A while back we wrote a short blog about why it’s important to add captions to videos. Here are the five reasons we gave then with more detail.

It’s the right thing to do – it includes rather than excludes people

Sometimes called the moral argument – we should make anything that’s published as accessible as possible. About 1:6 people have some form of hearing loss and although captions aren’t the only thing that makes videos accessible, it’s one of them and, they are easier than you might think to add.

In some cases, there’s a legal obligation to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ so as to give equal access to as many people as possible.

Even if you disregard the moral argument, it makes good commercial sense. By making a simple adjustment, businesses can reach more of their potential customers. They’ll also avoid sending the message that they don’t care enough to take a few extra minutes to make their video more inclusive.

Around 750m people use English as a foreign language – captions can help

There are a lot of people who speak English as a second language. Being able to read captions as well as hear what’s being said, can make it a lot easier for people to understand. Perhaps there’s an odd word that’s unfamiliar, or a phrase which was spoken quickly, whatever the reason, captions can make it easier to understand the video.

We’ve actually been working with clients who want to use our training videos across their global workforce. For example, one company wanted to use our Data Protection Today video with their workforce and had the captions translated into 15 different languages. Viewers can select which language they want to see captions in (Select the video below and once playing, go to Settings then Subtitles/CC). Another client has 11 of our videos translated into Thai.

It’s easy to do

It used to be the case that it was quite a time consuming process to write out all the text and then add the timing information. Nowadays it’s a breeze and anyone with basic text editing skills can do it.

When we’re getting a video ready to publish, we upload  the video, then copy and paste the voiceover script into YouTube and YouTube adds the timing and creates a time-coded file which looks like this.

time coded text

Here’s the same extract in the YouTube editing section. You can alter the timing by dragging the blue ‘handles’. You can watch our  Vulnerable Customers video used in this example to see these captions being displayed.

editing text in YouTube

You then have a time coded file which you can use with other software or social media sites such as LinkedIn. The video file and the captions file are two separate files which are linked together through the software. This is why you can have multiple caption files (e.g. in different languages) with one video.

If you don’t have a script, you can use automatic voice-to-text to help. This transcribes the audio track.  You can then edit it in the editing section as shown above. It’s getting more and more accurate, but you do need to check the captions, and correct them where necessary – still it saves an enormous amount of time.

You can find out more about using captions on YouTube here and once you get used to it, you’ll find that most platforms are very similar.

If you don’t edit the auto-generated captions, you can send the wrong message

YouTube adds captions to videos using speech-to-text technology which is great. However, it doesn’t always get it right and you can send the wrong message. Here’s one from a Minister for Education “good afternoon to olive you a Nazi delighted to be here but I’m even more…”  Doesn’t look very professional, does it?

And this is from the 2018 Christmas ad for the John Lewis Partnership which, 5 days after publishing, had nearly more than 9 million views. Wouldn’t it have been better to have spent 30 minutes or so to get the captions right?

Elton John JLP ad

There are hundreds of other examples from people who say they are experts on things like equality, diversity, and using videos on the web. However, there message and/or brand can be seriously damaged by not using captions correctly. In effect they’re saying ‘we don’t know how to use captions’, or ‘we just don’t care enough to spend the time’.

Videos with captions are ranked more highly by search engines

This may or may not be important to you. But a lot of people put videos on YouTube and hope others will find them easily. That’s very unlikely. There will almost certainly be a lot of competition. If you make a video about Information Security, for example, and put it on YouTube,  you’ll be competing with hundreds or thousands of other videos about information security – including ours!

If you search YouTube for a video you’ve uploaded, it will probably rank fairly highly – because YouTube knows who you are and shows you things ‘it’ thinks you will like e.g. your own videos. Try searching for your video on a different computer, or asking a friend to search for it.

If you’ve put a video on YouTube and want to see how it ranks, Ytrank is a useful tool. You can search for your videos according to keywords and countries. Here are the results for our Information Security video.

YouTube ranking

Ads and TEDx talks are hard to beat otherwise we would have been second!

Captions are really easy to use and add a lot to your videos. They are important asset in making materials more inclusive.

If you need any help with your captions, or have any questions, leave a comment below or getting in touch here.