BBC researches caption user experience

Wednesday, 2 March 2016 12:05pm

Three researchers from the BBC have created a framework for understanding – and potentially improving – the UX (user experience) of people who use captions.

Woman sitting on a couch pointing a TV remote control

In The Development of a Framework for Understanding the UX of Subtitles (note that ‘subtitle’ is the UK term for ‘caption’), Michael Crabb, Rhiane Jones and Mike Armstrong write that improving subtitling “requires a shift in defining what is meant by the quality of subtitles; from the quality of subtitle displays as defined principally by standard efficiency measures - to the quality of the overall viewing experience”.

Their framework includes seven key components that are important for creating a positive viewer experience. These are:

  • Attention: the ability of the viewer to focus on the video content
  • Perceived usability: the ease with which the viewer can understand subtitles
  • Perceived usefulness: the value the user finds in subtitles
  • Aesthetics: the visual appeal of subtitles
  • Endurability: the willingness of the user to use a similar method of subtitle display in the future
  • Familiarity: the degree to which subtitles meet viewer expectations
  • Involvement: the level of viewer engagement with subtitles

The researchers have begun to use the framework to explore the experience users have with new subtitle developments, such as ‘responsive subtitles’ (where the text size can be changed), and ‘dynamic subtitles’ (where they can be placed anywhere on the screen). They stress that the framework is a work in progress that will be refined as it is tested with subtitle users.

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