and short answer is because it’s the right thing to do. If you don’t, you’re excluding many people who have hearing impairments from understanding the content of your video.
You can look at this from a moral perspective. The mother of a profoundly deaf boy once said to me, why should her son have less access to information, and fewer opportunities, than a hearing child. If that isn’t reason enough, there’s also a financial incentive.
About one in six people in the UK have some form of hearing loss – that’s about 10 million people. Do you really want to exclude, and possibly alienate, them from your marketing mix? What’s more, websites with videos will generally do better in Google searches than those without, and Google also ranks videos with captions higher.
Most videos are available to an international audience. The British Council’s website says ‘one out of four of the world’s population speak English to some level of competence; demand from the other three-quarters is increasing’. Reading a language is usually easier than understanding someone speaking it, especially as a lot of videos don’t have great quality audio tracks. Adding captions is therefore going to help all those viewers for whom English isn’t their first language. If you want, you can even go one step further and add caption tracks in different languages.
How to add closed captions to your content
It’s pretty easy to add timed captions these days. If you have a transcript, you can upload this to YouTube and it will work out the timings for you – you might need to do a little tweaking.
If you’re not putting your video on Youtube, you can still create the timed captions file on YouTube and then download it as a .srt file which you can use on other hosting solutions or within your video player.
If you don’t have a script, you can use YouTube’s voice-to-text technology to provide you with a fairly crude version of what’s being said, then quickly edit this and use it with your videos.
You can find basic instructions here. YouTube’s made it much easier to add captions. You can either edit the automatic captions that YouTube creates, or, as we’ve done here, upload a transcript and let YouTube match the timings.
Don’t forget to ‘publish’ your new captions file otherwise it won’t show, and once you’ve done this you can ‘unpublish’ the file that YouTube created automatically.
Here’s where a lot of people go wrong
Whether you like it or not, YouTube creates automated voice-to-text captions and makes these available to watchers. Inevitably, there are a lot of mistakes and many of them are quite funny. Here’s a fairly tame example.
According to YouTube 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute and over a billion unique users visit YouTube each month. There are, of course, also other videos which are hosted elsewhere.
My prediction, and hope, is that more and more video producers will spend that little extra bit of time needed to add captions, and make their work more accessible to a larger audience.