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Website Usability - Context is Just as Important as Content

Ahmed Khalifa's interesting talk at September's Brighton SEO opens a door to what it's like to be d/Deaf in a digital world.

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If someone says user-experience, there are a few things that might spring to mind when it comes to digital. Page loading times, a taxonomy that’s easy to navigate and attractive web pages are all common examples. Whilst you’re not wrong, there are other factors that aid a website’s usability, and sometimes we may have to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes for the best results. 



A talk hosted by Ahmed Khalifa at this year’s Brighton SEO event highlighted the importance of thinking about a digital experience from a different point of view. 

”The importance of quality content is not only key within on-page copy, but on video content too.”


Ahmed Khalifa has had a hearing impairment since birth, and his discussion at Brighton SEO outlined the frustrations that those in the same position face. These crop up in everyday life, and, crucially, on digital platforms. Those who are d/Deaf can find it hard to get the same experience as those without hearing impairments, but there are ways that SEOs and content creators can help. 


Whilst alt-tag optimisation is a well-known best practice that aids the experience of the visually impaired whilst gaining SEO value, information around video optimisation for the d/Deaf is not as abundant. 


The importance of quality content is not only key within on-page copy, but on video content too. Around ten years ago, Google announced the launch of auto-captioning on YouTube. This got many people excited – it saved time and energy as well as easily providing context for those who cannot hear the sound. 


However, Ahmed’s talk conveyed that auto-captioning isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, due to mistakes and inconsistencies. For example, the incorrect use of grammar and punctuation can create a completely different scenario. The comical example he gave – “Let’s eat Grandma” and “Let’s eat, Grandma” showed the importance of this. Somebody with only a visual perspective is given two very different contexts, simply through the use (or not) of a comma. 


He also continues to note the importance of a detailed description. Content creators should describe everything so that the viewer is clear on exactly what’s happening. Mention background noise and tone of voice as well as speech, however don’t go overboard. Again, a comical example used in Ahmed’s presentation states that common sense in video-captioning is just as important: 



Video captioning is as important as image alt-tags in a world where digital is so easily accessible. Statistics show that captioned video ads increase video view time by an average of 12%. Google has also caught up and have now realised that auto-captioning isn’t the be-all and end-all. In their guide, they state “You should always review automatic captions and edit any parts that haven’t been properly transcribed.” 


Although AI is improving at a rapid rate, sometimes user experience and website usability simply needs a human who possesses understanding, empathy, and the ability to put themselves in the user’s shoes. Consumers will appreciate it, and brands will benefit.